Students explore the world and experience new cultures


Hannah Kriney

Every year, students from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School participate in the foreign exchange program in either Spain, Italy or France in order to immerse themselves in other cultures and fully understand the language in an interactive way.  Each student who participates receives a pen pal and they both stay at each others’ houses for a week or two during the school year. They go to school together, explore the country together and do practically everything to give each other the full experience during those two weeks.
Day 1:
Directly from the airport the students were driven to the school and gave a brief presentation to their pen pals and students in order to introduce themselves and be welcomed into the school. 

photo by Natalia Nervi
People row boats in parque del buen retiro in Madrid. It was once apart of the Spanish Monarchy until the 19th century, then became a public park.

Day 2:
The following day the students were able to explore the culture by visiting Barcelona. “My favorite thing I did during the trip was going to the Barcelona Skyline to observe the view over the city of Barcelona,” junior Julian Rijo said.  “The moment in itself was of pure beauty.”
Barcelona is one of the largest cities in Spain and while visiting, the students visited a variety of different attractions such as Pueblo Español, Ramblas, Barrio Gótico, Sta María del Mar, Fossar de les Moreres and went on a city bus tour in order to cover all of Barcelona and what the city has to offer.
Day 3:
The students continue their explorations of Spain and its culture by visiting Cuevas de Salnitre (Caves of Salnitre) and continue their tour into Montserrat, otherwise known as the religious heart of Cataluña.  After their tour they were given the opportunity to listen to Escolanía de Montserrat which is a boys’ choir and then they returned back to the school.
Day 4:
On their fourth day they followed their pen pals around in school and followed their schedules.  “One particular thing that I noticed was that the teachers move to the different classrooms instead of the students,” spanish teacher Señora Clark said.  “This is mainly because the school is small and it keeps the hallways clear.” After the long school day they took a boat trip to Las Golondrinas and got to experience the beautiful views of Spain.
Day 5&6:
The fifth day was dedicated time for the pen pals to spend time with one another and show their pen pal parts of Spain that they want them to see and experience.  “On our days off, my pen pal and I went to the soccer game and to France. But when we had more free time, we went shopping, got food, and hung out with the rest of the pen pals,” junior Kayla Avila said.
Day 7:
It was now time to visit the capital of Spain, Madrid.  In Madrid people from SPFHS visited even more of Spain’s great attractions such as the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral.  Following that they immersed themselves in Spain’s culture even further by going to dinner accompanied by a Flamenco show. Flamenco is one of the many products that originated from Spain and is one of the key aspects to their culture.
Day 8:
Spain is also known to be huge soccer and bullfighting fans so it was only fitting for our students to experience and see the Real Madrid soccer stadium and the bullring sales.  They then followed this with a visit to the Prado Art Museum and then had dinner at the Museo del Jamón (Ham Museum). Ham is a very popular food there and is loved by the majority of people in Spain.
Photo by Natalia Nervi
SPFHS and Piscataway High School students pose in front of the Gothic Corner of Barcelona. The students stayed with their penpals in Spain for 11 days.

Day 9:
To further their sightseeing adventures, the students visited Parque del Retiro and Palacio de Cristal in order to learn more about the country and what is there that makes Spain so unique and special.
Day 10:
Students spent another day in the school.  “One of the biggest differences that I noticed was that students in Barcelona are not involved in extracurricular activities like students here in the U.S. so they end up having a lot more free time after school,” Clark said.
Day 11: 
To finish off their trip they stopped last at the city of Gerona then shortly following that they went to Figueres to visit Museo Dali which holds the art of the famous surrealist painter, Salvador Dali.  To conclude the trip they went shopping and spent the remaining time exploring Figueres.
Day 1 in Italy:
Soon after the students arrived in Italy, they received a walking tour of Rome in order to introduce the culture and country to those who have never been before.  It allows the students to familiarize themselves briefly with the overall picture of Italy, specifically Rome. They explored St. Peter’s Square and Basilica in Vatican City, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, La Trinita dei Monti (the Spanish Steps) and Borghese Park.  Along the way, they were able to taste real, authentic italian food such as their pizza and gelato, specifically the famously known Giolitti Gelateria. This was an overall great way to introduce the country to the SPFHS students.
Day 2:
Early the next morning, SPFHS students and teachers received a private tour of the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.  The Colosseum was built just east of Palatine Hill and was the greatest amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire.  It is most known for its gladiator fights where thousands of people would gather in order to watch the event. From there, it was time for the students to meet their host families in Reggio Emilia and stay the night at their homes.
photo courtesy of Erika Bretz

Day 3&4:
For the weekend, the host families were given the time to take the SPF students anywhere and there was no direct plan for that day.  “Living with a pen pal was fun and interesting because I was able to follow along and do things that Italian families typically do,” junior Erika Bretz said.  “The exchange gave me an opportunity to see how Italians live and see how different it is from America.”
Day 5:
The following Monday, the students and teachers accompanied their pen pals to school and were able to experience what their typical day at school looks like.  Kudron states… (says what her experience was there)
Day 6:
With Rome done, the students continued their experience by visiting Venice, another popular tourist destination.  In Venice, they explored the city with gondola rides, another quintessential part of Italy and a pivotal activity to complete when visiting. After, they completed another walking tour in order to fully immerse themselves in the city of Venice. 
Day 7:
The students attended yet another day at school with their pen pals. They were able to meet more of the students there and get to know them better.  “The biggest thing I took away from the trip was even though I was so far away from home, the Italian students were so similar and welcoming just like the kids In New Jersey,” junior Kaleigh Einhorn said.
Day 8:
To conclude their tour of Italy, the students took a field trip to local italian companies such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Aceto Balsámico to learn more about what’s popular in Italy and what happens behind the scenes for products Italy is known for.