Spain is rich in culture, heritage, and historic sites, making it the world’s second most visited country. But for six Utah Valley University students, it was far more than a tourist destination.
Spain is rich in culture, heritage, and historic sites, making it the world’s second most visited country. But for six Utah Valley University students, it was far more than a tourist destination.  Mari De Dios, a lecturer for UVU’s Department of Languages and Cultures and a native of Spain, wanted those participating in Study Abroad this summer to have an immersive experience.
“My purpose is not only that they will study and learn dates and names. My purpose is, ‘What can you take from this so you will have a better life and make a better life in this world?’” De Dios said. “UVU is providing a way for our students to experience life outside of campus and the town they live in. We are giving them the opportunities and possibilities to expand their minds.”
Garret Harmon, a junior majoring in IT, knew the trip would be fun. He said he was impressed by what he learned.
“There is a lot to learn from [Spain’s] history and culture, as they love to keep it alive for so many people to experience. As a group, we took the time during the night to read an article and then each morning to talk about the places we were going to visit. This helped me out so much as we could come prepared to respect, to be engaged in the history more, to appreciate the time it took to create these places.”
Many cultures and people throughout history have inhabited Spain.
“Spain welcomes immigration and other cultures, and [the students] were like, ‘How in the world does this country [with] so many invaders in the past … build up a culture that is so welcoming?’ And I told them, ‘Maybe it’s because of that reason,’” De Dios said.
“There are so many different cultures that are still there present day, and we got to work with and get to know all of them,” said Brittany Bunker, a junior majoring in Spanish Education. “It was kind of eye-opening to realize that people are the same wherever you go; I mean, everybody is getting up every day and doing the same thing, everybody is getting up and going to work all around the world. It’s kind of comforting.”
While in Spain, the group studied in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Grenada, and Córdoba, to name a few. They learned of kings and queens, Roman occupation, and the Moors. They visited Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods and the catacombs where generations of different types of people came to their final rest together.
“I just hope that [the students] will learn that different cultures, when they respect each other, can enhance life, get along, and be happy,” De Dios said.
Both Harmon and Bunker said they hope not to leave behind the lessons they learned in Spain.
“Going on this trip made me go beyond the classroom and take in more learning of what Spain and the world have to offer,” said Harmon. “Being a part of these experiences took everything out of a textbook and put it into real life. It also continues to give me a boost of confidence that I’m able to keep on trying for any opportunity I want to experience in life.”
Bunker said she would never have known what she had missed if she had not gone. “I feel like I have grown as a person. There’s a quote that I really love. Charlemagne said, ‘To have another language is to possess a second soul.’ I feel like I spent three weeks growing in that soul of mine that is the Spanish language that I am learning.”  
UVU students in Spain
UVU students in Spain
Photo courtesy of Brittany Bunker
UVU students in Spain
Photo courtesy of Garret Harmon

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