Trip to Spain Promotes cultural immersion


Aventuras alegres: Posing together, senior Will Langas (right) and Germán Abellán (left) explore and sightsee around Spain. The Spanish Exchange program is available for juniors and seniors to participate in every two years.

Om Patel , staff reporter

Every two years, Spanish Teachers Mark Bauman, Mark Franson and Matthew Johlie organize a cultural exchange designed for juniors and seniors taking Spanish classes at South. This past spring break, select students embarked on a ten-day journey to the town of Orihuela, Spain for the Spanish Exchange program.

The exchange is divided into two parts, Bauman says. The students from Spain arrive in the fall during Homecoming week. During that time, they participate in Homecoming activities and take field trips to locations like the Art Institute. Then, during spring break, South students head to Spain.

The program was first started in 2003 by Bauman and Johlie. Johlie had prior teaching experience in Orihuela and made connections with teachers in the town to start the program. From there, the two teachers got permission from the school board and continued to work on the program until they felt satisfied with it, Bauman says.

While in Spain, students tagged along with their exchange partner to attend classes and go on day trips. Seniors Tommy Frankiewicz and Will Langas look fondly upon the times they used to explore cities like Granada, Alicante, Murcia and Valencia.

Frankiewicz says,   “We’d get in a small group and go explore the city. It was challenging because our speaking abilities were limited but it was fun and it brought everyone closer together.”

Langas highlighted the reactions of the Spaniards when they experienced American culture for the first time. According to Langas, coming to Glenview,    a town much more spread out, can be a massive culture shock than Orihuela, which can be traversed in five minutes.

“They don’t drive anywhere, they walk pretty much everywhere in the city,” Langas said. “They were always freaked out when we’d always be driving everywhere.”

Initially, Frankiewicz did not know what to anticipate on the trip. However, he later realized the growth he was experiencing with the Spanish language and culture.

“It’s totally different than a vacation you take with your family and stay at a hotel,” Frankiewicz said. “You’re always eating their food and speaking their language. I think this trip is for a lot of people and anyone can benefit from it.”

Bauman added that students learn to respect and understand other cultures in the world and they gain an inspiration to continue traveling the world.

“Most kids don’t get the chance to travel abroad, much less live abroad, with a family in high school,” Bauman said. “Hopefully this will foment and encourage more travel for kids in the future.”

Langas and Frankiewicz both applied for the program because their siblings were participants in the past. However, Frankiewicz encourages students to apply regardless of their Spanish speaking ability. Langas also believes that is is important to be exposed to new cultures.

“It’s a really interesting cultural experience and we are fortunate for having this available for us in high school,” Langas said.