In life, I have been lucky enough to have received a great education, and a very important part of that education has always been travel. As much as I have learned from great, inspiring teachers in college, high school, and even before, nothing can compare to the educational value of travel itself. Whether you're learning about Michelangelo's temper while gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, learning about the ancient traditions of the Incas while admiring the view from the top of Machu Picchu, or learning about the tunnels the ancient Egyptians built under the pyramids while exploring them yourself, the information you learn is bound to be more memorable if you experience it firsthand.
It is for this reason that I chose to go on a study abroad trip to Spain several years ago with friends from school. Aside from my love of travel, I also love the Spanish language and have been working to learn it for many years. As a non-native speaker, I can attest to the fact that the best way to learn any language is by traveling to the country where it is spoken. Without the experience of daily interactions with multiple people who speak the language, it is difficult to ever achieve fluency (or anything like it) in a second language.
While there, I made some of my greatest memories, many of them involving the country's history and culture I experienced. We spent most of the trip in Santander, a beautiful costal city in Northern Spain. There I took Spanish classes every morning and visited the city's various beaches, shopping locations, and historical and cultural sites each afternoon. I experienced the wonder of tapas for the first time and also tried the true Spanish version of churros in this magnificent city.
We visited several other cities throughout the trip, including two of Spain's more famous cities: Madrid and Toledo. I had been to Madrid once before but had very little memory of it, other than the famous Prado art museum. During this second visit, the Prado was still my favorite part of the city. It was filled with thousands of beautiful pieces created by some of the world's most famous artists, and I remember feeling so lucky just to be able to set eyes on them. In Toledo, I experienced two of the things the city is famous for by trying its delicious, beautifully sculpted marzipan and also by looking through many of the small shops that had ornate, handcrafted swords available to purchase.