Spain 2016

Korbin Bordonie

Week three
Week three was quite an adventure. We visited many very important Spainish landmarks. The first landmark and most fascinating landmark we visited, in my opinion, was the Royal Palace.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

You may think your own personal house is big, but try a 1.45 million square foot one. We were not allowed to take any pictures of the inside of the house, but let’s just say the chandeliers were as big as cars and everything was gold. To put it into perspective of how much money is in this building, in 2012 there was a violin that fell off of a table that was on display and the damages were worth 20 million. The family itself actually lives in the palace, only a few months out of the year, if any. They are always on the go and have things to do. I’ll share some pictures of the courtyard and from the outside of the X10 huge mansion.
The second place we visited was the Nacional Bibleoteca.

Biblioteca Nacional

National Library of Spain

This library holds 26 million different books, newspapers and manuscripts. The library is by far the largest library in Spain and one of the largest in the world. There were many sculptures of famous Spainish leaders all around the library that helped represent it’s 304 years of establishment. Right next to the library is a huge museum of modern art. There were many Picasso and Dali paintings here. I’m not really a big art guy but these paintings really caught my eye. Many of the paintings that were on display were almost priceless and extremely unique.
Don Quixote’s hill and castle of windmills was the fourth landmark we visited. Don Quotis windmillsThis is a famous folk story of Spain, and has been around since there were knights walking around in armor (1607). Don Quixote was a man who was very mentally confused. To summarize the story, he went to the top of the hills in his small town to fight the windmills alone, which he thought were dragons. He failed miserably and the “dragons” clocked him in the side of the head, he then retreated. This story is one of the most important stories told in Spain and has been the most popular for many years.
Learning about the Spanish culture has been quite an experience and by going to major landmarks, plays, castles and museums, it has really opened my eyes to see a different perspective of the world.

Spain 2016

Korbin Bordonie
Week one
After I stepped off the bus into the city of my new home earlier this week, I noticed things were a lot different in Spain. Along with the extremely fast language they speak in Spain, something as small as the layout of their grid of the city is different. This first week I found myself pulling out my phone quite a bit after I got lost a few times to check my GPS. The grid of the city is set out however it fell hundreds of years ago. There is no coordination in the streets or any set structure, so the streets go all different ways and directions. The people of Alcala de Henares and of Spain walk an enormous amount. The amount of walking they do in Spain has resulted in a very fit population. And when I say walk, if it’s 5 miles a day to get to work, they are walking. They walk to dinner, they walk to the grocery store, they walk everywhere. With this being said, the streets are not as clean as ours in the United States due to the amount of traffic they endure. One of my first experiences, on the first day, was an old man almost getting hit by a car. The cars here do not have to yield to pedestrians as they do in the United States, if you would like to cross the street you just take a step out into the street. Kind of risky if you ask me, so I look both ways every time I cross, as they do not. Things are very different here and I’m sure I’ll discover some new things to share with the readers in the next few days.

Week two
I just ate my fourth piece of bread for the day. For every meal of the day, Spaniards eat non-processed bread. Bread cleans your pallet in your mouth and has some kind of history with their culture I have not figured out yet. (The language barrier is quite difficult, haha!) Oh, and lunch is at 2:30 where dinner is at 9:30, a little different than at home, huh? The nice family that is sharing their house with me for the month has two boys. One of the brothers is 15 and the other is 17. Both speak very little English and the parents speak none at all. The conversations between the family and I have resulted most of the time in me saying, sí and no, from what I can translate from the rapid fire talking.

I went to a bullfight earlier this week. There were tons of people in the coliseum. It was kind of strange to see a human fight an animal because that would never happen in the United States. This is part of their culture, and has been dated back all the way to 1726. Things like this may be something us as Americans would not agree with, but it is their culture and we must respect that.

Spain 2016



My First Week Back

Nicholas Browning


I have been lucky enough to be able to return to Alcalá de Henares for the second time during my career at Hampden-Sydney. We are lucky that we are able to return to the historic town and study at one of the oldest universities in Spain: La Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. When I came back, I felt like I never left. The town hasn’t changed at all over the past two years, and with laws in place that maintain the historic feel, I don’t see much change happening any time soon.

Historic Plaza de Cervantes

Historic Plaza de Cervantes

The town has a rich history that includes being the cite of the birthplace of the famous author Miguel de Cervantes, the first meeting between the Catholic Kings and Cristopher Columbus, and the creation of the first Spanish grammar books used to teach the language to natives in the new world. However, it is very much so a modern city. Once you venture away from the center of town and the countless historic buildings and churches, Alcalá becomes much more modern.

On my 20-minute walk from my host family’s piso (apartment) to the school, I walk by other apartment buildings until I reach the main road that I take all the way to the Plaza de Cervantes. On my walk there, I pass by everything from clothing stores to bakeries. The window of my favorite bakery is filled with freshly baked pastries and sometimes paying 1.50 euros for three of my favorites is too good of a deal to pass up. This is especially the case when I’m heading home for our siesta/lunch break in between classes.

I love the experience of living with my host family. My host mom, Tere, is always checking up on me when I’m in the house to see if I need anything, and she has constantly been reminding me that I can grab some fruit or yogurt whenever I want anything to eat. There’s absolutely no chance of going hungry. My host dad, Nacho, kind of reminds me of my own dad. He’s serious when it comes to work, but likes to hit the one-liner jokes. He’s constantly giving me a hard time, but it’s always in a lighthearted manner and makes me feel at home. I also have a little brother this time around. Pablo is 15 and most of our relationship thus far consists of us playing FIFA together on his PS4. Sometimes I’ll sit down at the kitchen table with my host mom or on the couch with my host dad simply to talk. It took me a couple of days to reacquaint myself with only speaking Spanish; however, the entire family was and continues to be extremely patient with me.

Despite the fact that I’ve been here before, it is still extremely difficult to get used to the eating schedule of Spain. Here, breakfast is not bacon and eggs; it’s coffee and a sweet pastry or cookies. I don’t usually eat either with breakfast back home, but I’m slowly getting re-accustomed with it. Another difference is, due to the fact that breakfast is so small, the first filling meal of the day is the lunch we eat around 2:30. Then we won’t eat a real meal again until about 9:00 or 9:30.  This isn’t just my family, it’s the way the Spanish culture works. Another thing that is hard to adjust to is the way we dress. Everyday it is between 85-90 degrees during the hottest part of the day, but you’ll only see foreigners wearing shorts. I don’t understand it; it’s as if Spaniards just don’t feel the heat because they are always wearing pants and usually a long sleeve shirt. I tried to wear pants for the first couple of days in an attempt to assimilate, but it was way too hot for me.

So far we have visited Consuegra and Madrid. Consuegra is famous for its windmills that Don Quixote fought in Cervantes’ novel and the 1100-year old castle that sits between the windmills. We toured both and then we were able to explore through the modern town.

Roman Caves converted in to a dining area

Roman Caves converted in to a dining area

I use the term modern loosely, because Kyler Vela and myself ate in a medieval palace that had been converted into a restaurant. We took on the “when in Rome” attitude, so we paid 13 euros for a ration of Manchego Cheese from the region and then decided it needed to be paired with some wine from Consuegra. It was definitely worth it. When we were done, the owner took us inside the restaurant and showed us that the dining room in the back of the restaurant is made up of old caves that the Romans used to store their grains.

On our two other class trips thus far we went to Madrid. Every Sunday morning in the middle of Madrid, there is an open air flea market that takes over called “El Rastro”. There, you can buy anything from clothing to kitchenware and anything in between that you could imagine. We also went back this past Friday to see some of the major attractions of Madrid. With these being a feat that would take more than one day, we stuck to touring the Royal Palace of Spain and going to El Museo del Prado. In 2014, we were unable to go inside of Palacio Real; therefore, it was extremely cool to see the inside of it. It is beautiful from the outside, but the inside is unbelievable.  After we toured a portion of the Palace, we made our way to El Prado. This museum houses art dating back to Roman times up until the start of the 19th century. My favorite painting, El Jardín de las Delicias, is housed there, so I immediately made my way to go see it. I know we have more trips coming up as a part of the program, and I’m excited to see what other new things I learn this time around.

Panaroma of el Palacio Real and la Catedral de la Almundena

Panaroma of el Palacio Real and la Catedral de la Almundena


Saying “Goodbye” to Barcelona

Trent Singleton- December 2015

The Last Week

I cannot believe it is December and that I already have to leave. The time has flown by; this is by far the shortest semester of my college career. In between traveling, acclimating myself to the host culture, and learning the busy city of Barcelona, it feels as if I have only been here for a few weeks. I have had a few down moments—getting lost in the city, having my debit and credit cards stolen—but I do not regret a moment of the experiences I have had here. A few of my favorite moments/parts:

Mi familia:
Living with a family has really enhanced my experience. As I have mentioned before, they speak essentially no English, which really forced me to use the Spanish language. I never realized how frustrating it can be when you are unable to express yourself verbally. The combination of my three Spanish classes, especially the one with my professor Rosa and my living situation fostered and improved my ability to speak, understand and communicate with Castellano or the Spanish language.


My trips:
While I did spend a lot of my time exploring Barcelona (and it is a city that I recommend everyone visit and explore), I also was fortunate enough to travel to several countries throughout Europe. My first trip was to Munich for Oktoberfest. This was one of my favorite trips and a great cultural experience. I also was able to see Paris, Normandy, Amsterdam, Brussels, Salzburg, Rome, the Vatican, Grenada, Tarragona, and Berlin. Studying here has really increased my appreciation for Europe and the culture. It is a bit different than living in the US, but it was easy for me to adapt. One of the drawbacks is that you almost always have to pay for water, but the ease and low costs of travelling make it completely worth it.

Trent Sigelton Barcelona

My view:
It is difficult for me to articulate exactly how I have changed. I think it may be a bit too early to tell. I know for sure that I hold Europeans and other cultures in much higher regard. I recommend that everyone, if given the chance, to travel to another place and ignore your comfort zone. Learning to live differently and to adapt are valuable skills and will serve one well in life. This has been a great ride. I cannot express enough the gratitude I have towards my family for the great food, environment, and conversations of which they have provided me. I also am very appreciative of H-SC, Dr. Widdows, and the entire study abroad program. In terms of the application process and support, it has been incredible, and I owe this incredible experience to you.

Greetings from Seville, Spain

John Skyler Whitfield – November 2015

Before we dive in to my experience at University of Seville, I’d like to express my gratitude for the kindness, laughs, and time spent over delicious cuisine that I’ve shared with my Spanish family. It has been an absolute pleasure living with Paqui and Alberto; from giving me an all access pass to any and everything in the refrigerator, accommodating my mom during her stay in Seville, and buying my train ticket to Madrid after my debit card was stolen (just a few things among a long list of kind acts), they always go above and beyond to make me feel welcome in their home.
In addition to a great experience with my homestay family, I was lucky enough to have all my university courses in the main campus, known as the ¨Royal Tobacco Factory¨.

Whitfield- Seville SpainBuilt in the early 18th century, converted into an academic building in the 1950s, the University served to complement preexisting marvels in the city (like The Cathedral and Real Alcazar) as well as house machinery for tobacco production which speaks for its expansive, high-ceilinged rooms and grand styling. It’s a special and rare occasion that I come across a campus capable of rivaling the pastoral beauty and classic style of Hampden Sydney College; but the University of Seville is surely one of them. Located in a highly trafficked part of the city, the university doesn’t exactly have the flora fauna of HS-C, but the building itself makes up for it. Reminiscent of a castle or well-ornamented fortress, plastic seems to no longer exist in this this wonderful display of 18th century, industrial architecture. The building is surrounded by a mote, stone walls (adorned with intricate reliefs), and larger than life iron gates. Within the walls of the university, are milky-red, marble floors and staircases, heavenly stained-glass windows, sturdy, hard-wood desks and doors from days of yore, and magnificent enclosed courtyards encasing statues and fountains… I find the list of wonders in this building only limited to ones attention to detail, as every square inch of this building is truly a sight to behold.

 Whitfield-Seville Spain Nov 2015

Whitfield-Seville Spain Nov 2015.jpg #2 As a woodworker, the level of craftsmanship found throughout the University (in all her structural mediums) is as inspiring as it is impressive- which in turn has greatly enhanced my classroom experience and moral here as a student. While my pictures don´t do the university justice, I hope they can at least give a vague idea as to why this building has become such a special place to me.

Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!

Trent Singelton-November 2015

In the thick of it…

Once this week begins, I will have approximately six weeks left in Barcelona. I am both a bit disappointed and excited to see that reality. While I am excited to return to H-SC in the spring, I know it will be difficult to leave Barcelona—a city I now feel comfortable calling my home. I can only hope that the next six weeks go by slowly.

             View from Rooftop Bar-Hotel Majestic  (Sagrada Familia in center)Picture1
My Spanish skills are definitely improving. I definitely benefit from living with a local family—they do not speak English, so I am definitely immersed in the language while at home. The version of Spanish spoken here is called “Castellano.” It is appreciated if you are able to recognize that preference instead of calling the language Spanish. While here, I have had a few dreams in Castellano, which I was excited about because it shows that my skill in the language is growing. It also helps that I am taking three classes here taught solely in Castellano: one culture, one language, and one literature. I hope that by December I have an even stronger grasp on the language and a better understanding of the culture here.

My free time is definitely spent a bit differently here—since I am so close to many other European countries, I have been able to travel a bit. I recently have been to Amsterdam, and I have a tripped planned for Rome in two weeks. It is also great to spend the day walking through the city and finding hidden gyms that Barcelona has to offer. Last weekend I went to the top of Tibidabo, which has an incredibly panoramic view of the city. I feel that my time is best spent exploring the city, since I will not have an opportunity to see the sights I can for a while. One of my favorite places is a small square near my homestay called Plaza del Sol. While it is not large or that impressive architecturally, there are always locals at the various tapas bars or restaurants, and performers and musicians playing for the crowds.

                                              Two  Views from Tibidabo


I am the only student from Hampden-Sydney in Barcelona, but I have met a few students who know the school. I almost prefer being here alone, because it has forced me to meet new people. There are many amazing and awesome people here—if I was with a group of H-SC students, I am sure I would have a great time, but I feel I would be a bit more limited in the perspectives I would get to see and obviously in the people I would meet. It will be interesting when I return to the Hill in the spring—I am excited to see how my time abroad has changed my perspective.

Greetings from Seville, Spain

John Skyler Whitfield – October 2015

An average day in Seville…

My time in Spain has been like waking up in an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired mini-series; while daily life is overall the same on a grand scale, it has been riddled with perplexing and subtle differences that I continue to stumble upon with each passing day. That said, here’s a few of my most noteworthy/amusing differences I’ve noticed during my time here in southern Spain.

Every day there are colonies of stern looking businessmen buzzing around on mopeds in designer suits. Men of all ages wear pants that are so tight it looks like the denim is trying to eat their legs. Women wear pants just as tight. At the gym, there is no correct place to store weights- people scatter the dumbbells all over the place to add a hide and seek element to one’s routine. Almost every Spanish family keeps a pig leg on a wooden vice in the kitchen from which they carve their daily serving(s) of ham. At the McDonalds there is a “Walk-thru” window, but no drive-thru; they serve beer with any combo and food is ordered via a touch screen.
There’s a tradition known as botellón where the Spanish youth stuff grocery bags full of alcohol and gather in large groups to drink and use the streets as their trashcan.

But I will go back and say that as wild as some of these things seem to me, each of these differences has a more positive if not rational side (except the leggings- those honestly baffle me). The mopeds are better for the environment than trucks, and the hide and seek at the gym reflects the laid back and relaxed nature of southern Spain. The pig leg is an economical buy, as it can provide food for a family up to a month if not more. Beer at McDonalds may not work well in the US with our drive-thru’s, but it works great in Spain and I’d venture to say it’s pretty open-minded. Lastly, the botellón is not only an entertaining event but it creates jobs – as every night, industrial pressure washing vehicles and street sweepers roll through the town, leaving no trace of the prior fiesta.

At the end of the day I think perception of these differences really comes down to attitude- So my advice to future travelers in Spain, would be, “Instead of judging the men in leggings or a pig leg sitting in the kitchen, enjoy everything you can, and remember there’s always a cold beer and a Big-Mac right around the corner!”

Greeting from Barcelona, Spain!

After  Mi Primer Mes

Trent Singleton — October 6, 2015

I have settled in quite nicely here. I really enjoy the family I am living with, and I am able to practice my Spanish frequently. I am still loving the city and the many activities to do and sites to see.


The View from Montjuic

Within the first month I have accomplished a lot: I have climbed Montserrat and Montjuic, been to several beaches, traveled to Munich and Salzburg, and I plan on visiting Paris this weekend and Amsterdam the next. The proximity of the many countries in Europe is both convenient and amazing for me. I am able to see aspects of incredibly different cultures and many new perspectives.


Picture3 Montserrat


Luckily, I live relatively close to the center of Barcelona and am relatively close to the IES abroad center. I can probably make it to class in around twenty minutes but some days I will take the metro if I am running a bit behind or simply am feeling a bit lazy. The public transportation is efficient here—much more so than in my hometown of Richmond. I was able to take the metro to Montserrat, which is only an hour away. My trek to class is usually walked at a brisk pace—the city folk here seem to usually be in a hurry. After walking so much here, I have developed a new pet peeve: slow people on the sidewalks. I do whatever I can to avoid them—dodging, slipping and sliding past the slower walkers amid the large crowds of tourists and pedestrians. However, I do enjoy my commute to class; it gives me a chance to take in all of the impressive architecture, and I usually detect the sweet scent of chocolate croissants and other pastries that are freshly made in the local bakeries.

Picture3.jpg  Salzburg Waterfalls

Conner and I at the Waterfalls in Salzburg

I share my living space with my one roommate; the room itself is long and a bit narrow, but it is perfectly suitable for me—it is probably longer than my room in Carpenter X freshman year. While the people hear certainly dress a bit differently—slimmer fitting clothing and a nicer casual dress—I still dress relatively similar to how I do in the United States. Most people wear pants here, and it is simply still too hot for me to wear pants everyday.

The food here is probably one of my favorite aspects of my host culture. Tapas are a popular type of restaurant in which a group usually shares different smaller plates. My favorites are olives, patatas braves or brave potatoes (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce), tortilla española (essentially a thicker, cheese omelet with potatoes), and paella—a traditional rice dish, usually served with seafood or chicken.

The first month here has certainly flown by—I hope the next few go slowly, but I do not expect that to be the case. I was sad to hear about the great tree by Graham Hall—may she rest in peace.

Greetings from Seville, Spain!

John Skyler Whitfield — September 13, 2015


I was first exposed to basic Spanish in middle school back in 2005. By my junior year in high school, Spanish had become a passion of mine, which has been nourished and enriched in and outside of the classroom to present since I started as a freshman at H-SC in 2011.

While I loved the language and wanted it to be a part of my life, I was never the strongest or most fluent student in the classroom; so in the traditional Tiger-Spirit, I began seeking a radical, hands-on approach to change my circumstance- not just to better myself and achieve my personal goals, but to uphold the academic legacy, passed down to me in good faith, by the great H-SC men who came before me.

When it came time to select a program, I made it my mission to push myself above and beyond my academic comfort zone. I tossed out the idea of a summer program, as I wanted to spend as much time as I possibly could abroad (even if that meant missing Greek Week or H-SC’s football season, two of my most cherished traditions at the Hill). So at this stage I was looking at programs that lasted at least a semester.

Geographically, I knew I wanted to go to Spain… While linguists say that no one dialect of the same tongue is better than the other; many Spaniards consider their Spanish to be the gold standard of the language. Whether that’s true or not, I figured the best way to get a better understanding would be to go there myself and attempt to speak Spanish like a Spaniard.

Looking for semester long programs in Spain with the personal standards I had set for myself (to push my own academic limits and broaden my horizons) in mind, I knew I needed to live in a city. Between life in my quaint home town of Holden Beach, NC and my time at Hampden Sydney, I’d never had the opportunity to live in or understand the culture of an urban environment. The few times I’d ventured out into DC and Richmond, I didn’t feel as well-rounded as I should be when faced with navigating the streets and metro system without GPS.

Once I had laid out my parameters for what I wanted out of a study abroad experience, the most obvious choice was the “JYS in Seville” program sponsored by Sweet Briar College. I viewed this program as a one-stop shop so to make me a stronger student, a more conscious traveler and a better person all around.

I’ve only been in Seville for about a week now but its incredible how much more comfortable I feel speaking the language; not to mention, next time I stop through DC or head up to Bethesda (or any major city), the metro will be a piece of cake if I need to use it.

I am truly blessed to be here, and as the only HSC student on this program, its been wonderful learning amongst the great company of our friends from Sweet Briar.

I want to give a special thanks to: my family, my advisor: Dr. Palmer, Dr. Widdows: H-SC Global Education director, Giulia Witcombe: JYS/SBC program director, Prof. Afatsawo: Spanish Department Chair and all my brothers from Woodberry, H-SC and Theta Chi doing big things back home.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the alumni, extended friends and family of the Hampden Sydney and Sweet Briar College communities that have sacrificed to make these kind of dreams become reality for current students like myself.



Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!


La Vida España — Trent Singleton — September 16, 2015

My short stay in Barcelona so far has been nothing short of amazing. The culture, the architecture, and activities have all been both rewarding and didactic.   Initially, I chose Spain because I was already interested in the Spanish culture. I have taken Spanish since I was a freshmen and high school and after my first class I fell in love with the language. Trying new foods is also something I really enjoy, and I knew that I would love the variety that tapas—essentially Spanish appetizers—would provide. However, the main reason I chose Spain was to achieve fluency in the Spanish language. Immersion within the culture that speaks a different language is, in my opinion, the best way to grasp another language that is native to you.

Trent Singleton

I had a difficult time choosing between Madrid and Barcelona, and despite the urging of some of my professors, I went with two other Hampden-Sydney students’ recommendation to go to Barcelona over Madrid. I now am incredibly glad that I made the decision I did. The architecture here is mostly of gothic influence, and it is without a doubt the most beautiful and complex I have ever seen. Whether it is the impressive cathedral Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi or the Arc de Triomphe that looms over Passeign Lluís Companys, the structures here are impressive and a sight to behold.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe


I am most nervous about communication and actually living in a foreign country for four months. I trust my ability to speak Spanish, but it definitely pales in comparison to the native speakers here. However, I know that my Spanish will get better every day and that is the main purpose for which I am here. My literature class will also be challenging; I have taken one at HSC, but this class seems extremely intense and will require a lot of reading. It will be interesting to see how far outside my comfort zone I am willing to go—four months is a long time. I have been here for only two weeks, but it feels like a lot longer. The time will definitely pass quickly, as I have been told this is the fastest semester one can have in college—time flies, as they say.

Cathedral Sagrada

Cathedral Sagrada

By the time I leave Barcelona, I hope to become fluent in the language and to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the Spanish culture. It would be nice to find my future Spanish wife here, but I am not sure how possible that actually is. I cannot wait to travel throughout Spain and other parts of Europe. Barcelona is a beautiful city and I still have much to see.

Cathedral Sagrada

Cathedral Sagrada