The best field trip you’ll ever take



Opinion columnist Leziga Barikor reflects on her experience through UNI Study Abroad on her capstone to Spain over winter break and encourages students to study abroad.

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

Midwest winters can be brutal, but I think the lesser downside to it is the constant grey skies. I love a good cloudy day with a side of rain, but when you get a cloudy day every day with a freezing cold front, then they aren’t special anymore.

But, if you time your next adventure just right, you could be looking up at the clear Spanish skies for 10 days straight through UNI’s Study Abroad program.

I was fortunate enough to travel abroad to Spain for my winter capstone and it was the perfect use of my extended winter break. For my trip, we visited Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Granada, Sevilla, Huelva and took a day trip to Gibraltar which is technically a British territory on the Spanish southern peninsula. It was a whirlwind way to learn and I think most students would benefit from taking a trip abroad.

In Spain, there were unique learning opportunities that simply aren’t replicable in the United States, especially not in a classroom. If you vividly remember all the field trips of elementary school, then you could imagine what a similar trip in a different country could do. We were granted the opportunity to see up close and personal how the Spanish people incorporated the ideas of sustainability that our capstone focused on. In addition to this, we got to visit museums and monuments that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to plan out myself in a short-term trip. It was fast paced, but we had a lot of experiences in that short amount of time.

As an immigrant, I’ve been used to language barriers, but Spain especially gives students a sound opportunity to learn what being a foreign person in a new country is like. Many people working in customer service spoke English pretty well, but there were also many situations where people didn’t. As a Spanish minor, I had a lot of fun working through those challenges. You realize quick where the gaps in your knowledge are, which is pretty much everywhere (“eyeshadow” translates to “sombra para ojos,” if you ever find yourself in a cosmetic pinch). And then there was Catalan, the added wrench in the situation. Catalan looks like Spanish, sounds like Spanish, but is not Spanish. It makes you really appreciate the visual elements of public signage as opposed to just looking for the words you need.

I think that the best way to really appreciate Spanish culture is to immerse yourself in it. During our trip, we got to enjoy two very big Spanish cultural events. We spent New Years’ Eve in Granada, and Spain has a unique New Years’ tradition that people participate in by eating 12 grapes at midnight. This allows you to be granted 12 wishes for each month, thus blessing your entire new year. We would’ve messed up the timing if it wasn’t for the helpful cues we got from the natives.

We also got to experience Spain’s equivalent to Christmas by seeing the Parade of the Three Wise Kings. In Spanish tradition, children receive gifts from the three magi or kings who visit Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew well after his birthday (it’s celebrated Jan. 6).

One of my favorite parts about my study abroad trip was the time we spent in various mountains, visiting Gibraltar and its many monkeys and just generally climbing to the highest spot to see the view. Spain offered so many beautiful sights and with every picture taken, we realized that even at our phone’s best, pictures just can’t do it justice.

So, if you have a desire to travel but don’t know where to start, look into doing your capstone with Study Abroad. As a class, it won’t even be comparable to anything else you’ll take at UNI and in general, I think traveling to a country and culture that is different from your own is a great way to learn and appreciate more about the world we live in.