Intensive Spanish and Culture Program was offered to the IBDP students. The main features of the program are: intensive language classes with a content-based focus on communication skills and immerse them in Spanish Culture through lectures, on site workshops, guided tours to places of historical and artistic interest. The program will be implemented following the Pedagogical Approach of "Experiential Learning" by an expert team of Teachers, Mentors and Intercultural Facilitators, led by the Program Coordinator.
If I was asked to describe this cultural immersion in one adjective, I'd have a wide array to choose from. Exhausting. Informational. Beautiful. Unforgettable. Genial. But I think the most apt word would be eventful. It's an all-encompassing word, that would still fall short in describing this trip.
From the moment we landed in Madrid, you could feel the difference in atmosphere. The air felt fresher, cleaner, different. In the two days we spent there, we had already learned a considerable amount of Spanish history and culture. Right off the bat, we noticed the difference in the attitudes of Indians and Spanish to time and punctuality. Although the general timetables of the Spanish are rather relaxed - with 2 hours for a siesta - they had an incredible sense of punctuality and respecting others' time. We realised our "chaltahai" attitude and the ability to push deadlines wouldn't work here. It was something we found, both, admirable and slightly difficult to keep up with, initially. We visited the Prado Museum and the Royal Palace of Madrid, during which we learned about the political situation of Spain and noticed quite a few similarities with our own political situation a couple of years back.
Before heading over to Granada, we stopped over at Toledo. That was where, in my opinion, we learned most about the culture and intertwining histories of Spain. In order to make us more self-sufficient on this trip, our program coordinators, Antonio and Irina, decided that we were to explore the city by ourselves. We were divided into groups, given maps and 3 major destinations to visit. We were then left to our own devices. Walking and getting lost in the winding streets of Toledo, helped us more about the city than any guided tour ever could. The mesh between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish culture was undeniable, you couldn't miss it if you wanted to.
However, Toledo wasn't the only city where these three cultures seemed to blend together seamlessly. Granada, the city we spent most of our time in, displayed the cultures beautifully interwoven. We learned that you could never get lost in Albaycin as long we went "down and right," we saw the overlapping of Christian and Arab architecture in the Alhambra and we observed intellectually stimulating street art by El Niño de la Pintura. We walked at least 15km on a regular basis with Arturo, who was bursting with information about anything and everything.
Through our countless classes on Spanish culture in school, we knew that the eating timings varied vastly in Spain and India, but it wasn't until we had experienced it, that we could actually understand what our teacher had taught us. Dinner was never eaten before 2200h. This was a concept that had confused me greatly, having always eaten an early dinner but when I noticed that the sun only set but 2330h, did I understand their reasoning.
Our trips to Sevilla and Cordoba didn't hold back either. Art, architecture, flamenco. You name it. We saw everything. We even learned about war tactics employed by los Sevillanos against invaders. The biggest distinction between the Arab and Christian architecture in Spain was the comparison between Real Alcázar de Sevilla and Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. An important observation most of us had made before the trip to Sevilla was that the Spanish impeccably preserved their heritage, something you couldn't see in India, considering the amount of vandalism seen on our monuments. However, we noticed that, even in Sevilla, the Plaza de España had been vandalised.
Our Flamenco classes with Chua were possibly the most entertaining aspects of the trip. You saw people letting go of their inhibitions of having two left feet and actually enjoying the dancing. Many even noticed the similarities in the beats of Kathak and of Flamenco.
Most of the class had found the idea of 3-hour classes in Spanish with native speakers daunting, but after the first class with Juanfe and Julio, it became the highlight of the trip. We learned the language and the culture by exploring the city and trying to put ourselves in the shoes of its citizens. We even went shopping to the local market for ingredients to make tapas. The only downside was probably the gruelling walk to Celei.
The entire trip was sealed with a wonderful farewell dinner at Plaza Nueva, where we ate delicious Paella (something, that, if not experienced, would have left our trip incomplete.) Our lives in Spain had become such a routine for us and the members of Celei, that we weren't able to imagine spending time without them. I think I speak for all my classmates when I say that this trip left a lasting and unforgettable impression on us.
Smriti Ghildiyal, Grade 11