It may sound surprising that a group of teenagers opted to spend their spring break in school, but practicing your Spanish skills at the Maravillas International Program in Málaga, Spain, isn’t such a bad gig. The 10-day trip was an exercise in full immersion—in both language and culture—and Principia’s students were up for the challenge.
A typical day for the students began early, where breakfast conversation with their homestay families—held entirely in Spanish—might center around anything from political and societal issues to the daily life of a regular teenager in Spain. The students then walked to a nearby language school, where they spent half their day refining their knowledge of the Spanish language. Afternoons were reserved for cultural lessons, including field trips to nearby cities like Seville and classes in Flamenco dancing.
The adventurous group wasn’t afraid to lean into the experience, something Upper School Spanish teacher and trip coordinator Courtney Bradley wanted for the excursion. “What I love about this trip is witnessing these students take the skills they’ve learned in the classroom and putting them into action in a real and authentic way.”
The daily progress, watching students grow from trepidatious tourists to confident travelers, was a particular highlight for Bradley. “The students were so willing to lean in and participate and take risks with the language,” she said. “It was pure communication daily. It’s what every language teacher loves to see.”
The students’ enthusiasm is a testament, Bradley feels, to the School’s educational model, which encourages students to engage with the material they’re learning. This eagerness to participate was recognized by the Maravillas language school, whose instructors commented on the skill of the Principia students. “They even joke that they fight over who gets to teach our class,” says Bradley.
“I think, overall, we are trying to educate in a way that’s not just memorization and regurgitation,” says Trips Program Director Lisa Johnson. “Students are doing projects, presentations, writing speeches, and it’s broadening the foundation they have. They’re putting their knowledge into practice in different ways, and that’s representative of Principia’s goal to have students [be] more hands-on with their experiences. It’s a higher engagement from the students.”