Over spring break, a group of Avenues middle grades students spent 12 days in Argentina hosted by Holy Trinity College in Mar del Plata. This marked Avenues’ first true exchange program; students from Holy Trinity joined us in New York in January. The goals of this program were myriad. First, we intended for our students to have authentic opportunities to develop and practice Spanish in daily exchanges with native speakers. Second, we wanted students to go beyond their borders and outside of their comfort zones to engage with a new culture within a structured environment. We also hoped to further our existing relationship with HTC and lay the groundwork for continued collaboration in the future. In the end, we surpassed each of these stated goals and our students shared a truly meaningful immersion experience abroad.

The middle grades students spent 12 days in Argentina.

The middle grades students spent 12 days in Argentina.

One of the highlights of the trip was the excitement of our students to see many of the same Argentinos they hosted this winter. Not only did Avenues students stay in the homes of their Holy Trinity buddies, they also shadowed them in their classes at school, where they had a chance to learn about traditional Argentinian cooking and dance. In the afternoons, we convened as a group for trips to local sites, including the beautiful beaches of Mar del Plata.

Learning traditional Argentinian dance.

Learning traditional Argentinian dance.

In the afternoons, the students visited local sites.

In the afternoons, the students visited local sites.

The natural anxiety of leaving home, going to an unfamiliar country and staying with a family that speaks a different language is challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. Loli Varela, teacher and abroad coordinator at Holy Trinity, expressed how great it was for students as young as 11 to have this kind of experience as travelers. She said, “It’s amazing just how much the exchange component of the course creates an environment in which Avenues students feel safe. They have an existing relationship with the families they are staying with in Argentina, and their parents do as well.” As one of the host parents remarked after being thanked for all the hospitality we received in Argentina, “I am just returning the love and support that my daughter received from your families in New York.”

Relaxing in Mar de Plata.

Relaxing in Mar del Plata.

Outside of Holy Trinity College in Mar del Plata.

Outside of Holy Trinity College in Mar del Plata.

Marcela Tovo, director of Holy Trinity asserts, “The exchange between Avenues and Holy Trinity is a perfect partnership: Avenues students are very capable and developed in their ability to speak Spanish, and Holy Trinity students have similar skills in English.” This underscores the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship and its importance for each school. Our hope in the future is to offer more students the opportunity to both host visiting students and travel to Mar del Plata, and for this exchange to continue to be a cornerstone of the Spanish program and an important part of what makes Avenues a truly global school.

 

The students were able to get to know one another during their 12-day program.

The students were able to get to know one another during their 12-day program.

We look forward to seeing our friends in Argentina in New York next winter, and to another wonderful trip to South America next spring break!