Recent Blog Posts

Billy Bao  |  refection on my experience of a place

The Alhambra Palace’s splendor and mix of architectural elements from Islam and Christianity makes it an astonishing and also mysterious sight.  I would like to focus in detail on the Islamic architecture in this reflection.  

The imagery of paradise when building the central patios is a very strong symbol.  It is interesting that Islam would try to represent heaven since the depiction of God-related things are forbidden.  Therefore the patios cannot represent heaven itself, since that is directly related to Allah, but perhaps it represents the people’s wish and dream to have a pleasant afterlife, thereby getting past the limitations of Qu’ranic law.  By making the representations indirect, the people were able to build these heavenly patios without violating the law.  Similarly, another representation related to Allah is also allowed because of its indirectness: the use of geometric patterns.  These decorations are a kind of substitute for animal or human figures, since those are forbidden.  However, the geometric patterns only reflect ideas related to God.  The basic geometric shapes used to construct the patterns are very simple (only circles and lines) which reflects simplicity and perfection––qualities that Allah possesses.  At the same time, these simple shapes are cut and combined into extremely intricate and complex patterns, demonstrating beauty, variety, and complexity that emerge from simple unity.  This is a metaphoric interpretation of all the diverse and complicated beings and things coming from one singular root: the unity that is Allah.  (Interestingly, scientific theories were made about all things consisting of only one type of component.  Science and religion may indeed come to the same conclusions through completely different methods.). By using geometric designs, the Muslins were able to affirm and display their piety and faith without directly representing God and violating sacred law.  

Erick Jara  |  reflection on something I learned about myself

My revelation is one alluded to by my parents, with me being on the receiving end of “I told you so!”  Growing up, learning two “mainstream” languages was a virtue my parents explained to me.  Up until this trip, I only used my bilingual ability (Spanish and English) to help my parents translate.  I know that translators exist and that careers with language are pretty prominent, but never did I see it as a HUGE asset that allows me to enhance my experiences.  I was able to translate not only to help my group, but to guide myself to moments of realization.  It gave me a push to go strong into learning French at school because of the value that I learned language has.  

Translating means being up at the front, taking in Spanish words and connecting phrases to English, taking words and restructuring them to make sense, using the right words (which involved thinking of synonyms)––all in a matter of seconds.  I couldn’t help but see my parents with the “I told you so!” face, but proud.  This trip added another dynamic to my identity and made me aware of the lessons that our parents teach us, but that we don’t learn for ourselves until later in life.  

Holliday Wear  |  reflection on something I learned along the way

The most important thing I think I’ve learned on this trip is that while cultures are all different in their own ways, it is also important to remember that people in any country are not that different from us.  Talking to teens in Spain and Morocco has showed me that worldwide, many people my age still have the same interests, views, and opinions as me.  It is easier to see people in other countries as different, because if you don’t attach emotions to people, it is easier to disregard them.  But talking with people close to my age made me think about how I don’t usually truly think about these places and people.  It was an important experience for me to talk to one of the Moroccan students, Meersad, about the U.S.  At one point in our conversation, someone asked Meersad what he thought about the U.S.  I expected his response to be about stereotypes––Americans are fat, or rich.  But he told us he more thought of how we are represented, and especially said he pictured everyone being Trump lovers.  This was kind of upsetting to me.  I didn’t realize that people in other countries thought about us that way.

Natalie Foster  |  reflection on what I’ve learned about myself

This trip has really forced me to learn about myself, and I think that is a good thing.  I’ve learned that I am much braver than I thought I was.  I barely talked to my parents, and while I missed them, I didn’t need the security they normally provide.  I also tried a variety of foods I never thought I’d like and that I ended up devouring!  (That chicken in Morocco!)  I often keep people at arm’s length, and I’m not exactly sure why.  I really found myself opening up to people on this trip, and that has helped me to realize that I can open up.  I’ve learned so much about myself, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity.  Goodbye for now, Spain and Morocco.

Marina Keator  |  reflection on my experience

One of the most amazing experiences I had on this trip would have to be exploring the medina in Assilah for the first time after just arriving in Morocco.  I was so tired but was also extremely amazed by everything around me.  Each set of graffiti or small shop I passed left me in awe.  Everything around me was new and it was so exciting and intriguing.  I will never forget the feeling of anxiety and awe in those first hours.  I was overwhelmed and I was in too much amazement to care.

On this trip, I realized that I have more courage than I thought I did.  I really felt like I could put myself out there.  I felt comfortable talking to everyone, even people who had previously intimidated me.  I became close with people I wasn’t expecting to.  This new confidence was also found in my performance at the high school in Puente Genil.  While I am used to performing, I usually do it in front of people I know.  But at this school, everyone was new to me and I still found the confidence in myself to overcome my fear and perform at my best.

Luca Berger  |  reflection on what I’ve observed

One thing that I learned about Spain is the lack of religious diversity within the country.  I feel this was mainly because you can see how Christianity is by far the biggest religion in Spain.  This is because of the Spanish Inquisition, which is an event in history where Jews and Muslims were expelled from Spain.  Their exile lasted for more than three hundred years.  The impact of this is massive, as there are now less than one million Jews and few synagogues in Spain today.  These signs are worrying. 

Mia Bacon  |  reflection on what I’ve learned

The highlight of my trip in terms of knowledge gained, although it is negative, happened in Spain.  In Morocco, gender roles are very much discussed and regarded.  Everyone knows they are there and people are constantly working on an analyzing them.  When I arrived in Spain, I had no idea I would find such apparent gender roles there too.  Immediately I noticed the roles held by women versus those held by men.  There was also this macho culture: at the horse show, the women were the sexy dancers, and the men rode the horses.   At recess at the high school in Puente Genil, boys played basketball, while girls sang and danced.  People pride themselves on an Easter week all-male parade  in Puente Genil.  The hardest part about seeing all this separation based on gender in Spain is that I have not once heard it discussed.  The wife of one of the parade goers said something along the lines of, “Well, I can’t participate in the parade, but I really have no interest in it anyway.”  I think it’s because people are raised with this discrimination and are told it is how it has to be.  I’m glad that I was able to see these issues with gender and open up a conversation about them.  

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