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Spanish exchange broadens students’ cultural appreciation, strengthens bonds

Homecoming Hugs: Holding on to each other tightly, Kacey Leone and Irene Nortes (from Spain) reunite in Orihuela, Spain. Below from left to right, Andrea TÌscar (from Spain), Andreia Radaios, Annie O’Rourke, Kate Fredinger, Kacey Leone enjoy a group hug in Orihuela, Spain. Photo courtesy of Kacey Leone

Amanda Tener, staff reporter

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Twenty-six GBS Spanish students went on an exchange trip to Orihuela, Spain from March 25 to April 6.

The trip was led by Spanish teachers Matthew Johlie, David Franson and Mark Bauman. Bauman explained that most days, the group went on short trips to do fun activities and visit nearby places such as Alicante, Valencia, and Granada. The students would spend the night with their exchange partner and family. The trip mirrored the trip exchange students from Spain took to GBS in the fall.

According to the teachers, the Spanish exchange program has happened seven times so far and occurs every other year. They have learned to make the most of the day trips and to bring an appropriate number of students while also reducing the total cost of the trip. The most important part for the teachers, however, is the students.

“We’re really proud of our students and the students from Spain,” Bauman said. “They’re the ones who make it a success. Their patience and their open mindedness and their passion for culture really makes the exchange. We just sort of set it up and they make it happen.”

Bauman and Franson described one day when GBS students spent at school in Spain with the Spanish students. The group followed an example schedule of classes that included math, science, and poetry. The Spanish school band also performed the Titan fight song for the students. According to Bauman and Franson, the Spanish school was different from GBS in that it was much smaller and was more educationally focused. The school did not offer extracurriculars such as clubs and sports.

Senior Reagan Trapp, who went on the trip, says her favorite part was the food, which was much more fresh than American food. Trapp and her Spanish family went to a bread store every day for fresh bread to make dinner. Her favorite food was called bocadillo, which was made up as bread, olive oil and meat.

“I wasn’t sure, going into the trip, what Spanish food was like,” Trapp said. “[Bocadillo] is one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten.”

Franson enjoyed visiting the Alhambra, a nearby Muslim Moorish palace. The ornate and geometric architecture was compared by Franson to the castles in “Game of Thrones.”

“[Visiting Alhambra] is the most impressive trip we take,” Franson said.“It’s a feast for the eyes.”

Trapp recalls that another interesting part of the trip–the experience of living in a Spanish household. According to her, the people walked everywhere they went, including school, the train station and social places. The homes were different from American homes in that they were almost all apartments or townhomes instead of full houses. Sharing one shower was also quite different for Trapp.

“[The host family] had a [hand held shower head], so you couldn’t hang it up at all,” Trapp said. “The first time I took it, I was so annoyed because I  [wanted to] take a normal shower […]. So what I ended up doing was sitting on the ground of their shower, which was the size of a small bathtub, and hold the shower nozzle with one hand and with the other hand I’d scrub and wash my hair.”

Trapp says that some of her most memorable experiences from the trip included go-karting, making a falla (a paper-mache sculpture), visiting a beach and creating a finsta for the trip with three of her friends. The finsta account, @gordosamericanos, which was created by Trapp, senior Kate Frankiewicz and juniors Ben Thomas and Sam Dale, was used to post pictures and hashtags from the trip.

“We post funny pictures of people who fell asleep on the bus, or […] two people on the exchange were dating and so we gave them a hashtag, […] different funny pictures making fun of ourselves,” Trapp said.

Another important part of the trip for Trapp was that she grew much closer with the 25 other GBS students who also went on the trip. The Americans, many of whom Trapp barely knew at the beginning of the trip, became very close over the course of the week because of the long bus rides and free time they shared. Trapp recalls that they planned to continue to hang out once in America.

“Because we were together for a five-hour long bus ride and because we had so much free time together, we really got to know each other better and we’re a really close group now,” Trapp said. “I’m really happy that I got to meet all these people.”

Bauman and Franson enjoy seeing the impact the trip had on the students. They agreed that it is important for the students to make connections with people different from themselves and experience the contrasting food, language and culture of Spain.

“For me, the most impactful part is seeing students from previous exchanges on the street and having them tell me about how the exchange impacted their lives,” Bauman said.

Trapp agrees and says that the trip changed her perspective on the world and made her more grateful for her life in Glenview.

“It made a big impact on me,” Trapp said. “It made me want to travel more, it made me be more grateful for my house and [appreciative of] my family, and it made me more excited and passionate to learn about other cultures. It made me want to try new things and meet new people.”

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The news site of Glenbrook South High School
Spanish exchange broadens students’ cultural appreciation, strengthens bonds