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Alica Derome Rebecca Saul
Woodhouse College
Alica Derome Rebecca Saul

Barcelona 2016 - Spanish exchange trip Pt.1

Dated: 17 March 2016

Students prepare to depart at Luton Airport 
At the beginning of March, thirteen Woodhouse students flew to Barcelona as part of our Spanish international exchange trip with students of Institut Luis Vivez.
This is the second year we have had an organised exchange visit with Insitut Lluis Vivez, a small but successful secondary school in the heart of Barcelona. Last years students found it so enjoyable that we almost doubled the numbers going for this year and the benefit to their learning is invaluable, as they spend a whole week living with a Spanish family - speaking only Spanish...
Woodhouse student Toni meets her host family for the first time 
Our students arrived in Barcelona on a warm Friday evening and were met at Plaça d'Espanya by the very welcoming families of our thirteen students hosts, who immediately whisked them off to their homes to get to know them and settle them in.
"When we first arrived I was a bit nervous, but my exchange family made me feel welcomed and at home - I guess the famous phrase "mi casa es tu casa" rings true!" said Aine McMenamin. "I got on well with the Spanish students, and I think we were all surprised by how much we have in common with each other; for example, we all listen to music in English and watch a lot of the same TV shows and films."
Over the weekend the students all met up for a raft of sight seeing trips across the city - to parks, boating lakes, museums and tapas bars - giving them a real insiders view of the city. Instant friendships were born and the group got on incredibly well.
Some students got to visit Camp Nou the famous Barca FC football stadium, and one lucky student even got taken to see Barca play Sevilla on the Sunday evening (2-1 to Barca, Messi scored a free kick...).
Ema (centre) with Marta and the rest of the family 
"Marta Vicien Iranzo was my exchange host in Barcelona. We had a great week together with her, her family and friends." said Ema Gadzhova.
"The family were so welcoming and friendly and they cooked some tasty lunches and dinners - they showed me how to eat toasted bread with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil - so simple but oh so good!
The whole week was full of fun and activities which they had planned for us. This included going to a park in Arc de Triomf where we managed to row small boats in a pond and feed the 'patos' (ducks).
They also took us to a 'tapas' place which we went to twice during our stay as it was just so delicious! (Patatas bravas were mine and Bianca's favourite as well as calamari!)"
Institute Lluis Vivez 
On Monday morning it was back to school and our students had an early start, as Catalan schools begin at 8.00am. The day began with a tour of Institut Lluis Vivez and a little background information, provided by the students.
At break time, Woodhouse students challenged their new friends to a variant of netball... and lost 2-0!
After break the music department assembled their recorder orchestra for a short but very impressive concert that had our students up dancing by the end of it.
Then it was out of school, onto the Metro and a trip across town for an important history lesson (in Spanish of course).
We visited Refuge 307, one of more than 1000 bomb shelters that were built during the Spanish Civil War to protect the population from the indiscriminate bombing to which Barcelona was subjected in the 1930's.
Our enthusiastic (and sometimes a little difficult to keep up with!) tour guide led us through the snaking catacombs and vividly described the awful conditions the civil population were subjected to by Franco's regime. A sobering aside to the fun and games of the day but a valuable insight for our students.
"I enjoyed speaking Spanish in real situations, and I have gotten more confident about my speaking and listening capabilities - when we went to the bomb shelter in the Poble-sec neighbourhood, I was amazed by how much I understood our Spanish tour guide, especially because he was speaking so fast!" said Aine.
And then it was the end of school for today and the two groups of students were released to go off together and enjoy siesta's, tapas, shopping, bowling or whatever else they wanted to get up to with their new exchange friends.
 On Tuesday students attended a couple of classes at Lluis Vivez to start the day.
The first lesson of the day...  a brief history of Barcelona - from the ancient city of Roman times, through the mass development of the 19th century and up to the present day, explaining the thinking behind the grid-like layout and wide avenues that make for such an attractive metropolitan area. Our students then sat in on a social science class and explored some of their cultural differences and similarities with the local teenagers.
We then left our Spanish friends in school and took a train 35km south to the beautiful seaside town of Sitges. Students took a wander through a typical, indoor market and eyed up the mouth watering offers on the deli counters (complete with live lobsters wandering on them...)
After a walk through the old town and 'selfies' on the seafront it was time to do what they had all been waiting for, hang out on a mediterranean beach.
And what great weather we had for the beginning of March, warm enough for a paddle and sandcastles.
After a relaxing afternoon it was back to meet up with our hosts at the end of school (5.30pm on a Tuesday, compared to 1.30pm on the other days) and a group photo opportunity before hometime.
Outside the famous Sagrada Familia building site 
Wednesday was a day for sightseeing in the city and it was back on the metro for a look at some of the most famous landmarks if Barcelona - the works of world renowned architect and designer Antonio Gaudi.
First stop - the eternal building site that is - The Sagrada Familia. This epic modern cathedral has been under intermittent construction since the 1880's and still has a way to go before it is completed.
We then took a walking tour of some of Gaudi's finished architectural projects, interspersed with a few gift shops along the way.
Lunchtime was spent enjoying views high over the city in Park Guell, where the parakeets and tourists join together in a chorus of chatter over the ceramic benches and organic walkways.
A brief snooze on the Metro refreshed some, as the students met up with their hosts at the school gates for their final night in the city (and a meal for 26 at a restaurant, to celebrate Alexandra's 17th birthday).
 Arnau and Xander
Woodhouse student Xander Teh summed up his Catalonian experience...
"After living with Arnau Sanz Gil and his very welcoming family for a week, I really saw how much they value family relationships. Even though everyone in the family works or has college, they still find time to regularly eat meals together.
The students we met in Barcelona were really hardworking, studying many subjects (including three languages) as well as training in sports and music etc. till late at night.
Speaking Spanish was difficult at first as I havn't had much experience speaking to groups of native speakers before - the pressure of such situations took time to get used to. The type of language we had to use also changed. For example, from almost never using the second person plural, we had to use it in almost all of our sentences to talk to groups, so it really helped me to notice weaknesses in my conversational skills that I hadn't realised before.
The experience as a whole was really enjoyable and getting to immerse myself in the language and Catalonian culture helped remind me why I chose to study Spanish."
The next morning, students bid a muted and tired farewell to their new brothers and sisters, but there were not too many tears. They all knew they'd be meeting up again in a weeks time, when the tables are turned and the hosts become our guests in London, for part two of the exchange.
"I would love to go back to Barcelona again as there's still so much left to see and so much Spanish left to learn. An unforgettable experience." said Ema.

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