Eight students from Howard Payne University studied the Spanish language, culture and history firsthand this summer on a 10-day trip to Spain.

They traveled with HPU Spanish professors Carla Hawkins and Dr. Jesus Romero to six cities including: Toledo, Granada, Ronda, Seville, Cordoba, and Madrid.

The tour focused on the many cultures that have shaped the Spanish nation, particularly Muslims, Jews and Christians. The group visited many places of worship — churches, mosques and synagogues — as well as Christian and Moorish palaces.

According to HPU student Miriam Maxwell, the textbooks and documentaries the students studied before their trip were not able to truly capture the beauty of the foreign country they explored.

In addition to sightseeing, the students had the opportunity to see a bullfight, attend a flamenco dance presentation and visit a world-class museum.

Spanish major Sierra Solis of Bertram said she especially enjoyed the flamenco dance, which she described as “a spectacular event with a family of Gypsies performing traditional dances passed down from generation to generation.”

“When you step foot in Spain it almost feels as if you have entered some far away world with different ideals, different perspectives and differing sets of values,” said James Ceniceros, a chemistry major from Brownwood.

“What I have seen throughout Spain is the importance of tolerance,” Ceniceros said. “This country coexisted for many years but because of ignorance and prejudice Spain’s greatness would not last. Perhaps Toledo had the right idea from the beginning, with tolerance Spain could have accomplished much more.”

“Our students and sponsors had an absolutely fantastic experience in Spain,” Hawkins said. “It was a trip that I will never forget as long as I live.”