THOMASVILLE — This summer, 23 Brookwood School students and three faculty members traveled to Spain to practice their Spanish, mingle with locals, participate in cultural activities, try new foods, and see countless sites across the country.
The trip was led by Dr. Jeremy Kasten, a Spanish teacher at Brookwood, who earned his doctorate in Spanish Cultural Studies from Florida State University. This is the second trip to Spain that Kasten has led, with the first having been in the summer of 2017.
“I love Spain,” Kasten says, “and my experience studying abroad was an eye-opening, life-changing experience... I wanted the students to have that experience, as well.”
Over the course of the eleven-day trip, students visited eight Spanish cities, touring major attractions and historical sites with a guide, and using free time to explore and interact with locals.
“(The students) enjoyed learning a foreign culture, including trying new foods, seeing tremendous art and architecture,” says Drew Guidice, Brookwood’s Dean of Students and a chaperone on the trip. “I knew they had had a great time when on the last day no one was ready to come home.”
While a trip to Spain is certainly an opportunity for fun and sight-seeing, the Brookwood pupils were also focused on building their knowledge and skills during their travels.
“I expected to have the opportunity to use the Spanish I had learned in school in a real Spanish environment with native speakers,” Brookwood senior Bradley Cohen said. “I also wanted to learn more about the Spanish culture and history.”
The students also got to make a connection with a future Brookwood Warrior during their international trip. Pablo Alvarez de Toledo Rodriguez lives in Madrid, and will be an exchange student at Brookwood in the coming school year. The students had the chance to meet their future classmate and his father in Madrid.
“It was great that we got to see Pablo and his father in Madrid,” Kasten says. “Now when he comes to Brookwood, he’ll know a few of the students and will have some friendly faces in town.”
One highlight of the trip was a flamenco dancing lesson that the entire group took together in Granada. Students and chaperones learned the steps of the famous Spanish dance before getting the chance to see their instructors perform in a show.
“I think my favorite moment of the trip was getting to see everyone’s dance skills at a flamenco lesson,” Brookwood senior Lilly Jackson says. “It was great because we got to learn a few steps and a little about what flamenco means from someone who really performs flamenco, all in Spanish.”
The students also visited Seville, a city famous for its ceramic tiles, called azulejos. The group’s guide, a native Sevillana, brought the Brookwood students to the most famous ice cream shop in Spain, as well as to a tile-making workshop in which each student got to create their own azulejo.
The final stop on the trip was Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city and home to many works of the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Students took a bicycle tour of the city, and also visited Gaudí’s best-known work, the church of the Sagrada Família.
Throughout the trip, students got the chance to see how Europe differs from their homes in the United States.
“You could just tell that the infrastructure was much older and was built with human power rather than machine power,” Cohen says. “Random castle ruins were not unusual throughout the countryside as we drove from place to place.”
In addition to having cultural experiences and practicing their Spanish, the students also had the opportunity to become closer with each other.
This trip “provides excellent experiences for our students to travel abroad,” Guidice says. “For our kids to get to do this at 16, 17 years old with some of their best friends creates great memories and relationships. “
Kasten said that his goal with the trip is to expose students to new cultures and new ideas, and to encourage them to explore the world:
“Two of the students that went on the first Spain trip (in 2017) spent an entire month there this summer, which to me means that I’m achieving the goals of the trip: opening horizons and planting the seeds for future life experiences.”