Students soon travel to Spain

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In 2014, Spanish teacher Jesus Martinez took a group of students to Spain during February break. On Feb. 11, a group of 38 students accompanied by four chaperones will depart Hartsfield Jackson airport with the same destination.

Jesus Martinez, social studies teacher Kristen Embry, assistant principal Wes Hatfield and Learning Center teacher Cara Gray, all teachers from different departments, will be chaperoning the trip to “represent the school,” according to Martinez.

The itinerary is posted on Decatur’s website with Walking Tree, the travel company which assisted in organizing the 2014 and the upcoming trip.

While in Spain, the group will explore Madrid, Granada, Seville and Salamanca, each city providing a differing travel experience.

In addition to the change in scenery, monuments and food, the living spaces vary. They’re bunking at a hotel while in Granada, a hostel in Madrid and a host-family home in Salamanca.

“Last time we were in a very cool hostel. The rooms were fantastic,” Martinez said. “You know, sharing the bathroom – I’m not very crazy about that, but everything else was great.”

One of the 38 students venturing on the ten-day excursion to Spain alongside Martinez is senior Elise Kulers. Spain won’t be Kulers’ first international trip with Decatur, though. She traveled to Ireland with the band last February break and came back with a great review of the excursion.

“The band trip to Ireland last February break was phenomenal, so I’m definitely looking forward to a similarly unforgettable trip,” she said.

Looking forward to the Spain trip in a couple weeks, Kulers is excited for an immersion into the variety of aspects of Spanish culture and language.

“We’re staying at a bunch of different places, and when I’m at the University of Salamanca, I’ll be with a host family,” she said.

Snapped on the 2014 Spain trip, current seniors and Decatur alumni sit in on their morning classes at the University of Salamanca.
Snapped on the 2014 Spain trip, current seniors and Decatur alumni sit in on their morning classes at the University of Salamanca.

Martinez predicts that the highlight of the trip will be living with the host families.

“They’re on their own, roaming Salamanca. You know, getting lost in the beauty Salamanca has to offer them,” he said. “It’ll be a more authentic experience of what it is to live abroad on your own.”

While in Salamanca, Kulers is “really excited” to experience the household with two of her longtime Spanish class companions and fellow seniors, Terryl Cronic and Matilda McNeely.

Martinez introduced a trip to Spain after recognizing that there’s no outside experiences available through the school for students to be fully immersed in the culture, or even the language.

“We spend 12 years studying Spanish, if you make it to the twelfth grade in the Spanish program, but there is not a program where you can really prove to yourself what you’ve gained throughout these years,” he said, “so, it’s the opportunity, the possibility to explore this culture you’ve been studying in real life.”

As for Kulers, she’s ready to experience immersion with group members she doesn’t know.

“I’ve found that school trips tend to introduce you to incredible people who you’ve somehow never had the chance to become friends with until that point, through close proximity and connecting through the shared struggle of communicating in a foreign language,” she said.

She is also planning for the culture change by polishing her speaking skills before the trip.

“I feel like I should go over a little bit of Spanish that will help me communicate with people that only speak Spanish,” she said. “I guess we have covered it in class, but not to the extent of applying it to a home setting. It’s just a different environment.”

For both Martinez and Kulers, a different environment is also appealing because of bona fide dining opportunities. Kulers said that she’s excited for “some authentic tortilla espanola,” and Martinez claims that “the churros and chocolate were good everywhere.”

Since this will be Martinez’s second-go at this trip, he’s excited to visit the restaurants that Walking Tree is arranging for the group.

“[Walking Tree wants] the experience to be authentic. They cannot get 40 people in a restaurant,” he said, “but they had options for us, and then we divided in a group and went to whatever ethnic food we were in the mood for that night, and that was fantastic.”

As the trip is fast-approaching, Kulers is ready to experience the 2014 trip Martinez describes.

“Looking back at the pictures of the group that went a few years ago, I mean, the whole thing seemed pretty phenomenal,” she said. “Overall, I’m just really looking forward to what I think will be a life-changing experience.”

 

Photos courtesy of Jesus Martinez