Bajo la Puerta de Toledo

In Introductions, Madrid, The Art of Travel Fall 2014 by Anna Rappoport1 Comment

In Madrid, everything revolves around the Sun- or lack thereof.  During the day, people do whatever they can to avoid getting stuck under the harsh rays. Yet, as soon as the sun begins to set, they flock to the nearest plaza or parque to enjoy the night.

My name is Anna and I am a 20 year resident of a small town in New Jersey. I’ve had a very limited time abroad, usually visiting family in Venezuela anywhere from 10 days to 6 weeks once a year, but I decided it was time to spread my wings and spend a year abroad. Taking my junior year abroad is a requirement of my Global Liberal Studies major, as well as a Spanish double major. Within Global Liberal Studies, I am pursuing a concentration in Politics, Rights and Development. However, I chose Madrid and Spain to perfect my Spanish. In a strange way it is almost like a return to the motherland, even though it has been centuries since my ancestors settled in Venezuela. I dream of returning to the town where my Spanish ancestors originated, although it may be impossible to trace due to lack of historical data and Spanish bureaucracy.

This Fall I will be taking Islam and Spain, Techniques of Translation, Cultural History of Spain, Experiential Learning I (required for GLS students), and, of course, the Art of Travel. While I am excited to be taking all of my courses, I am most excited about Islam and Spain as well as Techniques of Translation. As a Latina raised in America, it is very easy to forget exactly how much Islam has influenced history, especially that of Spain and in turn, that of Latin America. In fact, one of the greatest contributions that Islam has given to Spain comes in the form of language- many of the words in Spanish that begin with “a” come from Arabic. Learning about the Spanish language and how to translate the language colloquially also makes me excited to take Techniques of Translation.  Besides my dream of finding my ancestral home, my more attainable goal, as I mentioned before,  is to absolutely perfect my Spanish, through understanding its culture as well as completely immersing myself into the colloquial side of the language as well. Being bilingual opens doors to new languages and new opportunities, and being able to actually  have had the experience of living in Spain will also help me to better understand the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.

Even though I may not be able to achieve all of my Spanish dreams, I do have the opportunity to explore the ancestral pueblos of the nearly 600 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (The World Bank). Spain and its provinces are especially nationalistic and unique, so it would be interesting to compare how the unique cultures of certain provinces has trickled down to the current descendants living across the globe. It is certainly a hope of mine to be able to travel throughout the interior of Spain as well as its isles. I aspire to travel and experience as much of Spain as I possibly can. From Galicia to Granada, Basque Country to Extremadura, I want to see it all. While I know that I do have all of Europe to explore, as one of my orientation professors stated, we will have many opportunities to explore all of Europe. The real question is how often will we be able to see the lush Galician coast, experience the North African weather in the Canary Islands, or do a part of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela? I hope to complete all of these and more by the time my year is up in Spain, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the journey.


  1. Anna,

    Seems like you are in for quite the exciting semester abroad. I personally adore Spain and encourage you to see as much as you can. I had the opportunity to go to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands during spring break last year and it was incredibly fun, I strongly recommend it. However, I would also take advantage of Spain’s geographical location to go to Morocco or other places that you might not visit unless you are living in Europe, and the flights are cheap. Enjoy Madrid!


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