|Parker teachers are always searching for ways to enrich our program here at Parker by creating opportunities that excite students about learning. Eight years ago, with that in mind, we developed an exchange program with St. Peter’s School in Barcelona, Spain. Parker hosts our international friends every other year for a week of progressive education on our expansive campus in rural, upstate New York. On alternating years, Parker students get to experience the opposite, visiting a large, international school in the city of Barcelona. |
This year, it was Parker’s turn to travel abroad! Over spring break, eleven of our 7th and 8th grade students made the journey to Barcelona for an exciting week of international learning and friendship. Our students stayed with host families and participated fully in the daily life of Barcelona: they attended school, toured historical sites, visited the Mediterranean, attended a live music and theatre performance, and explored public parks and markets.
Traveling abroad is an invaluable opportunity for our students to gain a global perspective through cross-cultural exchange, building ties, friendships, and understanding on an international level. There is something very special for students about connecting with someone their own age from across the world. After all, middle schoolers are middle schoolers, no matter where you go:) Our Parker students quickly realized that although their lives are different, they are also very much the same. Our students returned on Sunday full of stories of a truly fantastic time learning language, trying new foods, exploring a different culture and living with another family — a week they will never forget.
Read on to enjoy some firsthand accounts of what this trip meant to our Parker students and their dedicated Spanish teach, Jen Baker:
“As a teacher, it meant a great deal to me to see my students interacting with their new friends from St. Peter’s. I always feel like my job is to build bridges between people, and I was lucky enough to see those bridges at work! You see students in a different way, and there were lots of surprises. It’s so interesting to see how kids that you know really well will respond in a completely novel situation. You will see someone that you don’t expect to participate much in class really come out of their shell, and someone that is normally outgoing may be uncomfortable and need support. It was fascinating and led to so much discovery for both the kids and us teachers as well. The Parker kids were also able to see their teachers making new friends with the wonderful faculty members from St. Peter’s. I really salute the efforts of everyone at that school. The teachers at St. Peter’s put together special lessons for our kids, and they were very welcoming to us as teachers. They were just very lovely and couldn’t do enough for us.” ~ Jen Baker
“To me, this trip meant getting to experience a new culture and eating new foods. It also meant getting to see my friends that I’ve talked to for over a year. I also enjoyed meeting new people and creating friendships that could last forever.” ~Sadie
“This trip changed my view on Spanish as a language. Before the trip, I thought of Spanish as just another way of speaking. But after the trip, I view Spanish just like I view English — as a language that is spoken naturally and manipulated like English.” ~Christopher
“My biggest challenge was adapting to the culture of Barcelona. For example, everything is fancier in Barcelona, and they have a great love of sports. I overcame this by accepting everything and trying it.”
~Braelen“I loved that I was able to immerse myself in another culture, meet new people, and see a new country.” ~Kaj
“I liked meeting new people and hanging out with all of them. The trip was another way to improve my Spanish. It was good because I learned new words that I wasn’t learning in class. This experience meant a lot because of all the people I met and the new place that I’ve now been.” ~Dylan
“This trip allowed me to go out of my comfort zone with not only speaking in a different language, but meeting different people from different countries.” ~Ben
“My biggest challenge was being uncomfortable and awkward, but I overcame it by talking to the Spanish students and teachers so I felt more at home.” ~Liam G.
“The Barcelona trip taught me about different cultures around the world. Since the school we partner with is an international school, everyone spoke multiple languages. This inspired me to learn more languages. The students at St. Peters were very kind and we made many new friends.” ~Amy
“It was super fun that I got the opportunity to travel to Spain.” ~Caeden
“This trip meant a lot to me. It ranged from new friends to understanding the culture of Spain. I am very thankful to be able to experience this trip. I want to say thank you to the teachers and everyone at St. Peter’s.” ~Michael
“Barcelona showed me a different way of life. It expanded my horizons and gave me a new perspective on my own life. Two things were different: I was in a different country and in a big city. In Spain, there were regional languages. Barcelona is in Catalunya, so it speaks both Spanish and Catalan. They also had lunch later, had dinner later, and went to sleep later, directly after dinner. It felt like they put three extra hours between breakfast and lunch. This was interesting and different. In the city, there were trams and buses and the subway, so the kids could be very independent. We walked to the mall by ourselves after school and sometimes had dinner on our own. We usually came home on our own also. This was very new to me, especially because there is comparatively no public transportation in Albany, and everything I do my parents have to drive me.
After my trip to Barcelona, I no longer think of my own life as the norm, but as one of many ways of living. I want to travel to all different places and cultures more than ever.” ~Helen