Viva Madrid

Madrid Group: A group of PHS students recently traveled to

Madrid on an international field trip.

Last month, 42 students from Pawling High School engaged in an international adventure when they traveled to Madrid, Spain. The trip, conceived and planned by Spanish language instructor Erin Plati, allowed the students to tour the historic city and immerse themselves in Spanish culture, and gave ample opportunity to apply the language skills that they have honed in their studies at PHS.

Following an eight-hour overnight flight, the group arrived in Madrid. The first taste of European life came in the form of a walking tour of the city. Upon arrival, students were immediately thrust into an environment that would test their Spanish speaking abilities. “When we broke into groups for lunch, it was interesting to see that while some students found immediate success ordering food in Spanish, several students seemed far more reluctant to take this risk,” explains chaperone Steve Malone. “But by the last day of the trip, every single student seemed to be more independent in their ability to interact with locals to get what they needed. In some cases this even came in the form of advocating for themselves to inform restaurants of dietary restrictions.”

On the first full day in Madrid the group embarked on a sightseeing tour through the city, which included Puerta Del Sol public square, and Gran Via, also known as “Spanish Broadway,” which is renowned for its many shopping options. The tour ended with a guided visit of the Royal Palace, the largest of its kind in Europe. Following lunch, the group reconvened for a tour of the Museo Del Prado, Spain’s main national art museum, followed by Flamenco lessons and a traditional dance performance. “I would pick the Flamenco dance class and music performance as my favorite part of the trip,” says chaperone Marlon Marmolejo. “It was fun to see how we all struggled not to trip over our ‘two left feet’ while counting in our heads. I should not complain! I had the best dance partner. Mrs. Koerner moved with grace as if she were performing the most delicate knee and ankle examination in the operating room.”

The following two days would see the group take a walking tour of Toledo, which included the church of Santo Tome, as well as a cathedral and a synagogue, and a visit to the nearby city of Salamanca. In addition to the guided tours, the students and their chaperones were given ample time to explore on their own, allowing them to truly immerse themselves in the language and culture of the area. “My favorite part of the trip was going to Salamanca because we had the most free time there,” explains Spanish 3 student Sara Corbi. “The places we visited were very pretty, and I enjoyed the fact that we had so much free time that we were able to pick a restaurant and eat there with a friend.” Her sentiments were echoed by classmate Julia Zoeller, who said, “My favorite part of the trip was going to Salamanca because the university was beautiful. I also enjoyed walking around and looking in all the tourist shops.”

Throughout the trip, students and chaperones alike took in the sights and sounds of Spain, and everyone involved seemed to take away a different favorite experience from the journey. “My favorite part of the trip was visiting historic towns and cities such as Toledo and Segovia and Salamanca,” says Principal Helen Callan. “It was incredible to experience old world Europe through its architecture. The beauty and craftsmanship of the cathedrals were breathtaking.”

Several of the students and their chaperones also made a stop at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home to the Real Madrid football club. “As the soccer coach in Pawling and a die-hard soccer fanatic, it was great to see the ‘Holy Grail,’” says chaperone Travis Light. “I enjoyed being able to walk the stadium with my group who were all primarily soccer players in Pawling as well. The history and the excitement of seeing the trophies and sitting on the field was overwhelming.”

As the students became more comfortable in their environment, their Spanish speaking skills allowed them to further immerse themselves in the culture. “My studies definitely prepared me for the trip,” says AP Spanish student Carly McGrath. “In Spanish class we practiced speaking and listening since we had the AP coming up, so we were familiar with the language and how it sounded. We were taught how to ask questions and order food correctly in as well.” Helen Callan also observed the student’s interactions with the native speakers. “Senora Plati really emphasized and expected her students to use the target language,” she says. “Watching our students take a risk and engage with the local population was wonderful to see.”

When the group finally returned to the United States they were exhausted, but they had made memories that would last a lifetime. The students’ exemplary behavior reflected favorably on Pawling High School and will continue the precedent for more international field trips in the future. “We were very fortunate to be able to take such a fantastic group of students to Spain,” concludes Steve Malone. “After every single tour, our guide would commend Señora Plati on managing such a respectful and well-mannered group.”