Last month, six students, accompanied by Walton Professor of Music Dr. Sharon Gorman and resident director Jeff Massanelli, spent a week in Spain experiencing firsthand the rich history of Spanish art and music.
Gorman, who is also the University organist, taught the Ozarks Abroad: Spain course and was enthusiastic about her students’ drive and commitment during the semester and during the trip.
"I was the professor for the class, but it would be fairer to say that the students taught each other," she said. "Each student prepared two presentations for class on the various sites we would visit and they informally researched practical information like Spanish customs."
The class focused their studies on the art and music of Spain, as well some Gothic architecture. Once they got to Spain, their trip focused on Barcelona and Madrid with day trips to Toledo and Segovia.
With the city of Toledo as a backdrop, the University of the Ozarks contingent of (from left) Jeff Massanelli, Ala’a Abu-Rmaileh, Codie Freeman, Walton Professor of Music Dr. Sharon Gorman, Bianca Cea, Fred Davis, Melody Cochran and Kya Ryder pose for a photo during the Ozarks Abroad trip to Spain in May.
"We visited a lot of museums, including the world-famous Prado Museum in Madrid and had the opportunity to see many Gothic cathedrals, along with the famous Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Church by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona and a live flamenco show in Madrid," Gorman said.
The group first arrived in Madrid amid rain and chilly temperatures, but the intrepid travelers were not deterred.
"With only eight of us traveling together, we got to know each other extremely well and took care of each other to a greater extent than one finds with a larger tour group," Gorman explained. "Our initial experience in Spain was a bit rough, since it rained a lot while we were in Madrid and not everyone was prepared for the chilly weather. But everyone adapted well and soon grew comfortable with the country."
Gorman said she wanted her students to appreciate Spanish history and culture, but also to expose them to new and exciting environments.
"I think these study abroad experiences can be truly life-changing," Gorman said. "Even with students who were maybe only so-so in the classroom portion of the course, the trip itself awakens something in them, their eyes suddenly open to the beauty of the art and their hearts open to understanding the cultural context," she explained.
"Whatever a student’s major is, these trips are beneficial for their value as human experience. The better we understand other cultures, the better we grow as human beings. Moreover, there is absolutely no substitute for experiencing art, architecture, music and culture in-person. I cried when I first saw the exquisitely beautiful and intensely spiritual space of the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona," Gorman confessed.
Melody Cochran, 2013 graduate in music, could not agree more and said this experience was the culmination of all her history and music classes at Ozarks.
"For me, going to Spain meant seeing in person the art and architecture I had seen in pictures for four years," Cochran said. "There is nothing like standing in front of Picasso’s Guernica in real life and attempting to feel what he felt. The trip made real for me all of my favorite parts of being a total art history and architecture nut. Entering a Gothic cathedral and basking in the ancient history which dwells there is an unforgettable experience."
The Segovia Cathedral, completed in 1577, was one of the destinations during the Ozarks Abroad trip to Spain.