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Exploring Catholic History in Spain

Caldwell University Students during their visit at La Alhambra in Granada.
The group visited Spain's national museum of 20th-century art Reina Sofia in Madrid.
The Caldwell University group at  La Cueva de Santo Domingo where St. Dominic prayed during his stay in Segovia from 1218 to 1219.

Students immersed themselves in the Catholic history and culture of Spain while on a study-abroad course from May 30 to June 27. For the second year in a row, “Catholic Tradition in Spain” was taught and led by Dr. Rosa Sanchez, assistant professor in the Modern Languages Department.

Sanchez explained how the course focuses on key moments in Catholic history, such as its beginnings with the Roman Empire and later the Visigoths, the role of the Catholic queen and king, Isabella and Ferdinand, and Dominicans such as St. Dominic, who visited Segovia in 1218, and the friars Bartolomé de las Casas and Tomás de Torquemada. Students read poems by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila and an auto sacramental, a one-act play traditionally performed during the feast of Corpus Christi.

They visited sites such as El Escorial, the Valley of the Fallen, La Cueva de Santo Domingo—where St. Dominic prayed during his stay in Segovia from 1218 to 1219—and St. John of the Cross’s tomb. They explored the cities of Madrid, Cordoba, Seville and Granada. As they read texts, admired artwork and walked through palaces and cathedrals, they explored the beautiful and dark moments of Spanish history.

The students stayed in the homes of host families where they were immersed in the language and could appreciate the authentic food. The adventure forced Sara Bearden, a health sciences major with a minor in Spanish, to improve her language skills. “I was able to make a nice connection with my host family.”

She was awestruck by what she had learned in the classroom. “Topics such as the Romans or different art styles were more meaningful to me because I could physically see them to appreciate them.”

Genesis Rivas-Mendoza, a criminal justice and applied language major, also enjoyed learning about Spanish history and culture. “Who knew that taking an intensive course could be made into such a fun and challenging course?” She came to appreciate the lifestyle of the Spaniards. “They do not live as fast-paced as most of us New Yorkers do.”

Everyone agreed that seeing an image online, or reading about it, is not the same as experiencing it in person, said Sanchez. “There’s a sort of spirituality, a historical weight, that is simply not experienced through pictures; you just have to be there. I want to invite students to join us in the summer 2019 so they can see for themselves what I mean.”