Springing into a New Setting – QUEST2Spain!
The QUEST2Spain course pioneered this past winter, where 20 students, both from within and outside of the QUEST Honors Program, spent 10 days total between Barcelona and Madrid to learn about design and innovation. Personally, I spent some time in Spain before and after the trip so that I could get fully immersed into the Spanish culture and setting, as I had just finished a quite stressful semester filled with the 490H capstone, the first part of the Aerospace capstone, and a plethora of concerts and recitals. Having the opportunity to travel to Spain, especially being my first time, was an unforgettable experience that, if offered in the future, I highly recommend anyone with the time and money to do!
I was honestly quite blind going into the course, to the point that I didn’t even realize the geographic locations of the cities we’d visit until I arrived. However, I had traveled to Europe in the past, so I did have a couple things I’d expect from European culture. To my surprise, there were many differences that I didn’t expect, ones I learned from self-travel and during the course. From the midday siestas businesses would take, to the times of meals being shifted over around 3 hours, and even the intimate interactions in public and at the dinner table, it provided a change in perspective and insights to situations that I took for granted back in the US.
Continuing with this theme of “surprise,” the course itself exceed the expectations I had prior. Starting out in Barcelona, we explored an array of sites and experiences, which ranged from visiting Gaudi’s works such as La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló, to makerspaces in El Poblenou district, as well as a visit to Art Cava, a Cava maker, just outside Barcelona. Each day had a different focus, whether it was appreciating impact artists in Barcelona, or a comparison to the old vs. new traditions, or even digging into the intersection of art, science, and tradition. We even had the time to interact with students, undergraduate and graduate, from universities around the city, whether it was over tapas or participating in design thinking workshops.
Moving inward towards Madrid, the trip became a lot more relaxed, but at the same time introspective. Prior to the course, Dr. Armstrong and Dr. Suarez gave each of us a journal, and each day, they’d give us one or two prompts which we would have to answer. In Barcelona, they focused more on the themes mentioned above. However, when we got to Madrid, they became much more introspective and required us to dig answers and insights from our surroundings. With the activities ranging from interviewing locals at the Flee Market to taking walks around El Retiro Park, it provided a nice “break” from the hustle and bustle back in Barcelona, but at the same time, provided insightful experiences that I cherished.
Having been back now for over a month now, I feel very privileged and fortunate to have gone on that trip! It truly was unlike any experience that I had previously, and it was an honor that I could have two professors that I admire, Dr. Suarez and Dr. Armstrong, co-lead the course. It rejuvenated my intellectual curiosity for what’s out there beyond UMD and the United States, and if offered in the future, it’s an experience that I, 100%, would recommend anyone to do!
If you’d like to see additional blog posts that I wrote on during the trip, you can check out this link here!