Elie Doubleday ’20 is studying in Spain through the HCAYS program. Following is a report of the orientation trip to Galicia.
Hamilton College’s Academic Year in Spain (HCAYS) began the semester with an orientation trip to Galicia. Galicia is an autonomous community located in the northwestern coastal region of Spain and is known for its beautiful beaches, seafood, and the end of the Camino de Santiago.
We started off our visit by hiking part of the Camino de Santiago, a spiritual pilgrimage across northern Spain that leads to the capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, and its cathedral. Though we only hiked a small portion, I can see how the trail with its breathtaking views and vineyards could be a revelation hotspot. The cathedral, situated in the center of the historic city of stone buildings and narrow streets, is the focal point, an impressive building housing a relic of Santiago himself.
Students experience Madrid in ways that complement their academics. They may take on volunteer work, take trips led by an art history professor or socialize with their peers from Spain.
During our stay, we toured the cathedral in total silence, viewed the tomb of Santiago, and were invited to hug the statue of Santiago, housed in the altar. With friends I walked the streets of the city to admire the stunning architecture and ate local tapas and mariscos, breaking my vegetarian lifestyle in the process. We stayed in a repurposed cathedral while there and were guided through the grape-growing and winemaking process at a local vineyard.
Our second and final stop of the trip was Baiona, a coastal town north of Portugal, famous for being the docking point of the Pinta and the first town to receive the news of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.
A highlight for many of us in Baiona was a churros café located at the end of the street from our hotel (previously a medieval fort) where we enjoyed them there with a cup of hot, chocolate dipping sauce or took them to go.
Our only full day in Baiona was spent enjoying the idyllic Cíes Islands. The islands are government protected to preserve their natural beauty and wildlife with a cap on how many people can visit per day. They have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, which we were able to see from our bird-watching hike and were able to enjoy after with our lunches. The water was extremely cold but that didn’t stop me, and many others, from swimming.
I loved Galicia, and I know many of the other students did too, and now, only two weeks into my classes here in Madrid, I’ve already learned so much. Just today one of my professors noted how much my Spanish has improved. Imagine how much I’ll have grown by the time my semester here is over.