By Cassandra Vega (‘20)
Over spring break, 23 students at SBHS had the opportunity to visit Spain and Portugal along with three of the school’s Spanish teachers. The trip was done through the travel group ACIS, the American Council for International Studies, and tour guide Sarah-Kate Redding. Throughout the seven-day trip, five in Spain and two in Portugal, the group created lifelong memories and learned irreplaceable lessons that can only be acquired through travelling.
Junior Nikhita Borkar said, “Getting to explore another culture with my friends and being able to practice the language was my favorite part. Seeing different kinds of architecture and comparing and contrasting aspects of both cultures was absolutely amazing.”
The group first landed in Spain’s capital, Madrid. The first day was spent in Plaza Mayor before traveling across the city to the Plaza de Oriente, designed in 1844. The next day was packed with visits to the Museo del Prado - housing works by artists such as Goya, Rembrandt and Velazquez- and the Museo de Reina Sofia, featuring Picasso’s Guernica and iconic pieces by Dali like Un Perro Andaluz. After admiring the Royal Palace belonging to the Spanish monarchy, the students were able to take photos at the “center” of Spain known as kilometer zero, the starting point of all streets in Spain. Afterwards they went out to Chocolateria San Gines, founded in 1894 and known for its churros and chocolate combination.
Spanish teacher Senora Karina Alonso said her favorite part was, “Getting to experience new places, new food and the culture through the eyes of the students.”
The trip was timed over Easter weekend, which is an event to behold in a country that is 69.8% Catholic. Apartments and restaurant corners were adorned with mosaics and paintings of Jesus Christ and biblical saints. In Madrid, Cordoba and Seville -the locations the students visited on Easter Sunday- the streets were filled with Easter processions from various different churches. The outfits worn by those in the parades symbolize being closer to God through the long hoods. The colors differ depending on the crest of the church they belong to. Unfortunately in America, this look has been corrupted by the radical hate group, the Ku Klux Klan.
In Andalusia, another Easter procession took place outside the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. Students were able to see the event up close after visiting the beautiful Jardines del Alcázar Reyes Cristianos, which translates to Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, that began back in the time of Julius Caesar. To reach both these sites, the group had to cross the Roman bridge of Córdoba, which was featured in HBO’s Game of Thrones and was known as the Long Bridge of Volantis.
The next day they explored the Seville Cathedral in more depth, led by a local tour guide and Mrs. Redding. The group also had flamenco lessons from professional flamenco dancers at the Museo del Baile Flamenco (the Museum of Flamenco Dancing). The students and teachers had the privilege of watching a show performed by three very talented dancers, two singers and a guitar player, which in total had six movements, each representing a different emotion.
“On this particular trip my favorite part was going to the flamenco show. Seeing the kids participating and learning, even the boys, who participated actively in learning the show… watching the dance with such passion was amazing,” said Senora Maritza Arango.
The grand finale of the night was a party boat on the Guadalquivir River where students were accompanied by other tour groups from America.
Heading to Merida in the morning, Mrs. Redding reminded the group of the assignment they had received their first day in Spain. The students were not tourists on this trip according to Mrs. Redding, instead taking on the title of ‘traveling anthropologists’ and were tasked with finding differences between America and Spain and finding the reasons behind it. The students gave speeches on the bus to their peers, each one noting a new distinction from country to country.
Merida was once a Roman town during their 700-year occupation of Spain. The remaining ruins been unintendedly preserved because it was used as a local dump after the Romans left. The excavation of the aging architecture began back in 1910 and finished in 2003.
This was Senora Ohlaysha Hicks’ favorite aspect of the trip.
“I had never been in a Roman ruin before and the thought that an actual gladiator was fighting in the places where we were, and the performers… It’s even more cool how they were preserved by garbage. The historical aspect of it all was mesmerizing,” she said.
The last two days were spent in Portugal, exploring the Sintra National Palace and the tile covered streets of the capital, Lisbon. The view from the Castle of São Jorge was one of the best moments of the trip, highlighting the fact that travel changes one’s worldview and that some things have to be experienced to be appreciated.
Next year’s Spain trip will include stops in Madrid, Barcelona and the paella-centric city of Valencia! Students and teachers alike that went on the trip can vouch for how great the experience is. From the biggest of castles to the smallest of streets, participants say the Spain trip at South Brunswick High School is not an opportunity to miss out on.
Senior Julea Frankel said, “To the students who are interested in going, 100% do it. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of trip to experience Europe with only your friends and make these memories, especially before you graduate.”