Since its inception, Strathmore University has worked tirelessly to ensure a transformative student experience. One of the steps undertaken to achieve this goal is the establishment of international faculty trips, during which students are not only exposed to different cultures and worldviews but also proffered invaluable academic and professional advice and opportunities. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, this practice had been put on hiatus but in 2022 scholars could once again reap its benefits.
On 14th May, the Bachelor of Arts students, accompanied by a few faculty members, took off from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport headed towards Madrid. Our excitement was palpable as we flew over the lush landscape of the Iberian Peninsula. Despite the 8-hour long flight, the anticipation of a 7-day trip across Spain and France trumped any notions of exhaustion. As we drove into the city of Madrid, the cool, light, Sunday afternoon breeze carried with it a babel of activity from Madrileños and tourists alike. Itching to explore the bustling city, most of us spent the remainder of the day and night at tourist attractions, such as Plaza Mayor, as well as a variety of local haunts and restaurants.
Monday was marked by an excursion to “The city of three cultures”- Toledo. A convergence of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the richness of the city’s culture was evident not only in their awe-inspiring architecture but also in the medley of flavourful foods on offer at their numerous eateries. We spent hours navigating winding streets to visit cultural landmarks such as the Mosque of Cristo De la Luz and Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, and by day’s close we could boast an elementary knowledge of Toledo.
The final morning in Madrid was reserved for group visits to three world renown universities. The Bachelor of Arts in Development studies and Philosophy (BDP) and the Bachelor of Arts in International studies (BIS) students visited Universidad Fransisco de Vitoria and Universidad Nacional Educación de Distancia. Meanwhile, Universidad Complutense played host to the Bachelor of Arts in Communications (BAC) students. We were greatly enriched by the experience and gained a wealth of knowledge and insight about the city, its history and academic opportunities. That Wednesday afternoon, we departed from Madrid and headed towards the more compact university city of Pamplona. The stark difference between the two Spanish cities made for a great experience as we got to appreciate Spanish culture on two contrasting scales.
Early the next morning, we set off to the University of Navarra, which like Strathmore was founded by Opus Dei under the stewardship of Saint Josemaría Escrivá. We promptly delved into a lecture session with former Strathmore University and current University of Navarra lecturer, Professor Miguel García-Valdecasas, during which we contemplated the subject of rationality from a philosophical perspective. Following this, international students from all around the world gave us a tour of their campus and facilities. They utilized this moment to share their experiences at the university and champion enrolment for our post-graduate studies. The informative visit was followed up by an afternoon come evening stroll across Yamaguchi park, the citadel and Plaza del Castillo.
Our first day in Paris was a whirlwind of social and political science cogitation. UNESCO’s head of Public Relations, Ms. Armelle Arrou, and the coordinator of UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable cities, Ms. Linda Tinio- Le Douarin, took us through UNESCO’s role in the rapidly evolving world and highlighted the measures that we could undertake to promote regional and global cohesion. At Sciences Po University, Professor Frédéric Ramel presented us with a modicum of what he teaches his students, by taking us through the impediments to and implications of multilateralism.
The last two days of our trip were spent touring the city of lights. From Opéra Garnier to the Eiffel tower, we had free reign over the breathtaking city. Walking into the louvre was reminiscent of stepping into a scene of the Da Vinci code. Unfortunately, with more than 35,000 works of art within the confines of the museum, it would take months to see each and every display. Beckoned by its glistening hues, we rushed to ascend to the wrought iron peak of the Eiffel tower where we stood awestruck by birds-eye views of the entire city. Albeit spending days admiring the manicured gardens, majestic buildings, artistic monuments and vibrant culture in Paris, we were tentative to bid adieu to the magnificent city but alas, all good things must come to an end.
We set off on this journey hoping to learn and laugh. We achieved much more than that; friendships were formed and lessons were learnt. We are grateful for the experience gained through the trip. We may be 6000 miles away from Europe but the memories we made and the experiences we shared are immutably etched into our very core.
This article was written by Laura Namuliro, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication student.
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