This article was written by sophomore Lori Bowes.
I was fortunate enough to go on the Southern Spain J-Term trip this January, and I had such a great time, as I’m sure the rest of my group did. But I’m not going to tell you that going to Spain changed me as a person, and that now I go through life looking through new eyes. I will say that it changed my perspective of the world around me and my awareness of my place in the world.
It truly puts things into perspective when you go to a different country; you realize just how different another culture is. The exciting part of getting to live as a regular in Spain for a week was experiencing what it was like to be a native Spanish person. Of course, none of the students on the trip are Spanish, but we were able to pretend for about eight days. We experienced a regular day in the life of a Spanish native, and it was fun, new, and exciting. This is coming from a girl who had only left the country once, just going a couple hundred miles north to Canada. But this time, we traveled over four thousand miles to get to Spain. First we stayed in the city of Granada for two days, then made our way over to Córdoba for one day, and finally, spent the last three days in Seville.
It truly was an unforgettable experience and the best part was just fully immersing myself into a completely foreign country that I knew nothing about, other than the history that we learned in class prior to the trip. We were able to speak to people in Spanish, mainly just ordering food, but that in itself is an experience. You never realize how truly frightening it can be to order food at a restaurant until you have to speak a completely different language. It was nerve-racking, but also completely satisfying to be able to accomplish something so small. To anyone who lives regularly in Spain it would be nothing, but to us, it was an exciting new challenge to overcome.
All of the cities we visited were beautiful and unique in their own different ways. Granada was a busy city, with graffiti on the walls lining the city, and many people rushing here and there. We didn’t stay very long, but we visited La Alhambrawhile in Granada, which was, at different times, a palace, a fortress, and a citadel. But now, it is a common place to visit. We were probably one of the few tourists groups visiting that day, but it seems that many locals visit to admire its beauty and magnificent architecture and design.
Another notable place that we visited was the Great Mosque of Córdoba, which was a mosque built by the Moors and then converted into a Cathedral. It is now used for viewing purposes, but it is most notable for the complex designs, and the beautiful architecture. It was breathtaking to see the beautiful designs dating back to 600 A.D. And the fact that they were able to build an intricately designed cathedral in the center of the mosque is even more astonishing. My favorite part about these visits was appreciating the architecture, and how a building could be built centuries ago, but still be standing and look so beautiful. I think that’s what gives these cities such character and beauty.
My favorite part about the trip and adjusting to the culture of Spain was siesta time. This is a very sacred and serious tradition in Spain. At around three or four o’clock in the afternoon each day, siesta starts, which is basically just a time to relax and take a break from the days activities. Our group was usually on the go so much that siesta time was always much needed and appreciated; I know I needed it.
After the designated siesta time was when the city really came to life. People walked around the central part of the city mostly at night, after dinner, and that was the most exciting part for me, just to join the people in the city, and walk around and take the view in. Everyone was walking to get somewhere, and that’s what made it such a different experience from back at home. We don’t see that here. We are always in our cars, driving between places. But in Seville, especially, the biggest city we visited, everyone was always walking, or riding their bikes somewhere, especially in the central-most part of the city, where there were malls, street vendors, little cafes, and restaurants.
It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of, if only for a few nights, and to immerse myself completely in a different culture was an unforgettable experience. I would definitely recommend that anyone visit Spain at some point in his or her life, because it really is a wonderful experience. Traveling to new places usually proves to be just that – an experience. I love being a student at University and getting the opportunity to travel to a different country in the middle of winter. It was a great trip filled with great people, and I would go back to Spain in a heartbeat.