Spanish Exchange 2016-2017
The College sets great store on establishing close working relationships with our European partners and is committed to offering all students of modern foreign languages the opportunity of spending time in the country of their chosen language(s) prior to the AS and A2 exams.
The benefits of such a visit cannot be overemphasised and participants undoubtedly find the experience very rewarding. In addition to the obvious linguistic aspect, students gain an invaluable insight into Spanish life and culture through close contact with a Spanish family. Students also have an excellent opportunity to carry out effective research for their coursework projects.
Torrelavega is a medium sized town located in Cantabria in the north of Spain, half an hour from Santander and is ideal for this type of visit. We have been fortunate in finding a similar institution which also believes in the importance of strong exchange links. The ‘IES Manuel Gutierrez Aragon’ is a 14-18 college with a similar number of students to our own college. The group travels by plane from Manchester to Bilbao and takes a coach to Torrelavega to be picked up by the host families. Students attend a range of lessons at the ‘instituto’ They also attend local Primary Schools where they have the opportunity to assist the Spanish teachers.
The Spanish students come to England at the end January/beginning of February, with students who go to Torrelavega naturally being expected to host a Spanish student in return.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the time of my life on the Spanish exchange trip to Torrelavega, from dancing to teaching primary school children, and having siestas; we did it all (and more).
I’ve been in love with the Spanish language and its people ever since I began learning it when I was eleven, so it was obvious I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to take part in the exchange this year; I’ve loved the A2 Spanish course at college so far.
Having spent all day travelling, my Spanish skills were slightly rusty to say the least, so of course it was uncomfortable at first. But by the second day we were all a lot more settled and we went for a drive to Los Picos de Europa and then Potes, to have a bit of a fiesta with family and friends, eating traditional Cantabrian food and bonding with my exchange partner Ángela and her little sister Inés. Afterwards, OSFC students and our partners went for a meal and then a music and dance party in Torrelavega with friends. I should tell you, parties are 100% not my usual scene but something about being in a foreign country and surrounded by amazing people made it somehow okay to let my hair down for once. It was all in aid of my Spanish skills, I guess.
Going into the college was by far my favourite day, we attended lessons in: History, French, English, and Spanish Language, and had our first real chance to embrace the life of a baccalaureate student. During the day, we visited the town hall of Torrelavega and had the privilege of meeting the Mayor and other local politicians, who personally welcomed us to the extraordinary city of Torrelavega and talked to us about the local community. For this we were featured in the local newspaper and an online blog! That evening I went to visit Ángela’s grandparents, where I learned a lot about the Catholic background of Spain and how it affects teens nowadays.
Two of the days of the trip were spent in a primary school, teaching the children about Manchester and the joys of living in Oldham (note to self: don’t look for pictures of Oldham on google images; the results aren’t pretty). Although this was by far one of the most helpful experiences for improving my language skills, I’m not a big fan of small children (sorry, not sorry), or loud classrooms. After spending 5 hours talking about fish and chips and the Christmas markets, I was ready for a good meal and a long siesta.
Another day was spent on a biology trip to “La Cascada de la Miña” (a waterfall) with the science baccalaureate students; its educational value was probably lost on us but it was a lovely day out in the country, and it was fantastic to spend time with the Spanish students out in the sun (kind of), and to discuss how their college life differs from ours.
Another thing that surprised me was the weather. A month ago I held the mistaken belief that Spain in general was hot and sunny, but in Torrelavega it rained and poured over and over again. Plus, it was freezing; up in the mountains, I even saw piles of snow and ice! So much for the sunny trip I was planning.
The trip as a whole was the best experience of my life; I’m so glad I went, not only for the improvement I see in my linguistic skills, but also the confidence and belief in myself the trip helped me to develop.
Being thrown in the deep end truly is the best way to learn.
El intercambio – Quotes from the OSFC students
An AS Spanish student Eloise Mellor said, ‘It’s been really nice having the Spanish students over here, and being able to show my partner a bit of English culture and reciprocate what she did for me in Spain. Overall, I think it’s been a really good experience for the both of us to further develop the languages we’ve been learning.’
‘The exchange was a fantastic experience! I would recommend it to anyone hoping to improve their language skills. You get to experience real Spain, whilst making new friends and challenging yourself’ – Isabella Schiavo.
‘The exchange was a great opportunity to improve both language skills and cultural understanding. I noticed an improvement in my Spanish, and also an improvement in the English of my partner, and I feel like I have had an insight into a different culture. I would definitely recommend the exchange to anyone’ – Tobias Green.
‘For me, the exchange has been an unforgettable experience. Being immersed into the Spanish way of life has been highly beneficial as it really allows you to live within their culture and society. As well as widening my vocabulary knowledge, it has allowed me to make new friends and find my confidence in the language. If I could, I would definitely do it all again’ – Charlotte Kershaw
Quote from Tutor for Spanish Gemma Curto:
‘It has been very good experience for the students, I could see how the confidence and fluency of my students in Spanish grew as the trip developed. It will definitely help them toward their preparation for their exams. They also really enjoyed bonding with Spanish students, who have the same age and similar interests. Those friendships are worth developing’
IES Manuel Gutierrez Aragón quotes
English teacher, Amparo Álvarez, from our partner school IES Manuel Gutierrez Aragón said, ‘what my students appreciated most was the love shown by the families, treating them as if they were their own child. They have learned a lot from them, not only from a linguistic point of view, but also their habits and way of life. At the moment they are making future plans. This is the idea of the exchange, to continue a friendship for longer. I hope the students will remember this experience for life and encourage others to participate in the exchange the following years.’
‘For me the exchange was a beautiful and amazing experience. It was good for my language skills and to know more about the English culture’ – Angela González.
‘I enjoyed a lot the exchange. We visited amazing places and the family was very nice. I recommend this exchange because it is an opportunity to learn more about English culture’ – Soraya Cayón.
‘The exchange was a really fantastic experience. I understand better now and I can form sentences much quicker. The family was really nice. They gave me all I needed. I could see the different culture between both countries’ – Marina Gómez.