Spanish Exchange: Learning Through Experience

By Erica Laidler (Editor-in-Chief).

It’s a long way from the world of turkey pardoning, bio test cramming, and Hillary-Trump insanity to the mystical realm of Moorish architecture, rolled r’s, and paella at midnight.

On November 18, 15 Sharon High School students and Spanish teachers Ms. Theberge and Mr. Burka left for their trip to Madrid, Spain for an 11-day exchange. Students will live with host families and spend time exploring the city, experiencing typical school days in Spain, and delving into Spanish culture.

“Originally, I didn’t want to go because I don’t like to travel and thought it would be too intimidating,” said senior Shayne Massefski, who has already taken six years of Spanish at SHS. “But then I realized how great of an opportunity it was that I was considering passing up.”

“I decided [just a few days after writing it off] that I would push through the anxiety and let myself go for this amazing experience,” added Massefski.

Junior Darren LePage says he’s worried about plunging so immediately and thoroughly into Spanish culture. “I have done everything I can to prepare, but it is going to be much different than life in the U.S. Hopefully [the culture shock] won’t last very long,” he said.

Even though sophomore Audrey Simons has been on a Panama language immersion and community service trips as well as on vacations to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, she says she is nervous for some aspects of the trip.

“I’ve done a homestay before, but there were other students who were in the house with me…so this will be my first time doing it alone,” said Simons. “And I’m nervous that my Spanish speaking abilities won’t be at the level necessary to effectively communicate what I mean to say.”

But for Simons, facing her fears will be worth it: “I hope to gain more confidence as a Spanish speaker and also become more globally competent.”

Junior Natalija Skoko says she was not hesitant to commit to the program. “The second Señora Theberge proposed the…exchange I knew I was going to try my best to get a spot on the trip,” she said.

Skoko, who has journeyed as far as Jamaica, Thailand, and Barcelona, says she loves traveling “because it’s a way of getting an education outside of a classroom and not from a textbook, which can be an even better way to learn.”

“I can’t think of a better way to learn about a culture than to fully immerse yourself in it, and that’s why I think travel is extremely important,” added Skoko.

SHS students will occupy the first and last weekends with their host families, and then alternating weekdays at Colegio (High School) Logos and sightseeing in Drado Museum, Toledo, and Segovia.

Sophomore Ellie Romantz says she visited Spain once before and has seen its major tourist attractions, but is “very grateful to have the opportunity to return to and enjoy the city.”

“The family stay experience will [improve] my language skills exponentially as well as open my mind to [the way] others live around the world,” added Romantz.

LePage says he also hopes the trip will solidify his Spanish skills. “School has gotten me to where I am now (along with outside studying on my own), but it is my duty to take it farther and use it in my life,” said LePage. “School can do little for me to actually be fluent.”

Ms. Theberge is leaving behind her family and classes while chaperoning the trip, but she says observing students partake in a potentially pivotal life experience will be worth the sacrifice.

“I studied abroad both in Spain and Mexico…and my experiences definitely were defining moments where I realized I was passionate about Spanish – Spanish language, culture, grammar; all things Spanish – and teaching that to students,” said Theberge.

The Colegio Logos students will stay with their respective host siblings  from April 1st to April 12th during their trip to Sharon.

Skoko says she can’t wait to form a lifelong bond with her host sister: “I believe we will get along, especially since we’ve been in contact for the past month…and she seems like an awesome person.”

This story originally appeared in the print edition of the Sharon Talon


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