MODERN LANGUAGES: A taste of Spain

The view from here: La Alhambra, a very well-defended palace and fortress complex offers superb views of Granada

Our students got a taste of the real Spain on an exchange trip to Granada. CATHRYN PAYLING describes some of the magnificent architecture, stunning scenery and delicious food she enjoyed

OUR Spanish exchange trip to Granada was an incredible opportunity to immerse ourselves in Spanish culture and enhance our language skills.

After meeting our Spanish exchange partners when they came to England in October, the much-awaited second half of the experience fell upon us in February half-term.

We started by arriving at RGS at 2:30am where Mr Higson and Mrs Wallington faced the challenge of fitting 12 students, two adults and 14 suitcases into the school minibus!

Mr Addis ably chauffeured us to Liverpool before we boarded our flight to Malaga. After a scenic drive to Granada, where our hosts were waiting for us, we quickly became reacquainted with our partners and met their families.

As their school finishes at 2:45pm, we still had most of the afternoon to explore our new environments. I made the most of this by trying paella for the first time, having a siesta (as I was incredibly tired!), exploring parts of Albayzín (the old medieval city) and walking along the Paseo de los Tristes - well-known for its fantastic views of the palace and fortress complex of La Alhambra).

Friday and Tuesday were spent in the Spanish school – which was incredibly different from ours! They start early at 8:15am and with only a half hour break, finish at 2:45pm. The lessons were an hour long and had a very different format. I attended a number of lessons including a Spanish-taught French lesson (which was very confusing for those not currently studying French!), a messy science lesson and an English class (which was very relaxing!). After school we had lots of free time for other activities - including trying tapas and marvelling at the various monuments and juxtaposition of contrasting architecture (La Capilla Real was my favourite).

The weekend allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in the Spanish culture and language. A number of us indulged in a spot of retail therapy – at one of the largest shopping malls in Spain! In the evening we all met up for karaoke and to share stories about our experiences, which was enjoyable and allowed us to have a break from talking solely in Spanish.

Sunday allowed for more exploring and myself and my partner (Nuria) met up with some of her friends to film a music video. This also allowed me to meet more Spanish people, utilise more of my language skills and further enhance my understanding of the culture, whilst viewing the incredible panoramas.

On Monday, our exchange partners were in school and we went on an excursion to the city of Córdoba to see La Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba. I was particularly excited to see this unique Moorish mosque which has a 13th century cathedral built inside it. The ‘woodland’ of columns with spectacular red and white arches was incredible and the intricate detail and mix of many different art styles of the main chapel filled us with amazement.

Wednesday was another day for the RGS students to meet up again after a day in school. In the morning we visited La Alhambra – a very well-defended palace and fortress complex which, due to the high vantage point, offered superb views of Granada. We went into the awe-inspiring palace which was highly decorated with inscriptions of the Qur’an and our tour guide gave us fascinating information about the history behind the beautiful buildings. In the afternoon we visited Parque de las Ciencias (a science park) where we watched a demonstration about various types of birds and then went into the planetarium which informed us about the inspiration from the night sky and Andalucía that the artist Escher took for his masterpieces.

Thursday was our last day, and fortunately a regional holiday (Andalucía day). This meant that our Spanish partners were not in school and we could spend the day together. There was jovial music from marching bands emanating from the centre of town and a number of places were free to enter. I put my taste buds to the test trying many seafoods such as octopus, squid and prawns followed by delicious churros. Many of us visited Arabic baths to cleanse and relax, but the next day – early in the morning - we had to bid a fond farewell to our partners to return to England.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and we have made strong friendships with our partners and their friends.