Students Explore Spain
Seventeen students took in the beauty of Spain as they traveled over the spring break with Dr. Graziana Ramsden to Barcelona and Madrid. Part of a travel course to Spain, the trip allowed Ramsden's students to see firsthand what they'd been studying.
"We saw some of the really beautiful and incredible historical landmarks we've read about and ate unbelievable food," said Ivy Krofta '14 of Attleboro, Mass. "But, it was also the little things that made the trip so eye-opening and enriching, like practicing Spanish with the locals - having funny conversations in Spanish with taxi drivers and waiters - and meeting other travelers from all over the world."
Elaine Previl '14 of Boston said the experience gave her new perspective on the vastness of the world and built her confidence in speaking Spanish. Hesitant to test her language abilities in the United States, she was surprised at how well she communicated abroad.
"Because I was in Spain and I knew people wouldn't know where I was from, I decided to exercise my Spanish and was complimented on my accent many times," Previl said.
Like Previl and Krofta, Adam Tobin '14 of Northborough, Mass., enrolled in Ramsden's travel course to Spain with the idea that he could improve his Spanish. One day, he would like to teach English there.
According to Tobin, the trip included many different and exciting experiences, including a salsa dance lesson, where he learned some moves that he brought to the dance floor at a club in Madrid. However, the students perhaps were most impacted by the beauty of Spain's art and architecture.
"In Madrid, I took the students to see the Guernica, Picasso's most famous painting, and everybody stood mesmerized in front of this massive painting, just reflecting on what they had learned previously, and on what they were seeing," Ramsden said.
According to Tobin, "Seeing Picasso's 'Guernica' in person was probably the most emotionally provoking art piece I've ever seen."
In Barcelona, the group visited to Parc Güell, a garden complex with architectural elements designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, which was built over the years that spanned 1900 through 1914.
"Seeing the classic streets of Barcelona and Antoni Gaudí's garden and architecture was very inspiring," Tobin said. "It had the effect of putting me back in time. All of these things made the culture of Spain more tangible and real to me."
Ramsden enjoyed watching her students take in these up close and personal lessons.
"I am always very pleased by the look of amazement they have on their faces when they stand in front of the Sagrada Familia or at the Parc Güell in Barcelona. Even though they have seen pictures of these structures online or on their textbook, it is never the same to stand facing these buildings and making connections between architectural style, historical context and representation."
The students also appreciated the lifestyle differences between the U.S. and Spain. This included everything from public transportation and the pervasiveness of open-air cafés to ancient buildings and ruins, as well as the different ways the Spanish serve and style their food.
"After a tapas dinner at a small restaurant in Madrid, a student said, 'I will never fill my plate with food anymore. I like eating like this!'" said Ramsden.
"The trip had a tremendous impact on my educational experience simply because it showed me you can take anything you're learning and make it into something real," Krofta said. "We didn't just read about a famous painting in a textbook, we went out into the world and found it, saw it and talked about it, and made it personal for ourselves."