Cassidy Dennison '16 is studying in Spain through the HCAYS program. Following is a report of the group's recent activities.

Besides having the opportunity to study a different culture and history in the beautiful city of Madrid, Hamilton’s Academic Year in Spain (HCAYS) provides students the chance to get out and explore Madrid, Spain or the rest of Europe.  With classes taking place Monday through Thursday, most weekends are free for students to travel with friends or explore Madrid on their own. Participants also look forward to the three HCAYS-organized trips that take them to cities and towns where they can immerse themselves in the culture and not feel so much like a tourist.

Just last Friday, we embarked on our second group trip—exploring Salamanca and Segovia. After a relatively quick bus ride, our first stop was the Catedral Vieja de Salamanca. The Catedral Vieja de Salamanca is one of the two oldest cathedrals in Salamanca, Spain. The other is Catedral Nuevo, which is actually connected to the Catedral Vieja de Salamanca. The gothic architecture of the cathedrals is incredible and a bit overwhelming. Luckily our art history professors joined us, answering our questions and deepening our appreciation.

Our next stop was the University of Salamanca, founded in 1134 and the oldest university in Spain. Here we toured classrooms as well as the medical testing rooms. We learned from our guides that students would stay at the university and study for the 24 hours leading up to the exams. Then the professor would arrive, and the exam, taking between 1-2 hours would commence. Results were posted immediately. Students passing the exam left through the front door; students failing would have to leave out the back door which was used by wagons bringing goods to the school. As we prepared to depart, we walked through the library and were lucky enough to see some of the gilded manuscripts.

Next on our itinerary, we traveled to the Convento de las Dueñas where we were joined by a number of the convent’s nuns who talked about life in the convent. A tour of the grounds followed before we ended our day, enjoying the desserts sold by the nuns.

The next morning we boarded the bus again and traveled to Segovia. The first stop was the Roman Aqueducts. While the weather in Clinton is a bit cold, in Spain it’s sunny and warm so we decided to sit outside in the shade to talk about how and why the aqueducts were created. We are all still amazed, days later, to think that all of the work was done by hand!

After lunch we toured Alcázar, a castle in Segovia. Although the Alcázar no longer has its original decorations in place, we were able to see some of them in the castle’s museum, giving us a sense of what the castle must have looked like in the past. It is easy to understand why Alcázar helped inspire the logo for Disney.

Our final day was spent exploring a smaller town in Segovia – Pedraza. Pedraza is a medieval town which has been untouched over time. The cobblestone roads and stone buildings were quaint and breathtakingly beautiful. Every turn in the windy streets brought about another surprise—a vine covered door, flowers hanging from a terrace, a castle…the possibilities were endless. After a lunch overlooking the valley, we boarded a bus and went back to Madrid, ready to start a new week of classes.

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