Spring Break in Spain: The Lasting Effects of Short-Term Immersion

Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina recently returned from their visit to Spain marking the conclusion of yet another successful exchange program for this high school! Students and administrators from Ravenscroft visited their sister school in Madrid for a short-term CCI Greenheart immersion experience. While in Spain, the students stayed with a Spanish host family, experienced life in a Spanish high school, and traveled to a few famous sites.

While in Madrid the group visited the Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, Plaza de España, Gran Vía, Retiro Park and Puerta Del Sol, the true center of Spain. A trip to the Prado Museum allowed students to view the artwork of famous Spanish artists such as Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco. The group even made it to Alcalá de Henares where they visited the home of Miguel De Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and the University of Alcalá, one of the world’s oldest universities.  A trip to Segovia even managed to make its way into the group’s plan, and for some a Real Madrid Fútbol game!

Host schools design a schedule for their guests that includes not only the opportunity to see the cultural and tourist attractions of the city, but also experience life as a Madrileño.  The group shadowed students at their partner school several times, and for some this was the most rewarding experience of the whole trip. One student’s mother wrote, “Believe it or not, his favorite days were going to school and being able to use his Spanish” (Barbara Lindsay).

As a chaperone, being responsible for 16 high school students abroad may seem overwhelming, but leader Jennifer Cohen applauded the student’s behavior, “this was a trip that required much resiliency…not just because of the travel, but because the students were asked to immerse themselves in an entire culture-habits, traditions, food, language. While such an experience can be exciting and fun, it can also be uncomfortable and tiring. To a fault, your children were positive, flexible, polite, and responsible. They were amazing ambassadors.”

The CCI Greenheart’s School to School Exchange Program is not just about learning a new language and traveling. The program tests young adults in unimaginable ways, forcing students to step out of their usual comfort zone. The Ravenscroft teachers were not the only ones impressed. Parents too were extremely happy with the end result of this program. Thomas Ergish, father to student Anna Ergish, wrote, “Even though Anna was exhausted from the travel, she could not stop talking about all the new experiences, exciting times, building stronger friendships with classmates and new friends.” Another mother, Tonya Lytle, noted how the bond between her son, Rodney, and his Spanish host family was so strong that he prays he will see them again.

Such is the nature of true cultural exchange programs. They provide youth the opportunity to form friendships around the world and to explore a totally new way of life. Ultimately, this leads to the students’ discovery of a new person inside themselves that they never knew before. THANK YOU Ravenscroft School for not just participating in the program but embracing it to its fullest. Ravenscroft School and students will now begin to plan to host their guests next school year when in the fall, their Spanish friends will visit the U.S.

If you are interested in bringing CCI Greenheart’s School to School exchange Program to your local high school please contact Melissa Trinley at mtrinley@ccigreenheart.org and read more about the program at http://www.cci-exchange.com/schoolexchange.aspx