Students Bridge Cultures to Spain
April 22, 2019
This spring, several SAS students had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the history, culture and current issues of Spain during an eight-day residence in the country as part of the travel/study course Bridging Cultures: Modern Spain – Nationalism and Identity.
Under the leadership of the course instructors—Dr. Nereida Segura-Rico and Dr. Anne McKernan—students visited the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo and Cordoba, where they participated in guided tours and visited museums, cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, markets, and Flamenco theater as well as other places of historic and cultural interest.
“The Bridging Cultures course is a unique component of our SAS curriculum. Throughout the years it has given a host of students the opportunity to explore and apply classroom knowledge to the real world in international settings,” says Segura-Rico. “Through this experience students also get insights into themselves and their roles as participants in communities across borders, both domestic and international. They change their understanding of a culture that they know intellectually but that they now get to capture in all its dimensions and connections, in language, art, history and daily living. One of the most valuable experiences is how they seek connections and appreciate differences, whether in Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Martinique, Guadalupe.”
As part of the course, the students, most of whom were supported on the trip by scholarships from the Russel and Deborah Taylor Foundation, were required to research one of the sites being visited so that they could act as a tour guide when the class visited the site, lead a discussion of one of the readings, and keep a daily log of activities and reflections.
“In short it was an amazing trip, where we got to fall in love with new places and people as well as learn things without feeling like we were learning at all,” Ana Cristina Gil SAS’21. “I got the chance to be a foreigner who lived as a local for eight days. Even though we went through exhaustingly long days every moment and adventure made the tiredness just fall away.”
“Spain was a once in a lifetime experience. From the museums, the fabled architecture, to the tantalizing cuisine, Spain is a beautiful melting pot of cultures,” said Lisbet Zepeda SAS’19. “The history it entails is spread all over the Peninsula and is present in various forms.”
“It is bittersweet to have the Bridging Cultures courses die with the college. As instructors who have organized and led many of these trips, it has given us much joy to see the growth of the students and the lifelong memories that they have formed,” said Segura-Rico.
“This trip to Spain was a thrilling capstone to the values incorporated into the program as conceived by the faculty,” says McKernan. The whole group became a learning community, opening each other’s eyes to wider understandings, not only of the readings but also of the experiences in-country. On our feet for seven miles every day, we took on the challenges and excitement, whether on the metro, on a fast train or on tour, to discover something new or some connections.“
Reflecting on what he described as an incredible experience, Fernando Santos SAS’21 said, “During this visit to Spain, we were able to visit different cities which are highly important to the history of what we call Spain, today. I was able to spend time with a wonderful group of individuals which I learned from every day. From visiting different museums, historical places, tasting different Spanish foods, and viewing a live Flamenco dance show I was able to see why Spain is considered the ‘ornament of the world.’ I’ll always be thankful to everyone who made this trip possible and to the professors who dedicated their time to provide us with the information necessary to make sure that we learned. Spain and this wonderful group of people will always have a special place in my heart!”
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