By Jessica Herraez, Spanish Teacher at East Aurora High School

Last fall was our fourth time doing the Greenheart School to School exchange program and one of our best yet. We were matched with Padre Isla school in Leon, which is in the Northwest of Spain.

The Spanish students visited our school in late September. We live in a small town (East Aurora New York) so our school benefits from the diversity that the Spanish groups bring when they visit.

Our visitors were very well mannered and behaved. They liked the fact that in the U.S. students change from class to class, whereas in Spain the students stay in the same room all day and the teachers changes rooms. They also noticed that the U.S. there are more rules, such as the requirement to raise your hand before speaking in class, which is not the case in Spain. Because of the timing of their trip, the students from Padre Isla had a chance to participate in our homecoming parade and 2 Spanish students were actually elected homecoming prince and princess!

We had a chance to visit our counterparts in November just before Thanksgiving. Our students loved getting to see another culture and education system. They felt that in Spain there is a more relaxed attitude than in the U.S. and enjoyed the opportunity to go out with large groups in the evening. They also had to get used to the different meal times; in Spain it’s typical to have dinner at 10 p.m.

Besides from visiting Leon, we also had a chance to visit Madrid and Salamanca during our trip. The students love the vitality of Madrid, and the old city feel in Salamanca.

I think traveling on a program like this really opens the word up to students. After doing the program many students decide to major in Spanish or study International business in college. They know they now have lifelong friends in Spain which inspires them to travel more. The program encourages them to take their Spanish classes seriously when they know they will actually use the language in person.

We have one family who hosted this year who will all be traveling to Spain to visit their exchange student’s family. It’s amazing the connections that this program makes!

Interested in participating in School to School exchange with your classroom? Learn more here.