Spring break had a distinctly European flavour for a group of local students that went abroad for some extra-curricular activity.
Twenty-six kids from Penticton Secondary spent 12 days exploring France and Spain, taking in the sights and testing their language skills alongside four adult chaperones.
“It was a really good cultural experience to be over there with your friends sort of on your own, but also in a safe environment with the teachers,” said 17-year-old Brendan Lacy.
The trip began in Paris, where the group visited iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, before heading south to the quieter, Mediterranean region of Provence. After that, it was on to the big cities of Barcelona and Madrid, where students took in stunning architecture and a top-tier Spanish soccer match.
“I just take them to see the sights, and it’s just sort of incidental language exposure, which I think is really effective,” said organizer and chaperone Lance Zablotney, a teacher-librarian at Penticton Secondary.
“I started doing this because I felt language is always (taught) out of a book, so this experience would make it real.”
Lacy, a Grade 11 student, said his Spanish is “pretty bad,” but his French is better: “I can order food.”
“It’s benefitted from the trip,” he added. “Even if you fumbled through a few words, it made (locals) pretty happy that you were trying to learn a new language.”
Zablotney said the trips offer him the most rewarding experiences he has as a teacher.
“I know it sounds cliche, but the kids that want to go tend to be good kids,” he explained. “They listen to you and they’re excited about everything you have to show them, so it’s really worthwhile.”
The trip cost about $3,500 per student and was the 12th such adventure led by Zablotney.
He’s already begun planning next year’s excursion to Italy, Austria, southern Germany, and the Czech Republic. About 35 kids have expressed an interest in going.