Beauty of language, art and people highlight UW-S tour
It’s the middle of January and your friends and family back home in Sheboygan are shoveling snow, turning up the thermostat and throwing on yet another layer to stay warm. But instead of watching the mercury plummet, you are standing on the edge of a towering plateau gazing down at two plunging river gorges under a sunny blue sky enjoying 70-degree temperatures in the picturesque town of Ronda, Spain.
No, it’s not a dream, or at least it wasn’t for the 34 Sheboygan-area residents who participated in a recent tour to Southern Spain as part of the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan’s 2011 Spain Study Abroad Tour in January.
“I have never taken a tour before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but I can say that this trip made me want to go on another one!” said Kayla Fermanich, UW-Sheboygan sophomore and Howards Grove resident. “The entire trip was enjoyable. I was able to observe the Spaniards in their daily routines. It was the best way to learn how they go about their days and how they interact with each other. But the group of people on the trip made it complete. They were fun to be around and it was one of the most important parts of the trip for me.”
Fermanich and other UW-Sheboygan students and community residents spent 10 days in Southern Spain, returning January 15, 2011. The group enjoyed a guided tour of some of the most majestic and popular tourist stops in Southern Spain.
Trip participants experienced the richness of Europe and Africa’s historical crossroads, ancient Roman ruins, and the majestic Moorish fortresses and towering Christian cathedrals and monasteries. Cities on the tour included Seville, Carmona, Gibraltar (home of the historic rock monolith – the Rock of Gibraltar), Malaga (famous for its beaches and Picasso’s birthplace), Ronda (home to modern bull fighting), Mijas, Cordoba (home to the Mezquita Arabian Mosque) and Granada (home to the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens).
Specifically, tour participants enjoyed tours of cathedrals, historic architecture, caves, art galleries, museums, markets, forts and even sprawling beaches kissed by the Mediterranean.
In addition to the beautiful countryside and unique architecture, trip participants also learned in-depth information about the Spanish culture, language and people courtesy of UW-Sheboygan Spanish associate lecturer Kyle Kendall, who served as the trip co-leader. Other trip leaders included UW-Sheboygan Center for Engagement Learning Study Abroad Coordinator Valerie Graczyk and Dr. Joe Milicia, UW-Sheboygan retired Professor of English.
Kendall, who has traveled extensively across Europe and South America, lived in Spain for three years and in Ecuador for more than two years. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Spanish and a master’s in Education. He is fluent in Spanish, including the Andalusian dialect of Southern Spain, which allowed him to share impart a lot of knowledge to travelers that they would have not otherwise learned on other guided tours.
That added education and background knowledge only helped to enhance the overall experience of the trip, said Sue Giles, Elkhart Lake resident and repeat UW-Sheboygan tour participant.
“Prior to the trip, I thought of Spain as Madrid and a single culture,” Giles said. “I did not realize the impact that the Moors and Muslims had on the development of the Spanish culture. My favorite site to visit was the Mesquita in Cordoba, which has a Catholic church built within a mosque. Our excellent guide emphasized that at one time the Christians, Muslims and Jews all lived together peacefully in that community.”
Fermanich said the trip opened her eyes to not just Spain and its beautiful scenery, but the Spanish people and culture.
“I learned most importantly that Spaniards are warm, welcoming and caring people,” Fermanich said. “Even though we did not speak their language perfectly, they would always welcome us and help us as much as they could. The country itself is beautiful and lively. People live their lives rather than rushing around trying to be on time for their next activity like Americans. It was really refreshing to slow down. I really enjoyed taking part in their daily lives and routines. Anyone looking to go to another country on a trip should consider going to Spain.”
The trip provided a welcome return to the country, culture and language that Kendall knows all too well, since he lived in the Seville area for three years.
“I loved hearing the Andalusian dialect and the different accents again,” Kendall said. “I learned to speak Spanish in Seville but had not had any consistent exposure to its particular way of speaking Spanish for about 10 years. As soon as we landed and I listened to the people, it was like coming home – linguistically. It really made me smile. There is an intrinsic art and beauty to the Spanish of Southern Spain, and it was wonderful to immerse myself in it again.”
The Southern Spain tour is just one of the many tours offered by the Center for Engagement Learning at UW-Sheboygan. Later this spring, the department will lead another tour to Ancient Egypt March 18-25. The department also has announced several new tours for 2012, including a tour to China and a tour of Germany and Austria (including Prague). Tours for 2013 are also in the works. Additional tours within the United States also will be offered later this year, including a Fall Colorama tour to Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells this October and a trip to Charleston, NC, in mid October.
According to several Spanish travelers, the UW-Sheboygan CEL tour, complete with its educational component, offers a unique experience, along with the flexibility of the tour schedule and guides.
“This trip was well organized and provided a variety of experiences,” Giles added. “The group leaders were fellow travelers who joined in with the participants to learn through our experiences. When opportunities arose on site to have unplanned cultural experiences like flamenco dancing, they investigated and made it possible for us. This is my fourth trip with UW-Sheboygan, and I have always spoken highly of my experiences.”
Graczyk said the travelers’ evaluations have been strong and interest levels remain high for future trips.
“What is unique to traveling with UW-Sheboygan is the strong educational component that truly enhances a traveler’s experience,” Graczyk added. “The type of traveler we have is one who is interested in hearing about the culture. When Professor Kendall lectured on the development of the Spanish language and the different dialects, we all began to listen for the changes in speech as we travelled to different regions. It was delightful to watch the level of interest Kyle’s lectures created. “
For more information about UW-Sheboygan’s Study Abroad program or any upcoming tours, contact the Center for Engagement Learning at (920) 459-6617, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.sheboygan.uwc.edu/community/ce/.