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Spanish Exchange Program Gives Students a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Spanish Exchange Program Gives Students a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

In September, the school welcomed 15 students from Malaga, Spain, to campus as part of the one-to-one exchange program.  

During the 2018-19 year, the school hosted the first one-to-one exchange with Colegio El Pinar in Malaga, Spain. Now, this is the first year the program has returned since Covid.  

"I've always been interested in international experiences," says Emil Hettich `23. "So when I saw this program coming back, I knew I wanted to sign up."  

While the Spanish exchange students were here this fall, they shadowed their host students at school, attending classes and extracurricular activities with them. In addition, the students also participated in mini-courses designed just for them by CCDS faculty, who generously contributed their time and expertise. The mini-courses ranged from exploring our Makerspace, chemistry lessons, and an overview of and field trip to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The goal was to give them an authentic taste of Country Day and Cincinnati.  

"Lots of things are different here," explains Javier, Emil's exchange partner. "I had never been to a high school American football game before, or even out of Europe, so it's been an amazing experience for me."  

While Javier was in Cincinnati, Emil took him to an FC Cincinnati game, and they bonded over their love of soccer. Emil is fluent Spanish which made it easier too.  

"My parents are German, and we only speak German at home. We lived in Panama for a while before coming to Cincinnati, and I went to a bilingual school," says Emil. "But it was at Country Day where I developed my Spanish because of the amazing Spanish teachers from different Latin backgrounds, like Senora Suarez and Castro."  

The Country Day community welcomed the students and faculty with open arms, excited to share in the experience together.  

"When we first came to Country Day, everything amazed us. But the school is similar to ours, so it helps the students feel at home," says Colegio El Pinar faculty member Aurora Gomez Jurado. "Just like we were four years ago, we've all been amazed at how friendly the families are and how welcoming the community is."  

Aurora explained that the student benefit from this program in ways that extend beyond a trip to the United States.   

"Exchange programs are so impactful for students. They learn the English language better but also the American culture too. It's a chance to work on their nonverbal communication and get out of their comfort zone," says Aurora. 

Of course, the program is also about connecting two groups of students from opposite sides of the world and enriching their lives through friendship.  

"I saw this as such an amazing, almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially as an Upper Schooler. Not many high school students get to go to Spain for school," says Ambika Sharma `24.  

Ambika explained that her exchange student, Lydia, taught her much about Spanish, particularly dialect and slang.  

"Ambika’s Spanish is good, but you know there are different types of Spanish just like there are different types of English," says Lydia. "People speak the same language but use different words."  

During Lydia's time here, Ambika took her to eat Graeters and go ice skating – two of her favorite activities. But they also spent time speaking Spanish and talking about Spain.  

"I knew when I signed up that when I go to Spain I'll be fully immersed in Spanish culture, but I didn't expect to feel so connected and learn so much about the culture by having Lydia here with me," says Ambika.  

The connections these students made during their short time together were so impactful. When the Spanish students boarded the buses to leave campus, many tears were shed by all.  

"The exchange programs are important because they bring the language to life," says Upper School teacher Jeanette Hecker. "The language becomes real, and students are always impressed with how much they understand and can convey. When our students head to Spain in March, I hope they can soak up the language and take in the wonderful experience they've been given…and eat lots of tapas."