Students Travel Abroad to Spain Over February Break


Photo courtesy of Nora Tahbaz

Chaperone Mrs. Connolly and her group of seniors take in the sights of Madrid.

Charlotte Edmunds, Senior, Editor-in-Chief

Over February break, a selection of PMHS Spanish students immersed themselves in language far beyond classroom lessons. The American Council for International Studies (A.C.I.S.), a student travel company, led 23 Pelicans on a week-long trip through Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. Accompanied by chaperones Señora Calvelli, Señorita Lakestream, Dr. Callahan, and Mrs. Connolly, these students put their Spanish language skills to use in real-world situations. They practiced linguistics and bonded with their teachers and classmates as they explored a new country together.

On February 15, the group landed in Barcelona where they visited the Cathedral of Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter, dined at a market for their first authentic Spanish meal, and toured the home of famed architect Antoni Gaudí. They continued their exploration of Gaudí on the next day, visiting Park Güell, a beautiful outdoor space of his design, and his extravagant Roman Catholic church, La Sagrada Familia.

“I loved visiting La Sagrada Familia because it truly encapsulates Gaudí’s brilliant vision,” senior Fiona Joffroy said. “The most beautiful part of the church was the stained glass windows, designed to let blue light flood the church at sunrise, and red light in the afternoon.”

Later that day, the travelers escaped the bustle of the city for a few hours, as they visited the Mediterranean coast.

“Barcelona had a beachy feel while simultaneously bearing similarities to huge cities like New York. It had the best of both worlds!” senior Emma Dickson said.

A bus ride that next morning took the students to the capital of Spain, Madrid. After an espadrille shopping-spree led by Señora Calvelli, the group visited the modern art museum La Reina Sofia, which contains the famous piece Guernica, painted by Pablo Picasso.

“It was really eye-opening to see Guernica in person, because I’d learned about it as an anti-war painting prior to the trip, but had never processed the gravity of its message before seeing it up close,” senior Kristina Pompilio said.

Later, a guide took them through Toledo’s narrow streets, exploring its religious influences, especially in the city’s cathedral.

“Toledo was incredible,” senior Kimberly Rosell said. “There was so much history in one place and so many different cultures.”

On the way to their third and final stop, the students spent some time in Mérida, a city in the region of Extremadura founded by Romans in the first century B.C. The high schoolers got to walk through ancient Roman theaters that had been used centuries ago to put on comedies and tragedies.

In the afternoon, the bus reached its last destination: Seville, the capital of Spain’s southern region, Andalucía. The day after arriving, students were led through a beautiful cathedral and climbed the ramps of La Giralda, a tower that provides visitors with a panoramic view of the city from far above the rooftops. The travelers were able to rest their feet soon after, as they took a scenic horse-driven carriage ride through Seville’s streets. The students concluded their trip that night with a flamenco lesson, in which they were taught steps to one of Spain’s most popular dances, and watched a professional show afterward.

While this trip made great strides in improving their Spanish language skills, it also gave the high schoolers a chance to bond and introduced them to a new culture full of enriching history.

“Before this trip I was positive that I would never take Spanish in college,” senior Nora Tahbaz said. “But by traveling and learning history through the Spanish language, I have now changed my mind and definitely want to pursue Spanish next year.”

“I find it extremely rewarding to provide students with an opportunity to experience and live the culture firsthand while practicing their conversational skills. Many find this journey so inspiring that they decide to continue studying Spanish and opt to spend a semester abroad during their college years,” Señora Calvelli said. “On a personal level, it gives me great joy and I am grateful to share this mini immersion opportunity with my students outside of the classroom. I hope they become passionate global citizens.”