High School Students Prepare for Spring Trip to Spain

Spain, Allendale High School

If you’re like a lot of West Michigan families, you may be considering spending Spring Break in a state with a little more sun and a lot less snow.

But these kids have different ideas entirely. Because their plans have more to do with passports and planes than they do with road maps and minivans. This April, these lucky students will travel with other high school Spanish students and their teachers Ms. Sult and Ms. Culp, to Spain.

The group will fly out of O’Hare International Airport on Thursday, April 3 and return home on Sunday, April 13. At $2,100 per student, the investment is sizable, though the school has been diligently offering fundraising opportunities to offset the expense. Despite the price tag, Ms. Sult says three reasons come to mind when explaining the value of this trip:

1.  It provides education on location: you can never truly duplicate an authentic experience like traveling to a new country and immersing yourself in a different culture. For kids who are serious about pursuing the language, this in invaluable. Says Cathy Culp, AHS Spanish Teacher,  “There is no better way to learn a language than to travel to a country where the language is spoken and truly immerse yourself.”

2.  It is an opportunity to experience life and foster relationships with people outside of the norm. A new country means new world views, new perspectives — and new food! More importantly, of course, is the opportunity to develop relationships with these new friends.

3.  It puts into practice what students have been studying for several years. We all know that taking tests and writing papers equip us to become proficient in a subject area, but where language is concerned, speaking it in a native setting helps to solidify new knowledge, cultural norms and accents. Ms. Sult punctuated this point when she said, “At school students are immersed in Spanish for less than 6 hours in a week.  In Spain, students will be fully immersed in the language all day, every day. Students can potentially learn more in a week living with a family in Spain than they can taking two semesters of Spanish here. As a teacher, there is no better satisfaction than seeing students successfully use what you have been working hard to teach them over 3-5 school years.” 

Allendale High School, Spain Trip

We recently had an opportunity to learn more about this unique opportunity and are pleased to share insights from Ms. Sult on the blog today:

Where did the idea for a trip come from… and has APS ever offered an international trip to its students?

This will actually be the 7th trip I have taken with students from AHS.  I had traveled with students both as a student teacher and during my first years of teaching before I came to Allendale so I knew how rewarding a trip could be.  A trip wasn’t possible during my first years at Allendale because we only offered Spanish levels 1 and 2 at the high school. Once the program grew and we were offering advanced levels, I introduced the trip opportunity. 

We took our first trip in 1998 and have taken several since then, though they have changed a bit. In the beginning, our trips consisted more of a tour together with students from other US high schools with maybe a few days of family stay. Now we have more of a true exchange program totally built around a family stay.  We connect with a specific school in Spain and we visit that school, stay with the families of students studying English there and then those students come to AHS and live with the families of the students that lived with them.  Students really have the opportunity to connect and form lasting relationships.  Most students continue to stay in contact with their Spanish host brothers and sisters and some have even gone back to visit.     

What kinds of activities do you have planned?

Students will live with a family in the city of Huelva, Spain for the whole time, giving them the opportunity to learn first hand about the culture and family life of Spain, as well as practice their Spanish in real life context.  The students will also go to school with their host brother or sister and get a first hand look at high school in Spain.  Besides sitting in on Math, science, language and history classes given in Spanish, students are often guests in the English classes. 

We will visit some important historical sites together as a group.  Christopher Columbus sailed for the Americas from the city of Palos de la Frontera which is just a few miles from Huelva, so we will go on an excursion to visit the famous Christopher Columbus sites including La Rábida Monastery, where Columbus lived while planning for his trip, and the Muelle de las Carabelas, the Harbor where he departed, which now has life-size replicas of Columbus’ ships.

We will also be going on a Full day excursion to neighboring Portugal ( Vila Real  Santo Antonio, Tavira). This is the first time we have had this opportunity on a trip. Finally, we will have the opportunity to spend a day in the capital, Madrid, before leaving to come back to the US.

“Buen viaje” to this group of adventurers! We look forward to hearing more upon your return.

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