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Spanish exchange offers students from both sides of the pond a new perspective
Posted 09/11/2014 03:00PM

Durham Academy works to shape students into global learners in myriad ways, and one of the most concrete examples of this is the school's biennial exchange with Madre de Dios school in Madrid. 

On Aug. 31, 18 adventurous Spaniards — 16 students and two chaperones — touched down at Raleigh-Durham International Airport to a chorus of cheers from a welcoming committee of host families. From there, the visitors and host students embarked on what will be, when it's all said and done, a 19-day adventure with a decidedly North Carolina flavor.

"The value of the exchange for all students is linguistic practice, but the greater goal is to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Spanish culture and people," said DA French teacher Stephanie Derfeuil, who organized the exchange along with DA Spanish teacher Margarita Throop and Latin teacher Edith Keene. "We hope that this ultimately leads to reflection on our ways of life and values. We also want to foster respect and friendship and citizenship as hosts of our Spanish friends and then as their guests when our students go to Spain. "

Highlights of the first half of the North Carolina visit included trips to Old Salem and Greensboro and a walking tour of downtown Durham; visits to the N.C. Museum of Arts and Duke Lemur Center are also planned. In addition, several host families took their visitors on the road, with trips to iconic American cities like Washington, D.C. Perhaps most importantly, the itinerary has provided for plenty of classroom time to help the Spaniards get a feel for the typical day of a DA student.

"We have seen a lot of differences between Madrid and Durham, such as the houses," Spanish student Sandra de Lucas said during an Upper School morning meeting Sept. 8. "They are really big and are very far away from one another. You need to use a car to go anywhere, and in Spain you can take public transport." 

The 17 DA students who are acting as hosts this month will have an opportunity to experience those differences and more first-hand in March 2015 when they travel to Madrid over spring break. As is the case with the American leg of the exchange, the DA visitors will get a taste of their hosts' daily lives by attending class and spending time with their families. They'll also visit museums and take some short weekend excursions to towns like Segovia and Toledo.

An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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