Study abroad students returned to Oxford from a class trip to Spain, where they spent 12 days immersing themselves in Spanish culture and learning in a hands-on way.
The group of 15 students, six adults and one infant traveled to multiple cities in Spain, including Madrid, Avila, Granada and Seville. The purpose for the trip was for students to experience an environment that was different than the one they have experienced in Oxford this semester.
Dr. Jeff Childers, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity as well as the visiting professor in Oxford this semester, said the trip gave more depth to students’ study abroad experience.
“Oxford study abroad students naturally spend most of their time in the UK,” Childers said. “Spending two weeks in Spain gives them a chance to engage in a very different European culture. It expands the students’ international experience considerably.”
Students also attended class while in Spain, albeit not in a traditional classroom setting. What they were seeing everyday related to what they were learning, which Childers said can be a way to better absorb the material.
“When I teach about a historic Christian spiritual writer, as I am doing this semester,” Childers said, “and to be able to stand in the same spot they stood, to see the world in much the way they did, the teaching comes alive.”
Morgan Hare, a junior kinesiology pre-physical therapy major from Amarillo who is currently studying abroad, said she saw how their daily adventures overlapped with the subjects they are being graded on this semester.
“It tied in with the material that we have been talking about in our Bible history class and in the medieval history class that a few of us are taking,” Hare said.
While students in Abilene and at other traditional universities come to campus to attend their classes, classes during study abroad are often held wherever is most convenient to the travel schedule.
“Having class in a hotel lobby was sometimes challenging, but we made it work,” Hare said.
While this trip was mainly for educational purposes, being abroad lends itself to other lessons and life experiences not taught in a textbook. Childers said he really saw students interact with their environment.
“Students take it all in,” Childers said. “We read historic Christian authors, discussed Muslim-Christian interactions in medieval Spain, watched a national parade in Madrid, and we ate Spanish food. A lot of Spanish food.”
These types of experiences gave the study abroad students a richer perspective on what it means to live in Spain, as well as what it means to make their own way in the world.
“Students dive right into these experiences,” Childers said. “They take in all the sights and flavors that we plan for them, but they also chart their own adventure along the way, discovering for themselves fresh experiences in the culture.”
Hare said one of the moments from the trip she’ll remember forever happened in Granada, when she and a few classmates stopped for gelato.
“After we got our gelato we sat down on a park bench and started talking about a whole slew of things,” Hare said. “Being in community and fellowship with those girls really made my trip spectacular, and that ‘gelato talk’ night, as we like to call it, will forever be one of my favorite moments of the whole 12 days we were there.”
Childers also enjoyed a moment in Granada. The class went in groups to see the city’s historic baths and enjoy some traditional Arabic tea, which made for an interesting story.
“It was a highlight for everyone, so relaxing,” Childers said. “But it’s possible that someone may have inadvertently drunk a container of incense rather than tea at one point.”
Overall, Childers said there is a high value for studying abroad, as well as seeing other cultures besides the one the study abroad program mainly takes place in.
“Study abroad stretches people,” Childers said. “It has the potential to make us into larger people, with larger minds and bigger hearts.”