Hannah and Lashlee in Spain

Richter Research Fellows Hannah and Lashlee are studying the quality of health care for African immigrants in the south of Spain. They plan to visit refugee centers and clinics, and interview experts. Lashlee is a junior President’s Scholar majoring in biology and Spanish in Dedman College. Hannah is a junior President’s Scholar majoring in accounting in Cox School of Business and political science, with a minor in Spanish, in Dedman College.

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Dolphins, lions and a Ferris wheel

Hannah excited about the day ahead

While the work in Valencia was going great and keeping us very busy, we could not deny ourselves the many sights and opportunities available in the bustling city. We decided to take a few afternoons to devote to getting to know our location for the week, and our adventures began at the architectural masterpiece of the City of Arts and Sciences, constructed by world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava. Little fun fact: he’s the same architect who designed the wave statue outside SMU’s Meadows Museum of Art!

We walked down the beautiful Turia Riverbed park to arrive at the glittering, white city and were amazed by the many colossal (and somewhat strange) structures we found. The city contains everything from a Dino Park to one of the world’s most impressive aquariums. In addition to its large aquariums, art collections, and science exhibits, it also is home to an opera house, event hall, and IMAX theatre.

Hannah at the aquarium

We tried our best to take full advantage of each of these attractions and filled the day with an IMAX film about the Hubble telescope, a journey through shark tunnels, a quick sweep through some exhibits in the science museum, and finally – the most exciting part of the day – a dolphin show! It’s part of a summer series in the Oceanographic (the aquarium) that has dolphins, trainers, synchronized swimmers, and a band performing under the moonlight. Needless to say, our first day of full-on tourist exploration left us tired but very, very satisfied. But, there was still one thing missing (for Hannah at least).

Lashlee on the Ferris wheel

A few days prior, while walking across town to one of our office destinations, Hannah spotted the set up for a carnival. Complete with bumper cars, cotton candy, games, and bright lights, she was instantly determined to return at nighttime when we could see the activity shining from inside the riverbed park. Therefore, on the long trek back at 12 A.M. from the City of Arts and Sciences, Hannah spotted the rotating Ferris wheel and demanded we ride. So ride we did. While exhausted and also paired with a father and daughter in the same tiny car, we rode the ride, taking in the sights of the city from above. By the time we reached out hostel and crashed on the bed, we knew that we had truly witnessed the city from an entirely new and fun perspective.

Lashlee at Bioparc

The next day, we journeyed to the opposite end of the riverbed to the newly installed Bioparc, a zoo with revolutionary design and appeal. The park’s attraction was not only its exotic array of animals, but its claim to have “no boundaries.” Would we be running amuck with lemurs and lions? We had no idea. So we decided to check it out. The park was filled with families, friends, and couples from all over the world. While there WERE boundaries between us and the animals, the park’s design was truly unique in that several animals cohabitated just as they would in the wild, and oftentimes, you could stand very close to the action of their daily lives.

We made the loop around the complex while taking pictures and stopping for a couple of snacks (including Lashlee’s favorite: Horchata). As dusk fell, and our stomachs grumbled, we made our way back to the city center and stopped in for a quick meal of tapas before heading home, catching up on some work, and sleeping.

Lashlee at the beach

We especially enjoyed our time in Valencia, and we are thankful to experience not only the nonprofit organizations but also some of the culture of Spain’s third-largest metropolis. It truly was a very welcoming place  and we will definitely miss its beach and paella as well as the friendly and helpful people we met. Now, we sit with only three days left in Spain and cannot believe how the time has flown. The next few days will be mainly for collecting: our thoughts, our memories, and our information in preparation for when we return back home. We cannot wait to gather all we’ve learned and share it, for this is a trip that we have worked toward for a very long time. See you soon in the States!

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