Spanish Exchange Students

Spanish students with HHS Students. Photo courtesy of Sarah Polidor.

On September 4, 2012, twenty Spanish high school students and two teachers arrived from Spain to spend 3 weeks with Hanover High School host families.

For the last 22 years, Hanover High School has participated in a “homestay exchange” program with Instituto Gerald Brenen high school in Alhaurín de la Torre, Málaga, located in southern Spain. The Mano a Mano (Hand-to-Hand) Exchange Program is an exciting and rewarding experience to welcome Spanish students and introduce them to our culture.

The Spanish and American students were paired based on similar interests and preferences. With an early exchange of emails, communication via Facebook and email between the students started long before our Spanish friends arrived in this country.

Many preliminary meetings to explain the responsibilities and expectations of the host family and student occured.  Much work by the Foreign Language Department went into planning a fun-filled, exciting, educational experience for the students and their host family.

The adventure started with a welcome potluck dinner at Ethan Winter’s house, followed by a few days of classes at HHS and tours of Dartmouth College. Several busy field trips were organized for the Spaniards to experience New England, including trips to New York City; Burlington, VT; Portsmouth, Manchester and Lebanon, NH; and Boston, MA. Shopping trips were a highlight for the Spaniards because many things are less expensive in the US than in Spain, especially electronics and pharmacies like CVS, “because they have so many things and everything is so cheap,” one student noted.  And last but not least, on a beautiful sunny day, the Spaniards hiked to the top of Mt Cardigan, where they were treated to a gorgeous panoramic view of the NH mountains.

In addition to their road trips and shopping, the students liked being included in their host family’s daily life, doing all the regularly scheduled activities of an American family. They were involved in the household chores, cooking, setting the table, doing dishes, gardening, trips to the dump, grocery shopping, and stacking wood piles. Outings with the host families also included apple picking, the Tunbridge Fair, movies at the Nugget and the Dartmouth HOP, HHS football and soccer games and the Norwich Farmers’ Market.

We learned that Hispanic cultures appreciate the art of conversation. They had varying levels of expertise in English, but they all loved to talk and laugh and everyone’s English improved during their visit. One of the host students, Ila, noted that ” family is really important there (in Spain).” Students spent a lot of time talking about their families and communicated with them often.  We learned that Spaniards eat dinner very late at night and for them meals represent social time.

The farewell dinner, hosted by Clare Synder and her family, was a great send off. The theme was a Thanksgiving meal, and for most of the Spanish students, this was the first turkey and pumpkin pie they had ever eaten. After dinner, the Spanish students entertained everyone with beautiful Spanish Flamenco dancing and Spanish poetry.

We want to thank all the Spanish teachers for organizing an amazing, very organized fun exchange program.  Their guidance, flexibility and patience have made this program an enormous success. It was rewarding to learn about Spain and its culture first-hand from the perspective of students who live there. It was an honor for our school to host the students. We will have wonderful memories and friendships to last a lifetime. As students learn more about one another, we gained a deeper appreciation for both cultures. It is this inter-cultural educational experience that challenges us to learn about the world and expand our knowledge.

Goodbye to Paula, Alba, Sara, Mario, José Luis, Victor, Alexandra, Carlos, Pablo, Clara, Immaculada, Inés, Carlos, Iván, Paula, Noelia, Carlos, Raquel, Luisa and Pedro Luis. We will miss you all and look forward to seeing you in Málaga, Spain in April 2013.

José Luis Miranda Cerón, Ivan Alonso, Sarah Polidor, Inmaculada Luque
Photo by Sarah Polidor

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