Exploring the Iberian Peninsula

By Lili Tang

During my Spain and Portugal trip, I experienced a sense of culture shock that ultimately led me to discover my own independence, new friendships with my Alcuin classmates, and a curiosity about the rest of the world.
Saying that I was lucky to be on this trip would be an understatement. The second I stepped out of the bus in Madrid, I felt a true wave of excitement rush over me. The paintings in the Prado Museum alone were awe inspiring, and the reaction of my peers proved that point further.
Different people were exclaiming, “Look at the architecture!”
“I think this painting is staring at me.” 
“Wait, I have to pay for bathrooms?”
Arriving in the center of Madrid, I was surprised by the amount of activity going on. To put it into perspective, imagine stepping into a Spanish version of New York City’s Times Square that was bustling, but not crowded. People were moving about to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and the plazas were overflowing with the smells of all the seafood and meats. Both Seville and Madrid had amazing sights and tours. The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba was magnificent, making you feel small under the towering ceilings and golden hues, and the surplus of orange trees in Seville made nearly every corner smell of citrus. 
Traveling to Portugal by train was extremely therapeutic, with the countryside’s hypnotizing, rolling hills, and olive and cork trees decorating the vibrant, green grass. In Portugal, there was slightly more of a challenge with the language barrier between English and Portuguese. Many of us, myself included, responded in Spanish out of reflex, but this did not make wandering through the narrow roads and massive squares any less memorable. 
On the topic of wandering, the entire trip was not filled with tours and bus rides. Each day we had multiple opportunities to just walk around the different cities in small groups. In a way, this level of independence is what made the trip so memorable. Walking down quaint alleys filled with flowers all while experiencing it with my friends is an adventure that will be hard to top. The flight home was bittersweet. I felt both glad to be going home, but I also longed to explore more of Spain and Portugal. It is almost difficult to capture the emotions I felt on the trip in just a few paragraphs, but overall, traveling across the world with my closest friends not only left me with beautiful memories, but a newfound curiosity for the customs in other regions of the world.

Lili Tang is an Upper School student at Alcuin School.