The final weeks of the fall term took the fall 2014 Proctor en Segovia group on their final excursion to Andalucía. There students were immersed in the study of the history and culture of Islamic Spain in Granada, Spanish colonialism in Cádiz, and Iberia’s Roman roots in Bolonia. We also enjoyed many of the region’s more contemporary contributions to Spanish culture, such as flamenco music and culinary delights.
Back in Segovia, students eagerly recounted their adventures in southern Spain to their host families and began to discuss their inevitable departure. However, the term and week came to a close, fittingly, with celebrations of achievement and recognition of friendship. Students and directors ate lunch with Spanish teachers María José and Rosa, and current and former host families got together one evening for tapas and lively conversation. For many, connections made in Segovia will last longer than one term, or even one high school career.
Friendships certainly have developed and have been strengthened over the course of a term in Spain. Here we explore the narrow, winding, medieval streets of one of Andalucía’s pueblos blancos, Vejer de la Frontera.
We admire one of the most splendid, and most well-known, examples of Islamic architecture in western Europe, Granada’s Alhambra (and, of course, the sunset or puesta del sol).
Nick leads us in a discussion of the history of the Roma people (Gypsies) in Spain and the city of Granada followed by a debate on whether integration of the Roma people in western Europe is possible and why they have been discriminated against (and been the victims of constant genocide and repression) over the past 500 years.
Admiring the aesthetic beauty and analyzing the decoration and symbols of the Alhambra’s Puerta de la Justicia
Plaster and tilework inside the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palace, Arabic calligraphy and alicatado.
Gazing out towards the old Arab quarter, the Albaicín, illuminated in the golden late afternoon sunlight.
It was from here that the banners of the Kingdom of Castilla and the Kingdom of Aragón were raised by the forces of Isabel and Fernando in 1492, signifying the end of the reconquest.
“In exactly one week I will be home in the U.S,” I thought to myself as the train hurtled its way toward Madrid. I would be in my house, with my family, my room, my dogs and the other things I have missed during my two months away. I felt almost giddy fantasizing about seeing my parents, my sisters and my friends. But I felt guilty giving the future so much room in my thoughts and for not being in the present, appreciating what was happening around me. I looked out the window at the green and beige farmlands, and reminded myself that I was in Spain, that I had just spent a whole week in the south of Spain instead of in a classroom, but really I just wanted to be in one of my homes right then. And so I was happily relieved when I realized I only had three hours until I was home in my host house.
~ Allie Clarke
Andalucía is certainly within the “olive belt,” that important crop that helped bring “civilization” to the shores of southern Europe, and still, to this day, is incredibly important to Spain’s economy and cuisine.
From Granada we drove across the width of much of Andalucía through ragged mountain passes, rolling valleys, and coastal plains, arriving at the city (and peninsula) of Cádiz on the Atlantic coast, on the southwestern tip of Iberia. Cádiz is, perhaps, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe.
Cádiz, after Sevilla, became the headquarters of the Casa de Contratación in the 18th century, collecting taxes and import duties, and approving voyages of exploration and trade to the “New World.”
Although I never thought that I would go to the skatepark and have another Spanish class, I managed to make a friend there who taught me a decent amount of Spanish (some skateboard related). Chito, my skateboarding Spanish friend, had taken a few years of English in school, but his ability to speak was rough. I'm sure, at first, that my Spanish was a lot worse than his English. During my second week in Spain we began to speak Spanglish, a combination between English and Spanish. Looking back at my friendship with Chito it's amazing how in two months I can see an evolution with my Spanish and his English. Another relationship I never expected to develop so strongly is with my host mom, María. At first, I never thought I would have the ability to even speak to her, let alone make her laugh. Everyday at lunch and dinner we always found something funny to talk about even if I was the butt end of the joke. These relationships that can be developed by studying abroad cannot be written down in an itinerary or guessed when applying to the trip.
Looking back to December I wish I could smack myself on the side of the head for thinking of traveling abroad to Spain as an easy way out of my Spanish credit. Spain is so much more than a language credit and Spain is so much more than I am aware of. Traveling abroad I went on a religious pilgrimage through the region of Galicia where I saw immaculate beauty, took more steps that I could ever count and never enjoyed a hot shower so much. I traveled to the south of Spain and saw Roman ruins spitting distance from the white sand beaches in Bolonia. The packet handed out at the start of the term is Spain does no justice to the country of Spain. No description, picture or anything else could ever capture Spain's landscapes, colors, and pure beauty.
~ Cole Bickford
Working our way toward the Mediterranean, stopping for an outdoor lunch menú in Vejer de la Frontera.
A typical Proctor en Segovia afternoon, pausing to sit in the sun on medieval fortifications. No threat of attack on this day.
Students cook yet another gourmet meal in our rented casa rural near Bolonia, Andalucía. Cole’s family recipe of homemade meatballs and one of Allie’s signature salads.
We awoke to a beautiful morning on the Costa de la Luz and, after breakfast, hiked and climbed in the coastal mountains overlooking the beginning of the Strait of Gibraltar and Morocco beyond!
The area around Tarifa, Spain, because of the almost constant windy conditions, is also home to countless wind farms, sometimes encompassing entire valleys.
The setting for Cole’s history class presentation on Roman and Greek influence in the southern Iberian peninsula, the beach at Bolonia. This was an important Roman port city, linking Hispania with Tangier in North Africa, and producing salted fish and other preserved fish products.
Looking out at Tarifa and Morocco beyond!
A local horse comes out to bid the group farewell (and with its eyes set on the apples in a grocery bag).
Allie proudly displays her completed final project for metal arts class, a beautifully engraved and finished box, a fusion of wood and metal media.
8:30 AM and Segovia is waking up. Outside, the streets are full of life. People walking from place to place, the busy footsteps of a unique culture. Feeling the warm Spanish weather of late October, it becomes impossible to feel annoyed by what a wonderful place this is. Catching a whiff of the freshly baked bread is the most uplifting part of my morning. Navigating around the cargo vans that somehow intricately weave through Segovia’s narrow, winding streets, I find myself hugging the walls of different shops so as to not get ran over. It is just another early morning, walking to school. At the Plaza Mayor, the day is just getting started. Thursday is market day and dozens of vans sell everything from cheap clothing to fresh fruit. The murmurs of people talking with various venders forms a meditative melody. Wandering into the tiny elevator at the school, the door quickly shuts and the tiny box hums it’s way up two floors. Leaning out the school’s balcony I wave at my incoming classmates and look across the plaza.
~ Stuart Hull
Back in Segovia at the end of their final week in Spain, students say their goodbyes to Jesús de la Cruz, metal arts instructor.
Rosa’s Spanish class. Rather than goodbye forever, hasta luego is much more appropriate.
This brings me to my next point: how much Español I have learned over the duration of this trip. Through the hard work and dedication of my fantastic Spanish teacher, Rosa, I have managed to gather and retain an incredible amount of Spanish. I can confidently say that my Spanish has at least tripled in terms of overall skills, after being here for just two months. To be completely honest, I didn’t think I would learn that much Spanish here. As soon as I stepped foot in Segovia, I realized that my host parents spoke literally no English, and soon thereafter I figured out that, for the most part, the majority of Segovians also don't speak English. Everyday interactions consist mainly of Spanish and or Spanglish (English and Spanish).
It's crazy that I'm writing this with less than four days to go in this adventure. I feel content and whole with it coming to an end, and, on one hand, I'm ready to go home. On the other hand, I want to stay here for the next term. And the term after that, and after that. Basically, I can't get enough.
~ Nicholas Takahashi
María José’s Spanish class poses after a final “goodbye” lunch with the entire group.
Nicholas T. poses with his host mother, Ana.
Allie with host mother Conchi and host brothers Ruben and Alejandro
Nick S. with his host mother Carmen
I remember that first day clearly; I choked out whatever Spanish I could remember to Carmen, my new host mother. Every other sentence I could understand, and she mumbled pretty much everything making it extremely difficult to comprehend. Her pace would speed up if I understood anything and I would immediately begin to lose her. Santiago, my host father would speak more slowly and using easier words, but he wouldn't speak to me as much. He is a clever dude who would often make jokes with me. As the term went on I would slowly grasp the same things they would ask me everyday. How are you? Is it cold out? What time are you going to school tomorrow?
At the present time, fast forwarding to the end of the term, I am able to understand almost everything. Just now I had a full conversation with Santiago about soccer, how Barcelona had beat Madrid and how disappointed he was. I also went in depth about Ebola and the weather for the next couple days with Carmen. My comprehension is so strong that I never would have believed myself if I was told I would be able to understand Spanish being spoken this fast. For someone who took Spanish 1 four times and had pretty much barely passed the class every time, I am in awe with my own ability. Sometimes when responding I don't even have to think through what I'm about to say.
~ Nick Sawaya
Cole and host parents María Ángeles and Cecilio
Paris and host father Mario
Along with my host family, being here with seven friends has made my experience even better. Experiencing living in a foreign country for two months, has helped us all get to know each other better. Within these last two months, I have become a part of the Spanish culture and developed a different perspective on my own culture. I have also developed the ability to understand a foreign speaker, and I am now capable of continuing a conversation and even joking around with my host family. It is such a great achievement because it shows that I am one step closer to being fluent. My desire to return and study here has now increased, and I look forward to the time when I do. This may be my second time in Spain, but it certainly isn’t my last.
~ Colby Near
Proctor en Segovia fall 2014 students, come back and visit Segovia soon. You are missed!