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Half Term Spanish Cuenca Trip A Success On Many Levels

01 Mar

Sixteen brave Year 10 pupils gave up their half-term break to stay with host families in Cuenca and attend intensive Spanish classes at the True Spanish Experience (TSE). The weather certainly helped – cold and frosty mornings soon gave way to bright, warm sunshine and temperatures in the high teens. Cuenca is Spain’s third smallest city. Situated half-way between Madrid and Valencia, Cuenca is a mix of the old and new. The clifftop old town has UNESCO world heritage status and is famed for the ‘casas colgadas’, or hanging houses, which are home to the first abstract art museum in Spain. The cobbled streets, brightly coloured buildings and dramatic views over the gorges contrast with the modern new town down below. This provided Mr Darkes with plenty of photo opportunities!

Every morning pupils made their way to lessons for 9.30am. Some were lucky and were dropped off by their host family, others had to walk. The group was split into two classes with ‘profesores’ Rafa and Pablo. Pupils learnt about aspects of Spanish culture and key vocabulary to help prepare for the afternoon ‘experiencia’. For example, pupils practised language associated with Spanish food and mealtimes, devised their own recipes and then priced them up by visiting a greengrocer, butchers and fishmongers. Later that day they visited the Cuenca cookery school and made Spanish omelette and gazpacho manchego. Cookery tip – add mini cream-crackers to the soup and after 10 minutes they turn into pasta. ¡Qué rico!

Other highlights included a Flamenco lesson, an abstract art workshop, ‘churros con chocolate’ and a tour of the graffiti neighbourhood behind the school. All pupils received a certificate for their progress in Spanish and were complimented by TSE not only on their proficiency but also their positive attitudes to learning, especially during their own half-term holiday time. On the final day we visited the main sites in Madrid and got to see Picasso’s famous ‘Guernica’ as well as a doing spot of sunbathing in the Retiro Park.

Mrs Parsons did all the hard work organising the trip and ran a weekly lunchtime club for a term to help prepare the pupils. Mr Darkes and Mrs Keenan accompanied them and both agree that it is one of the best groups they have ever taken away. Pupils were thrown in at the deep end and showed excellent coping skills not just with their Spanish but also settling in to a new environment with complete strangers. And they walked a lot more than normal – 50 miles on average for the week!

Pupils commented:

‘I feel more confident speaking Spanish and gained a greater understanding of the Spanish culture.’

'It helps you to understand listening to Spanish better.’

‘It gives you a chance to practise speaking in real situations.’

‘It builds your confidence.’

‘I can face new situations and know that I will be ok.’