A group of Brock Scholars, faculty, and alumni recently returned from a 10-day trip to Andalusia and Barcelona, the culmination of the Spain Travel Seminar course. Each spring semester, a Travel Seminar is designed to explore the fine art and history of a major cultural center abroad.
Students prepare for the experience by studying history and art. They also develop individual itineraries of required assignments and their personal interests they want to explore. Previous destinations have been to one city, like London or Paris, and to places like Greece and China to explore a region of the country.
One of the Brock Scholars who travelled to Spain was Rachel Poe, a literature major and an art history minor who has just finished her junior year. It was her first trip to Europe.
“When we arrived in Spain, I was excited to visit a new country but scared because I only knew a few phrases of Spanish,” Poe said. “Aside from seeing art and architecture that I’ve always dreamed of seeing, my favorite part of this trip was discovering that even though I couldn’t break the language barrier, I could at least dance around it enough to be understood. This might sound strange coming from an English lit major, but language is not necessary to communicate, something I gradually began to understand on this trip.”
She enjoyed visiting Sevilla, Córdoba, and Granada, destinations that provided some of the finest examples of the Mudéjar style of architecture.
“It was absolutely incredible. The sense of history in each place overwhelmed me, especially when visiting grand structures like Mezquita–Catedral de Córdoba and la Sagrada Família. Most of all, I loved seeing the fusion of Islamic and Christian traditions of art and architecture, which is a visual experience unique to Spain,” Poe said.
The Real Alcázar in Sevilla, built as a Moorish fort, is the oldest royal palace still in use. Short stops in Córdoba and Granada focused on the history of the Moors in Andalusia.
In Granada, the Alhambra is a stunning complex of palaces and gardens created by the Moors, intertwined with the Palace of Charles V, 16th century Holy Roman Emperor, and English elm trees brought to Granada by the Duke of Wellington in the early 19th century.
A few days in Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia, and in Barcelona, the Catalonian capital, allowed for small group exploration of the cities. Both capitals feature beautiful plazas, grand cathedrals, and museums of history, culture, fine and decorative arts. Sevilla is one of the best places to see traditional Flamenco, shop for fresh food at the markets, and learn about the art of bullfighting.
Barcelona is the backdrop for the unique architecture of Antonio Gaudi, celebrated Catalan artist. The group visited Parc Güell, a whimsical city recreation area, and his greatest monument, Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia (Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family). Even in its unfinished state, the cathedral, scheduled for completion in 2026, is breathtaking with its grand façades, towers, and striking interior columns and stained-glass windows.
“As an art history minor, I had already studied many of the structures that we visited in Spain, but no amount of studying can compare to experiencing. Now I’m more determined than ever to visit the other places I’ve studied, to go beyond the classroom and into the world,” Poe said.
In smaller groups, students, faculty, and alumni toured other Gaudi sites: Casa Batlló and Casa Milá, two unique town homes, and Palau Güell, the city palace designed for his benefactor, Eusebi Güell. They visited important museums, enjoyed dinner on the Mediterranean Sea, learned about Modernsime, the Catalan art nouveau movement, studied the early years of Picasso, and explored the cultural richness of the Catalonian capital.
The final assignment for the travelers is a portfolio that chronicles the varied activities and reflections on their experiences.
Special thanks to Debbie Bell, Assistant Director, Brock Scholars Program