Students visit Valencia to improve language skills and experience culture

Eighth-grade student Mason Keeffe cooks paella under the supervision of a traditional Valencian chef. Cooking is a large part pf Valencian culture so having a cooking class gave Spanish students a large insight on the Spanish culture (photo by Bella Worrell).

The Spanish language trip to Valencia was a five-day action-packed trip that provided students with opportunities to increase their fluency in the language and practice Spanish in unscripted, real life situations. The trip began on April 12 and students returned on April 16. The full immersion setting of the Valencia trip and the many activities that students took part in gave them a first-hand experience of authentic Spanish culture. Students went on outings to a variety of settings in Valencia, including a ceramic factory, an orange grove, and a Spanish school.

On the first full day, students started off their trip the next morning with a tour of a local ceramics factory. “I really liked getting to go to the ceramics factory and just kind of getting to see how things work because it was something really authentic from there,” said eighth grader Sofi Janssen.

Students were first shown the inner workings of the factory by the owner, featuring a demonstration of how the pottery is made. After the tour, the students got to paint a piece of pottery using traditional Valencian painting methods. The craftsmen who worked in the factory helped the students with their pottery, showing them the proper techniques to correctly paint Valencian pottery.

Students then went to the stadium of Valencia CF, a La Liga football club. There they were given a tour including sites such as the player’s bench, the press room and the locker rooms. Students were encouraged to ask questions and speak to the guide in Spanish. “[The most] beneficial [activity] towards learning the language was going to the football stadium… in the sense of learning vocabulary,” said Janssen. “That was quite helpful also because it was a lot of reading stuff on the walls and listening to the tour guide.”

The first day was finished at a traditional churro restaurant where students were given a taste of the local Valencian delicacy.

The following morning, students climbed to the top of the Valencia Cathedral, and were on top long enough to experience the ringing of the giant bell on top of the cathedral. The cathedral provided students with new knowledge of how the city is governed as well as a breathtaking view of the city.

This trip to the cathedral was followed by a visit to one of Valencia’s beautiful beaches. “Going to the beach… or just being put in real life situations like going shopping or stuff like that where you were forced to talk to be able to get around, I think that was the best part of the trip,” said Janssen. The trip to the beach was accompanied by lunch at La Pepica, one of Valencia’s most famous restaurants, which often used to be visited by the American writer Ernest Hemingway and other celebrities. In the restaurant, students tried paella, a traditional Valencian dish.

Students then continued their second day in Valencia by participating in a tour of Oceanographic, a marine biology science museum. The tour included visits to the tanks of several exotic animals, such as manatees and dolphins. The tour group was also treated to an exciting dolphin show, where students could learn new vocabulary and follow along with the fast-paced language of the show in an attention-grabbing situation. The day ended in an authentic flamenco performance in a traditional Valencian pub.

The third day began in a Spanish speaking school, where students from ASL interviewed students from the Spanish school. After the interviews, students had the unique opportunity to improve their Spanish by socializing with Spanish kids the same age as them. “It was really interesting just getting to talk to the kids because they’re our age. Even though one thing that is very different between us is that we speak different languages, we still have a lot of similarities,” Janssen explained. The school provided a setting in which students could use less formal language and speak Spanish spontaneously, which was the main point of the trip.

After leaving the school, students were taught how to cook paella by a Valencian cook. The cook called for volunteers at each step, giving students an individualized and personal connection to the experience. The interactive demonstration created an environment in which students could participate in key elements of the local culture, another large point of the trip.

Lunch was followed by a tour of a local Valencian orange grove. “My favorite part of Valencia were probably the orange orchards because I’ve never done that before, that was my first time ever going there,” said eighth grader Mason Keeffe. The group was given a tour of the orange groves by the owner, and even sampled the fruit. Students learned of the history of the orchard, and the significance of the Valencian oranges. “It was an amazing experience, and the people there were really nice,” said Keeffe.

In the evening, students returned to the Valencian pub where they attended the flamenco performance the night before to participate in a flamenco lesson. All students learned the basic steps of the traditional dance, and danced in a circle around the instructor.

The final morning of the trip was spent in Valencia’s famous produce market. Students were given the final task of interviewing different shopkeepers about their products, and finding out details about the produce. Students explored the market, completing this task before leaving Valencia.

The goal of the Spanish trip was for students to improve their Spanish and experience authentic Valencian culture, and the trip did just that. “In the very beginning I was very slow with speaking Spanish the whole time, and towards the end I started to get faster and I was able to talk … [have] a conversation,” Keeffe explained. The trip allowed students to take part in new cultural experiences and to develop their Spanish in a fun and exciting environment. In the end, Keeffe stated that, “If you want to improve your Spanish… I would definitely go on the trip.”

At the Valencia Club Football Stadium, students were given a tour of the stadium as well as tours of the changing rooms and press areas. Eighth graders Anna Kopfler, Katie Stone, and Natalie Vann sit at the press table (photo by Bella Worrell).
At the Valencia Club Football Stadium, students were given a tour of the stadium as well as tours of the changing rooms and press areas. Eighth graders Anna Kopfler, Katie Stone, and Natalie Vann sit at the press table (photo by Bella Worrell).

About Dom Alberts ('20)

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