Seven Monmouth College students accompanied classics professor Tom Sienkewicz on a tour of Roman Spain in January. Standing from left to right in front of the Roman theatre at Mérida are Sienkewicz, James Rosse, Mary Bohlander, Merissa Lewiston, Joshua Kircher, Emmery Schuytema and Kelly Klikas. Sitting in front is Kyle Warwick.
On a nine-day trip to Spain last month, Monmouth College classics professor Tom Sienkewicz said his seven-student group saw “all the things that people should see” in the cities of Barcelona and Madrid.
But the group also indulged in what Sienkewicz called Spain’s “hidden secrets” – its impressive array of Roman sites.
“More classics professors should take their students there, and I definitely will do it again,” said Sienkewicz, who said that Romans ruled Spain for about 600 years, beginning in 200 B.C. “In the past, I’ve had a rotation for our classics trips of Italy, Greece and Turkey, but I’m going to add Spain to the rotation.”
“Here in the Midwest, our culture goes back thousands of years, but there are almost no remnants of it,” observed Merissa Lewiston, a sophomore from Keokuk, Iowa. “In Spain, the past is all around you, waiting to be rediscovered.”
Bookended by two-night stays in Spain’s two major metropolitan areas, the Monmouth group also “jumped around Spain by train and bus,” including a night spent aboard a train. Sienkewicz made sure to take the students to three cities that were capitals of ancient Roman provinces: Tarragona, Cordoba and Mérida.
The students, who received academic credit for the trip, were asked to keep detailed journals of their time in Spain and/or complete a research paper on their return to the U.S.
“The first thing I noticed was the mingling of the past and the present,” said James Rosse, a junior from Springfield. “The interplay between the two was amazing. You could be looking at an ancient Roman ruin, but across the street see a café serving lunch or a store selling electronics. It was great to see the mixing of cultures.”
One of Sienkewicz’s personal highlights was a new museum in Cordoba that was built on top of an ancient Roman theater.
“It was mind-boggling,” he said, “and it was a great surprise for me. That museum wasn’t there the last time I visited.”
For young and old, Spain met and exceeded expectations.
“Being in a different culture was unnerving at first,” said Kyle Warwick, a junior from Pontiac. “Different sights, smells, sounds. But once I looked past all that, I realized that people are people. Then Spain got fun. I can’t wait to go back.”
Kelly Klikas, a junior from Riverside, agreed.
“My favorite place in Spain was Barcelona,” she said. “The city was a beautiful, bustling place full of things to do and eat and see at any time of day. I felt like I was living in a different time as I walked through the city because the area we stayed in was all narrow streets with few cars and people selling amazingly fresh produce. But the moment the sun set, the nightlife lit up. I can only describe it as amazing, and I can’t wait to go back.”