Northern Spain: A Colorful Classroom

Here, the group stands in front of one of Barcelona’s most iconic skyline structures—the Sagrada Familia.

Over winter break, a group of Oglethorpe students and staff traveled to the  “land of the setting sun” to discover northern Spain’s rich past and incredible culture.

Led by Spanish professor Dr. Mario Chandler, the short-term study abroad trip focused exclusively on the extensive cultural and linguistic diversity north of the Iberian Peninsula.

“It was my hope that my students would gain a greater appreciation for the mind-boggling complexity of Spanish culture,” said Dr. Chandler, who, in the past, has led groups of OU students to both Central and Southern Spain. He wanted them to see that there are many components (Basque, Celtic, Moorish, and Roman, for example) that make up the Spanish ‘whole.’

Several students reported that they were able to use the language skills they’d learned in the classroom while out and about in Northern Spain, acting as “consummate ambassadors” for their country and gaining more confidence in their Spanish skills.

Bilbao, Spain: The short-term study abroad group visited the Guggenheim Museum, featuring modern and contemporary international art.

“Everywhere we went there was an opportunity to utilize our knowledge,” said Jimmy Turner, a Spanish major who had never traveled overseas before. “I took the opportunity to test out my skills by speaking with a concierge at a hotel in which I was staying. We spoke for about two hours about sports, America, friction amongst the autonomies, and many more topics. It was an exciting experience because it showed me where I was in my Spanish and helped me improve my skills.”

Oglethorpe students tour the Covadonga Cave in Asturias, Spain. “This very locale is credited with being the starting point of the Spanish Reconquest,” says Dr. Chandler.

While in Spain, the group toured the country’s many historic cathedrals and cultural landmarks such as Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum and the world-famous Altamira Museum, which features a full-sized replica of the prehistoric artwork found in the Altamira cave.

“This was extraordinary for me,” said Dr. Chandler.  “especially when one considers that these early artists were the pre-historic forefathers and foremothers of Spain’s future artistic greats.  Until this special visit, I had never considered framing Dali, Gaudi, and Picasso in the context of their Altamira predecessors.”

“The trip was unbelievable,” said Kenya Adeola ’13. “Never in my mind would I have thought that I would go to Spain. I took so many pictures, but the experience can not be captured in a photograph. It is something that words are not big enough to describe—you need to see for yourself.”

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