A two-week change in culture

Students get a sneak preview of studying abroad

Jesse McCauley

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It’s not everyday that students are able to take their studies outside of school. It’s also not everyday that students are able to study abroad. That’s usually a perk of college. However, this past summer, students enrolled in either Chinese or Spanish got to do just that. These two week trips gave students the perfect opportunity to enrich their understanding of the language and the culture as well.

Sara Chao and Julia Kessel lead the China trip, while Jenny Pilewski, Maria Barraza, Stephanie Gamauf, and Ana Del Rey took their kids to Spain. Prior to both of these trips, students had to do their own research and attend meetings in order to prepare. After that, they were able to experience everything in person.

“We get to take the kids to the real scenario. The teachers know that when we get to the country, everything becomes reality,” said Del Ray, a Spain native, who lead her first trip this year.

The first week of Spain consisted of visits to Madrid, Sevilla, and Granada, where students were free to eat, shop, and interact with locals.

Senior Jack Brown said, “I enjoyed Sevilla and seeing the cathedral there because the city and church have a lot of history.” Brown was also a fan of the flamenco dancing and music.

After a tight schedule of sightseeing, each student spent the second half of the trip staying with a host family. This involved sleeping at their house, eating meals with them, and even touring the high school with the teenager of the family. To many of the students, this was the best part of the trip, and many also said that the kids there were more than thrilled to spend time with American kids.

“When we visited their school, every single kid wanted to meet us. It was the most hospitable experience I’ve ever had,” said senior Stephen Hajjar. Hajjar loved the family stay because not only did he improve his Spanish, but he also loved the cultural shift. He noticed that it was a country that prides itself on the family and strays away from material items.

Senior Morgan Sheridan also enjoyed this part of the trip. “The highlight of my trip was definitely the family stay,” she said. “It was so interesting to see how their family lives differently than mine.” Sheridan said that one of the major differences was the meals. A usual dinner started as late as 10:30.

“To see the faces of the kids when they first speak Spanish with the family and the family actually understands them is my favorite part. They realize that what they learn in class can be used in the real world,” said Del Ray.

But Spanish students weren’t the only ones who got to apply their learning. Over in China, students explored Shanghai, Beijing, Tiananmen Square, as well as many rural areas. Students were able to climb the Great Wall, ride camels, and visit a school, amongst several other activities.

Senior Connor Baldwin said, “The highlights of the trip have to be climbing the Great Wall and shopping in the underground markets.”

During the trip, students continually added to their own personal blog, in which they journaled about what they learned and what they did each day. Baldwin learned that outside of the classroom, there are so many ways to learn about a different language and culture. He said that it was one of the best trips of his life.

“I learned that China has a very rich culture that is centuries old and that the people are extremely proud of their nationality there,” said senior Emma Yang. Her favorite parts were also the Great Wall and the markets.

Baldwin and Yang also discovered a lot of differences between the two cultures. Baldwin noticed that the kids there were very serious about being proper and setting a good example. He said they always wore their finest clothes for them.

Yang also spotted the serious demeanor. Upon interacting with the locals, Yang found that most were very happy to greet them. Julia Kessel, a teacher on the trip, said that the locals always love to see her students and even take pictures with them.

“They love Americans. The students are like celebrities,” Kessel said.

 

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