Explorers and Conquerors
Spain and Portugal



Humanities 230:  Topics in International Studies, 3 credits
Humanities 330:  Selected Topics in Global Cultures, 3 credits
International Studies 230:  Topics in International Studies, 3 credits
International Studies 330:  Selected Topics in Global Cultures, 3 credits
Note:  Students can register for only one 230 and only one 330 course


Permission of Instructor


A limited number of scholarships will be available on a competitive basis to matriculated CCSU students with a GPA of at least 2.50 who are registered for at least one of the academic courses associated with this program.

The course abroad will take students to Portugal and Spain on a 15 day trip which will explore the roots of colonization and will help students understand the motives of the adventurours Portuguese and Spanish explorers who opened trade routes to Asia and the Americas while embarking on religious crusades that took their faith to further lands. Students will gain an understanding of the circumstances that favored these endevors and they will learn about the background that lead the explorers to risk their lives and to adjust to completely different environments. Students will visit the main ports from which these expeditions departed, and the historical cities that hosted treaties and welcomed the news and richness from the unknown lands. By drawing comparisons between the distant civilizations involved and their historical circumstances, students will reflect on current issues and on different ways of dealing with the unknown.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the most western and southern countries of Europe, Spain and Portugal had acquired a considerable experience in crusade-like wars from fighting the Moorish for the previous 8 centuries. They had also developed an important navy of fast sailing boats and a navigation science that included maps and tools inherited from the Muslim, such as the astrolabe and the quadrant. On the other hand, the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean invited these countries to explore alternative routes of trade to the existing ones from Europe to Asia, which were mostly controlled by Venetians and Ottomans. In these circumstances, the promise of personal enrichment and the desire to expand the Christian faith beyond the borders appealed to many brave adventurers and wealthy sponsors to embark in dangerous expeditions that would take them to alien lands. The treaty of Tordesillas, in 1494, brought together the king and queen of Aragon and Castille, in Spain, with king Juan II of Portugal, to sign a distribution of the areas of navigation and conquest in order to avoid a conflict between the two nations.  The course will take the students from Lisbon to Seville, important harbors and cities of trade and commerce, and depositories of important archives about the explorations. Most of the Portuguese expeditions left from Lisbon, including Vasco de Gama’s expedition to India in 1497. In Lisbon, students will visit the Tower of Belem, which was a fortified lighthouse that guarded the entrance to the port, the Mosterio dos Jeronimos, where some of the explorers were hosted, and the Monument to the Discoveries. On the way to Seville, they will visit the cities of Trujillo, where conqueror of Peru, Francisco Pizarro was born, the city of Caceres, hometown of other famous explorers and the Monastery of Guadaloupe, where Christopher Columbus did his pilgrimage after his first trip through the Atlantic. Many of the explorers that circumnavigated Africa, and arrived to India and Japan, or those that discovered a “New World” on the other side of the Atlantic came from a region between Portugal and Spain, which is called Extremadura, in reference to the harsh living conditions and extreme weather of its land. The region of Extremadura, where the course abroad will take its students, is also of extreme beauty and historical richness, with its noble cities and dramatic landscapes. After visiting the region the students will be hosted in Seville, where they will visit the Alcazar of Seville, a royal palace which was originally a Moorish fort, which hosted the House of Trade, and was used by the Catholic monarchs to regulate the trade with the new colonies. In Seville, students will also have the opportunity to see the tomb of Christopher Colombus, hosted in the impressive gothic cathedral, and the General Archive of the Indies, which hosts the most important collection of documents about the Spanish Empire and the colonies of America and the Philippines. Finally, students will visit Palos de la Frontera, next to Seville, from which port Christopher Colombus departed on his first trip, and Sanlucar de Barrameda, which was the port for his 3rd travel, and also the one from which Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition departed with the ship Victoria, to the first expedition that circumnavigated the world, and which was finalized by Juan Sebastian Elcano after the death of Magellan.

The course will not only bring students to the root of European colonization of other continents, including Africa, America and Asia, but it will open a discussion on the mutual influences that these new routes opened among different cultures and civilizations in areas such as food, textiles, art, science, and other. Without being a sequel, the course draws from the experience of our 2013 study abroad course Japanese –Hispanic Encounters, in which we studied the clash of religions but also the prevalent cultural exchange and remaining influences of those initial contacts between lands apart.

The course abroad will provide students with a historical background which will help them achieve a global understanding of current issues. Asia, America and Europe will be studied in their social and historical contexts at the time of these major explorations. But numerous references will be made to current issues that derive from those initial contacts.
Professor Tomoda and Professor Lapuerta, experts in Asian and European studies respectively, will impart lectures, facilitate discussions and will help students draw comparisons between foreign ancient civilizations that came together. By visiting sites of historical value, students will also reflect on their ancestry as part of global movements and encounters that were initiated at the end of the Middle Ages, and they will gain an understanding of the foundations of the modern world.

The course responds to the university mission of providing students with a vision which is “global in perspective and outreach,” and it complies with the institutional goals of promoting  “global awareness and respect for diversity.”

Registration Information and Program Costs

The cost of the travel program includes round-trip airport transfers in the U.S. and abroad, economy-class international airfare, double- or triple-occupancy accommodations, most meals, and ground transportation and entrance fees to all required site visits. All personal expenses (i.e., medical, souvenirs, laundry, telephone, etc.) are not included.   Course tuition is not included in the Course Abroad program fee.

Fulfillment of the University's International Requirement: 

All credits earned overseas on a CCSU-sponsored study abroad program, including courses offered in conjunction with Course Abroad programs, automatically receive "I Designation" and count toward fulfillment of the University's General Education International Requirement.

Registration Form


To be announced

Travel Dates

June 17 - July 2, 2014

Faculty Directors

Prof.  Paloma Lapuerta
Modern Langauges Department
(860) 832-2884

Prof. Shizuko Tomoda
Modern Languages Department
(860) 832-2892

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