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ASU honors students learn about culture, performance and more in summer study abroad to Spain and Morocco


ASU Barrett Honors College students posing for a group photo on the roof of Catedral de Santiago Compostela in Spain.

Students from Barrett, The Honors College pose for a photo on the roof of the Catedral de Santiago Compostela in Spain. Students toured the cathedral during an honors study abroad experience that took them to Spain and Morocco this summer.

July 13, 2022

It is said that adventures are the best way to learn.

For Kendall Flynn, an Arizona State University sophomore majoring in sports journalism with a minor in Spanish, a recent 21-day study abroad trip to Morocco and Spain with fellow students from Barrett, The Honors College was a great adventure and learning experience.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I initially signed up for the study abroad program, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I learned a lot about the cultures of Spain and Morocco, made friends along the way and fell in love with both countries,” Flynn said.

The Spain leg of the trip, from May 29 to June 6, took students to Madrid, Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña. While in Spain, participants studied the art of performance and pilgrimage and walked part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, known in English as the Way of St. James. This network of pilgrims' ways, or pilgrimages, leads to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. It is believed that the remains of the apostle James are buried there.  

Students spent June 7–18 in Morocco, where they visited Tangier, Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech and Casablanca. In Morocco, their studies focused on Western influences and orientalism and their effects on Moroccan culture. Barrett Honors Faculty Fellows Alexander T. Young and Mathew Sandoval led the trip and guided students through their studies.

Flynn documented the trip in a travelogue. Here are her reflections on Spain.

Editor's note: The following travelogue entries have been edited for length and clarity.

May 29: Traveling and airport struggles

On May 26, I flew from Colorado to Arizona to meet up with my friend, Ty Parker, for the trip to Madrid. We easily got through checking our bags and security, but were soon notified that our flight to Philadelphia was delayed by 30 minutes because of thunderstorms. In Philadelphia, we only had a 50-minute layover before our flight to Madrid, so the delay in Phoenix caused a little bit of a panic. Upon landing in Philadelphia, we found out that we had missed the flight to Madrid by 20 minutes, and our new flight wasn’t until 6:30 p.m. the next day. My parents found us a hotel in Philadelphia to stay in for the night, and once it hit midnight, Ty, myself and some other Barrett students along for the trip celebrated Ty’s birthday, ate dinner and got to know each other. The next day, we sat on the plane for over an hour before takeoff. I immediately fell asleep and rested the entire flight. On May 29, we finally arrived in Madrid. Even though it was a crazy adventure, and I had been to four states in three days, as I sit here now in the Plaza del Ángel, I can tell you it was all worth it. Let the adventure begin.

May 30: Prado Museum

May 30 was my first full day in Madrid, and it was an amazing way to kick off the trip. We visited El Museo del Prado, one of the most famous museums in the world that holds the collections of many artists, including Francisco de Goya, El Greco and Diego Velázquez. While in Spain, we studied the art of performance and looked at everything around us as a performance by analyzing the artwork; the texture, emotion and history behind it; and how the artist performed those on the canvas.

After touring the most famous artwork in the museum, we practiced observing performances further by people-watching. We spent an hour watching the visitors and taking notes on their performance, including how long they spent at the painting and how they looked at it. For the most part, I noticed people barely looked at the paintings. We observed around five people take pictures of the paintings, even though it’s forbidden. Overall, the trip to El Museo del Prado opened my eyes to notice what others are doing around me and also to think of my own actions as performances.

May 31: Toledo, the cathedral and the synagogue

On our second day in Spain, we took a day trip from Madrid to Toledo, a historic town full of multicultural influences presented everywhere through art. Our first stop was the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo. The outside was covered in Gothic architecture with pointed arches and ribbed vaulting, but it also contained aspects of Roman and 1700s architecture.

After the cathedral, we visited El Transito Synagogue to see the mix of Christian and Muslim architecture.

June 1: Flamenco show

June 1, my second-to-last day in Madrid, was enriched with Spanish culture and performance. We had class time in the morning to discuss performance and what it means in relation to the Camino de Santiago. After class, we had free time, and five of my fellow students and I went to El Retiro Park, which Dr. Mathew Sandoval, Barrett honors faculty fellow, had been talking about. The park, just beyond El Museo del Prado, was the most beautiful park I’ve ever been to.

Later that night, we attended a flamenco show. The performance area itself was cozy and intimate. It started with a guitarist playing various chords on his acoustic before being joined by a singer. Eventually, a man and a woman stepped on stage and danced in relation to the singer and guitarist but also around each other. The dancers, singer and guitarist improvised the entire show, which made this performance authentic and different from others they had done before. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the audience.

June 2: Free day

On our last day in Madrid, we had free time. I relaxed, did some laundry and reflected on the trip so far. Madrid is a perfect place to study performance because of the abundance of cultural experiences available to visitors.

I reflected on how the bond formed through a performance relates to a pilgrimage concept called “communitas.” In pilgrimage studies, communitas is an important concept because it influences the spiritual transition of a person. Our study abroad group could be considered a pilgrimage as we build bonds with each other, travel and transform our perceptions and knowledge of Spain and Morocco. I am sad to leave behind the lively atmosphere of Madrid, but excited to experience Santiago and A Coruña.

June 3: Santiago travel day

Once our train arrived in Santiago de Compostela, we did some Camino training by walking through the hilly sidewalks of Santiago to our hotel. Later, we experienced more of Santiago’s beautiful landscape during our group tour. We walked through Parque de Alameda, where flowers, bushes and towering palm and eucalyptus trees were abundant. We toured around the town and noticed pilgrims walking toward the cathedral with us. We walked around La Praza Do Obradoiro and saw the Catedral de Santiago Compostela and Pazo de Raxoi. Learning about the history of Santiago and getting the further context of the significance of the cathedral was very interesting.

June 4: Tour of the cathedral

We prepared for the last leg of the Camino de Santiago and toured Catedral de Santiago Compostela. The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, has seven different routes that all end at the cathedral. Praza de Obradorio, the square the cathedral resides in, was filled with tourists and pilgrims that had just finished the Camino. We explored Las Cubiertas de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela (the cathedral roofs). Going onto the roof of the cathedral was a surprising and amazing opportunity. After the roof tour, our guide took us to the pilgrims Mass in the cathedral, where we saw pilgrims sitting in their Camino gear, quietly listening and engaged in the sermon.

Following Mass, we did ethnographic observations of the pilgrims in the square. After hearing the experiences of those in the plaza, I was beyond excited to experience it myself and compare my performance as a pilgrim to those around me.

June 5: The Camino

After learning about performance and pilgrimage, we were finally able to put our ethnography skills to use by walking the last leg of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. At the beginning of our trek, it was a little foggy and drizzling, but about an hour in, the rain turned into a beautiful sunrise stretching over the farmland and forest around us. We walked through small towns filled with hostels for pilgrims to sleep in on their journey. Along the way, many students talked with the other pilgrims on the Camino, who found it interesting that we were walking it for our study abroad.

Three miles outside of the cathedral, we all stopped at a lookout area called Monte de Gozo, a place where pilgrims commonly take a short break. After the lookout, Kee Bulkowski, Emily Wells, Hayden Brennan, Fintan O’Halloran and I decided to take a short detour to another lookout that had metal statues of St. James and his two apostles, Athanasius and Theodore. Once we walked through the archway into the Praza do Obradorio, all of us felt the same excitement we had seen the pilgrims expressing the day before. Even though we had walked only a fraction of the complete route, we understood the overjoyed feeling that one gets when they see the cathedral.

June 6: A Coruña

On our last day in Spain, we traveled to A Coruña, which sits on the Bay of Biscay in northern Spain. After settling into the hotel and getting lunch, we went to the beach, where fog derailed our plans to blissfully sit on the sand and watch the waves. We decided to go to a cafe. After finishing the best cafe con leche I’ve ever had, Corinne Mitra and I noticed the sun was starting to peek out of the clouds. We decided to leave the group and go see if we could sit on the beach. Sure enough, the weather was perfect. It was windy but warm, with just a few clouds in the sky. We ran around on the sand at first, just staring into the water and its mesmerizing tide. I reflected on the trip so far and how much fun I had already had just halfway through. There’s nothing more peaceful and rewarding than sitting on a rock, looking at the Atlantic Ocean in Spain.

As the day went on, all I could think about was wanting to see the sunset on the beach. After dinner, I immediately went back to the bay, and my sunset dreams were fulfilled. The sky was filled with shades of orange and pink reflecting over the waves crashing onto the beach.

June 7: Traveling to Morocco

We did not make our 3:30 a.m. wake-up call. Emily and I were awoken by the startling sound of Alba, our tour guide, knocking on our door and calling our names. It was 4:15 a.m. Panicked and half-awake, we gathered our things and ran to the bus, where everyone sat waiting for us. Once I got on the bus, I was a little confused and wondered if that actually happened or if I was dreaming. But sure enough, I had slept 45 minutes past wake-up time and was now on a bus to the airport. It was a perfectly chaotic way to end our time in Spain and start our travels to Morocco.

Editor’s note: Flynn’s travelogue on Morocco is coming soon.

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