Amelia Brown

Exploring the rise of Islam in Spain

“Before this experience, I thought that studying abroad was just something you did in college to gain good experiences and language skills,” said Amelia Brown, who spent a semester in southern Spain through Central College Abroad. “But it has been so much more than that. I learned about humility and what it meant to be a world citizen.”

Amelia studied Spanish and the influences of Islam in Spain at the University of Grenada’s Centro de Lenguas Modernas, with many side trips to nearby sites in Grenada, Seville, and Cordoba. The program also included a three-day trip to Madrid and an adventurous four-day excursion to Morocco.

Through all of this, Amelia gained valuable experience and perspectives for her course of study at Marlboro in politics and religion, specifically how the spread of Islam in Europe is affecting the political and cultural landscape. 

“I picked this program in Granada because it had an Islamic studies track, allowing me to study Arabic, study the Islamic history and culture of that area, and take a tutorial on Islam in Spain, specifically Granada. Through this program, I was able to conduct a study on the return of Islam to Spain, through immigrants and Spanish converts.”

In Grenada Amelia stayed with a family, a woman and her grown son, a valuable opportunity for practicing her Spanish and learning about local culture. She was so tired when she first arrived, however, that her family did not think she really spoke Spanish. Her host mother would speak to her roommate and ask her to translate. That got resolved as Amelia’s Spanish started flowing again.

“I learned about patience. There was lesson upon lesson about perseverance as I woke up every morning, and no small bit about forgiveness. I learned to open my heart to people, even when I knew I would have to say goodbye, possibly forever. I learned to face the new and strange, and find the familiar in it. I lost myself there, and I found myself.”

She also found great solace in something called a bocadillo, a local sandwich made of meat and cheese on a fresh roll. “There is something comforting about a bocadillo that is hard to explain. When you are studying for mid terms, eating a bocadillo curled up on your bed is inexplicably relaxing. You can rely on a bocadillo to always be there for you.”

Amelia returned to Marlboro for the spring semester to find no bocadillos, alas, but many classes where she could apply her new knowledge and experience. “How often will I have a chance to live in Europe, to travel through Spain?,” she said. “In the end, I discovered a strength within myself—a strength I never knew I had—and a courage I had never known. It was an adventure, and I was glad I went on it.”