Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hasta Luego (Until We Meet Again) Sevilla

This wraps up another year for engineering at the Texas Tech Center in Sevilla, Spain. In its short history, the program has been extremely successful. Engineering classes were first offered at the Seville Center during the summer of 2009 for 20 students. The participation increased to 36 students in 2010 and to 60 students in the summer of 2011. The Seville program has also provided the catalyst for generating interest and participation in study abroad across the Whitacre College of Engineering. Students return from Seville with a contagious enthusiasm that spreads to their classmates. In 2008, the year prior to initiation of the Seville program, 14 engineering students participated in an international education experience. In 2010-11, that number has increased to 120.

These students lived with their Spanish host families for 2 1/2 months and were immersed in the language and culture of Spain through day-to-day experiences, group excursions, and individual travel. They gained a global perspective that will help them value the diversity of the world's cultures and at the same time, have a greater appreciation for the life that we enjoy in the United States. They have also gained valuable travel skills that will allow them to function confidently in a global marketplace.

We celebrated the end of the summer with a fantastic lunch of lamb, beef, and pork cooked in classic Spanish style. It was a fitting way to wrap up a great summer.

Final Exams

The History of Spain and Theater Appreciation classes wrapped up at the end of last week. Today was the day of reckoning for Thermodynamics and Statics with final exams in both classes. There was a lot of late night studying to prepare for these exams but it was because these are all good students striving for A's and B's rather than panicking to avoid D's and F's.

These are the students in the midst of their Thermodynamics exam. Most of them could manage a smile.

Here are the students taking the Statics exam. They would like for me to believe that the exam had brought real tears to their eyes. I will admit that it was the most difficult statics final that I have ever given. They were a good class and I wanted to see what they could do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Barcelona with Kate and Amber

If you want to know what to see in Spain, contact Kate and Amber. They clearly could make a go as travel agents if this engineering thing doesn't work out for them.

Here is a great collection of pictures from their visit to Barcelona.


This past weekend Amber and Kate traveled to the great city of Barcelona. There was so much to do, yet so little time. In Barcelona, it was the first time we had stayed in a hostel room shared with 4 other girls we didn’t know. They turned out to be from Italy, though we never officially met them; we kept missing them, either we’d be out and they’d be in or vice versa. We did however leave little notes in the room writing back and forth to keep in touch.

We got the most out of our trip in such a small period of time by riding the Barcelona Hop-on Hop-off Tour bus. This bus system consisted of three different routes which drove through the whole city past major tourist attractions and provided us with a description of each site through listening devices for each passenger. Along the tour we stopped at Temple de la Sagrada Familia. This is an unfinished cathedral begun in 1882 by Gaudi however, still remains unfinished because its construction relies solely on donations. Antoni Gaudi is an architect well known for his Catalan modernism designs. His work is spread everywhere throughout Barcelona at other sites like the UNESCO World Heritage Site Park Guell; Passeig deGracia which is where La Pedrera, the largest civil building by Gaudi, and Casa Batllo are located.

We left the bus and walked through the gothic quarter of Barcelona, stopping at the Cathedral La Seu where we saw the crypt of Sana Eulalia, the patroness of the cathedral and co-patroness of Barcelona, and a cloister with a small pond housing white geese, whose ancestors had lived there for five centuries.

After walking up the shopping area of Las Rambas, we also discovered El Museu de la Xocolata. (The Chocolate Museum). We must admit, this was one of our favorite museums thus far. Not only did they give us free chocolate, but it contained everything from stories of the beginnings of chocolate, chocolate sculptures, and cooking classes.

The metro also became a major form of transportation on this trip. By the end we knew exactly what routes we had to take to reach our destination. While in one of the stations we actually witnessed a man getting pick pocketed. Luckily, the man realized what was happening and nothing was stolen. We’d always been told to watch our belongings, but after that we held tightly onto our backpacks and were on the lookout for suspicious behavior.

Continuing on, we saw several sites related to sporting events. Firstly, the largest stadium in Europe: Nou Camp Stadium, home to Futbol Club Barcelona (aka. Soccer). As well as several stadiums used in the 1992 olympics featured in the city. Later that day we stopped at the Port Olimpic District where we managed to squeeze a little beach time into our busy day (yay!).

Port Olimpic is also known for their night life. We decided to check it out by stopping by IceBarcelona. This little bar was literally right off the beach, yet was completely covered in ice. It was like we were inside a freezer. Everything was covered in ice, the walls, the glasses, ice sculptures, even the benches which had fur on top. Luckily they provided us with parkas and gloves, but even then, we weren’t able to make it more than 30mins inside.

That night we also went to view the Font Magica in Placa Espanya. This was a fountain show using the various water fountains and lights synced to music to create a very unforgettable display. All in all, we’d say this was a very successful trip for such a short amount of time in this wonderful city.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Valencia with Kate and Amber

Kate and Amber used a weekend to see Valencia. Here are more of their photos.


This past weekend we embarked on a short trip to Valencia, Spain. For the majority of the trip we just ended up spending time exploring the older section of this city, which was gorgeous. We took the metro from the airport which was very different from the metros we’ve previously ridden in the states because between each car there were rubber buffers allowing the metros to turn. Once we reached our destination in the older city we walked to our hostel which was more like a nice hotel housed in a building integrated with local businesses and other apartments. But the best part was, we had a little T.V. in our room, with multiple channels in English! This was the first time since being in Spain that we were able to watch live American T.V.

Valencia has so much history within it, starting with the Holy Grail! (yes, the actual one authenticated by the Vatican) This chalice is held within the Cathedral of Valencia which is also home to the tombs of past important religious personnel of the city such as bishops and saints including the bones of Santo Tomas de Villanueve and the arm of St. Vicente Martir.

Attached to the cathedral is the bell tower El Micalet, one must climb 206 steps but the view of the city is spectacular at the top. We also visited and climbed the Torres de Quart which are 15th Century towers bombed by Napoleon’s cannons in the early 19th Century. Similar to these are the Torres de Serranos which we also walked to the top of. They were the remnants of the walls which had previously encircled Valencia. Nearby, we also came across Lonja de la Seda, which is an old silk exchange building. Right across the street from it is the Mercado Central which was unfortunately closed because it was a Sunday, but holds a very diverse market of fresh produce.

In the afternoon we walked through the Rio (which is like a grassy area that was once a river but got filled in) and at the end of it saw the ciutat de les arts i les ciencies. These are modern white buildings built over water housing art and science museums and the aquarium which is the largest aquarium in Europe. This City of Arts and Sciences as well as Puente de Calatrava (also in Valencia) were designed by the Valencian Santiago Calatrava, who had designed a bridge here in Sevilla which we saw on our Statics bridge field trip around the city.

On our walk back we stopped at Parque Gulliver, one of the coolest parks we’ve seen. It’s literally in the shape of a man! We were able to slide down his tongue; it was quite fun.

And, of course, we must comment on the food. Valencia is well known for their paella, oranges, and horchata, so we had it all. We went to a family owned restaurant La Riua and ordered Valencian Paella. Yum! It contained typical yellow rice, along with chicken, rabbit, and vegetables. This was the first time both of us had ever eaten rabbit, and we must admit, it wasn’t half bad. Horchata was also new to both of us. It contains tiger nuts and is a milk-like drink, but without the milk. All in all, it was a very successful and enjoyable trip.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Homeless and Jobless People by Collin

The economic situation in Spain is bad. While we also have many homeless people in the U.S. and Lubbock, we don't encounter them every day as we do in Spain to appreciate how desperate their situations are. Here are Collin's observations.


The unemployment rate in Spain is at 20 percent so naturally you will see many homeless/jobless people out trying to make a little bit of money. I was not prepared, however, for the number of people that I have seen sitting on the sidewalk with paper towels spread out so pedestrians will throw them whatever change they are willing to part with.

However, some people try different types of street performance to make money. There are many different types of performance that I have seen here: some people play the accordion or violin, others sing or dance and some sing and dance. And then there are what I consider novelty performances. Novelty performances are things like pretending to be a statue, an invisible man, or dressing like a leprechaun (in Ireland). I don’t think these novelty performances take much skill at all, but they are creative and are entertaining to watch for a few moments.

Living in Spain by Cody

An important part of the cultural experience for our engineering students studying in Spain is the "home stay" with a Spanish family. In this blog entry, Cody reflects on the differences between life in Spain and in the US.


While studying abroad, I’ve noticed how many things are culturally different. From dealing with the homeless, walking to anywhere in the city, eating food, how to spend free time, and simple challenges for students such as cutting their hair. The first thing students have to get acclimated to is living styles. Three other students and I live with a house mom. Her name is Maria. She lives like typical Spaniards, eating a small breakfast, taking a siesta, walking for fun, and cooking all fresh foods.

I’ve compared my living standards with other students and we all live similarly. We eat toast, fruit, and yogurt for breakfast. And we drink orange juice, chocolate milk, tea, and coffee. This is quite different from having tacos, waffles, eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Surprisingly enough, the smaller meal fills us up. For lunch, we eat a few courses. All of the food is fresh like fresh bread, fresh vegetables, and fresh meat. One of the most famous meals that is cooked in Spain is called “paella”. The meal includes lots of rice cooked in saffron, shrimp, chicken and peppers.

Our host mom is perhaps the best that there is. She is extremely nice and thoughtful. One day she was cooking dinner and knew it was going to be awhile. So Maria brought all of us Jell-O and a cup of orange juice. We didn’t ask for it, she just did it out of generosity. She makes our favorite foods and knows exactly what each person likes and dislikes. She keeps the place very clean and its looks extravagant with all the genuine decorations. The home is smaller than American homes, but we live very comfortably.

One of the simple problems guys have abroad is haircuts. Almost every guy in the program has gotten a haircut. But we have gone about different ways to receive them. I went to a local place and spoke broken Spanish to get the cut. Another friend borrowed hair clippers and shaved it himself. And one of my roommates used clippers to buzz my other roommate’s hair. It doesn’t sound like a major issue but it’s these types of small problems that challenge students abroad.

Ryan on the Triana Bridge

Thanks to Dr. Oler and our wonderful Statics class in Sevilla, my classmates and I got to participate in the famous bridge tour of the Guadalquivir River. Our tour consisted of 3 amazing bridges, but the bridge I found the most interesting was the Puente de Triana, or the Triana Bridge, because of its rich history and unconventional design.

The bridge is made out of 3 sections each consisting of 5 arches with 12 circles on each arch. If you do the math, that is 180 circles. Normally, building a bridge with circles is not a good idea, but when 4 opposing forces are combined against each other, like in this bridge, the circles can hold their shape. The forces keep the circle rigid and strong and keep the shape from buckling. It is amazing how the repeated circles can create such a strong structure that has held up for so many years. Dr. Oler talked to us about this peculiar bridge and explained to us the ideas behind its design and construction.

The bridge was originally known as Queen Isabel II’s bridge and was designed by the French engineers Gustave Steinacher and Ferdinand Bernadet after the Carrousel Bridge in Paris, which is no longer standing. Work began in 1845 and it was opened on February 23, 1852 replacing the old barge bridge that was constructed by the Arabs in the late 12th century. This was a very important improvement from the old style barge bridge since this was the first bridge that spanned the Guadalquivir river coming from the Atlantic over 200km away. In 1974 plans to replace it with a more modern design where struck down by the Sevilla citizens and in April 1976 it became a National Heritage Historic Monument in Spain. It is now an ever enduring landmark in Sevilla and Triana and a great example of early statics!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rome with Sterling and Mark

During the break between the two summer semesters, my roommate(Mark) and I(Sterling) went to Rome. Over the 4 days we did our best to experience all there is in Rome.

Complete photo collection.

Our first day we went to Saint Peter’s Square inside the Vatican City; one of the things that we noticed was the veneration and the acclaim for the former Pope John Paul II right after he became beatified. At every souvenir shop and stand they had items depicting him.

We also went to the Castel Sant’Angelo which was in the beginning a mausoleum used by the roman emperor Hadrian and later used as military fort for the Vatican.

The next day we spent most of the time at the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museum was enormous and had a little bit of everything from ancient Egypt, to Greek sculptures, to Christian artifacts. We also climbed to the top of the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. Even though we had to climb the 551 steps on that sweltering day it was all worth it for the amazing view of the skyline of the city of Rome. To finish off day we looked at the Trevi Fountain and the Piazza della Repubblica.

On our final day we started off by going to the Coliseum and the Roman forum, later we went to the Pantheon. To fit in with our Engineering, you really have to appreciate the sophistication and prowess of the ancient Romans. For instance take a look at the Pantheon; it was one of the first buildings to ever support a dome structure and if you take a look at the interior you will notice that the coffers in the ceiling not only have the practical effect of reducing the weight of the dome but also adds a artistic effect to the ceiling.

And of course how could you enjoy Rome without savoring the food between the Pizza, Pasta, Calzone and Tiramisu, yeah we had a good time.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

History of Spain

At Texas Tech, all students must complete a balanced curriculum that includes study in the natural and applied sciences, social sciences, mathematics, humanities, and the visual and performing arts. Here in Sevilla, we offer fundamental engineering courses such as statics and thermodynamics and where possible, we include field trips to local sites where the students can see applications of those topics(Ybarra, Bridges, Abengoa, etc.). However, the really unique opportunities to utilize our Spanish surroundings to enhance the educational experience comes in the visual and performing arts and humanities classes. In the first summer session, we had a philosophy course taught by Dr. Anna Christina Ribeiro and music appreciation taught by Dr. Eric Fried. In the second summer session, we have theater appreciation taught by Dr. Linda Donahue and the history of Spain taught by Dr. Douglas Inglis.

Over the last 3000 years, Spain has felt the impact of virtually every great civilization and social movement, from the Phoenicians to the Romans and from Napoleon to Hitler. It is a fascinating country and our students are receiving a whirlwind tour of its history from Dr. Inglis. On Saturday morning, the Texas Tech engineering students were guided by Dr. Inglis for a tour of the ancient site of the Roman city Italica.

Complete photo collection.

Italica was founded in 206 BC to settle the Roman soldiers who were part of the victory over the Carthaginians in the Battle of Llipia. The city grew in importance and was the birthplace of the Roman emperor Trajan. The capabilities of Romans as engineers was clearly evident in the carefully planned city layout with with fresh water distribution, waste removal, cobble stoned streets, elaborate homes, and public baths.

The Romans built a 25,000 seat amphitheater so that they could be entertained by their gladiators and a separate theater for dramatic productions. The students will return one evening next week for a dance performance in the theater as part of their theater appreciation class. Imagine sitting in the same seats where the Roman spectators had sat 2000 years ago for similar entertainment.

Eventually, the students started to feel a little like Roman gods themselves.

The students like to get a "Guns Up" photo at every location.