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SYA Capstone Project: The Most Rewarding Research of All

Isabel G. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for our Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Loomis Chaffee School (CT). Read more of her work throughout the year here.

All year long our class has been preparing for the trip that in many ways would define our time in Spain and what part of the country appeals most to us. The capstone trip, an opportunity all students are offered, is the chance to pick a topic that you are passionate about and travel to its place of origin or greatest concentration. Some chose the making of cheese and found themselves in Asturias working on the farm from the break of dawn. Others travelled to Andalucía, where they studied the renowned Flamenco dance and how to perform it. However, my topic of interest was only located an hour from Zaragoza in the city of Madrid. Yes, I had already travelled there and loved it, but never for a reason such as this. I had four entire days to learn about the history of Spanish fashion and its modern day impact.

Madrid's Unique and Unapologetic Style

I must admit that from the very minute our train stopped in Madrid, I saw the change. The man rushing in last minute had a sleek black suit on with intricate butterflies along the inner piping. The teenage girl waiting for the taxi had bright pink hair and ceiling high platform shoes. It is change in scenery that is hard to miss. In this city, so grand and famed for its expression and style, I knew I would find just what I was looking for. The people and their unique, unapologetic style was something that I must say you do not find too often in Zaragoza. However, I also wanted to enjoy the moment and take in the busy, happening streets that bear a strange resemblance to that of Manhattan. I wanted to bask in the energy that seemed to flow from the center. And I wanted to get to work.

First stop: El Museo del Traje

Thursday morning I woke up at the admittedly early hour of 8 a.m. in order to get to the museum that has been on my bucket list since September. El Museo del Traje, just a short walk from the center, was where I began my research. With over 160,000 items inside, I knew I would not leave for a very long time. This hub of Spanish fashion is home to everything from accessories to dresses to shoes from the Middle Ages until modern day. I learned about the textiles used in the 15th century as the Moors reigned over exports. I read a fascinating article about the time of Carlos 111 Salón Del Prado, where the socialites of the fashion world would arrive in carriages in brightly colored skirts and bodices inspired by the French. I also witnessed some of the most grand and overwhelming pieces of clothing created during the social and political triumph of the bourgeoisie in the peak of the Romantic era. A man's suit became very simple and refined, losing the unique and superfluous designs of previous eras. However, I saw that the style of women remained excited and alive with bright accents and large hoop skirts.

A blur of all of my favorite things

Throughout the next few days, which seemed to pass in a blur of reading and communicating, I had interviewed several people and visited one of the most prestigious design schools in Madrid. There I got the opportunity to witness actual classes filled with students who share a similar passion as experience of belonging that I have never felt before. But the capstone trips are more than a few days learning alone, you are surrounded by classmates with different passions but a similar desire to explore and learn. Hearing about the music concert my friend Gabi went to and the nuclear laboratory my friend Maia raved about was almost as exciting as my own research.

SYA promised that while this project is heavy and requires serious dedication, it is one of the most rewarding things we will do abroad. After this weekend and the people and places I had gotten to know and explore, I can wholeheartedly say it's true.