The Spaniards Are Here

FRONTbyMercersburgBy Ryan Geitner
NEWS Reporter


ix students and two teachers from Colegio Nuestra Señora Lourdes, Mercersburg’s sister school in Valladolid, Spain, are visiting Mercersburg for a two-week long exchange that began November 29, 2016. Their arrival marks the inauguration of their visits to Mercersburg, establishing a true exchange between Mercersburg and Lourdes.

Mercersburg students have been visiting Colegio Nuestra Señora Lourdes for years; however, this is the first time that students from Spain have had the chance to visit Mercersburg.

What was previously only a summer trip has now been transformed into a full academic and residential exchange program. Mercersburg students studying in Spanish now have the option to experience the culture, the other being Chile, and language of two very different Spanish-speaking regions, further expanding the breadth of Mercersburg’s summer programs and the school’s emphasis on global exposure.

Mercersburg faculty member Hope San Filippo, who teaches Spanish and is the school’s international exchanges coordinator commented, “I am pleased that the exchange is moving forward and have enjoyed meeting the visiting students and faculty members.”

Of course, the reunion between Mercersburg and Lourdes students was a highly anticipated one. San Filippo said, “Colegio Nuestra Señora de Lourdes in Valladolid, Spain has been kind enough to allow us to use their classrooms for our exchange classes for years even though we did not have an formal relationship. Now, at last, the exchange has become official, and we are able to reciprocate their kindness.”

Mercersburg students who traveled to Spain last summer spent almost a month living with their host families, attending classes, accompanying host parents to family reunions, and cooking traditional chorizo and paella. By the end of the trip, they had been fully immersed in the Spanish lifestyle, and most could say that they truly felt a part of their families.

Though students stayed with hosts, they also traveled extensively throughout various regions in Spain. Escorted by Señora Valenteen, the group spent time relaxing on the beaches of La Coruña, viewing 2000 year-old Roman aqueducts in Segovia, and exploring the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Mercersburg has five formal exchange programs. In addition to Colegio Nuestra Señora Lourdes, Mercersburg’s exchange partners include the Gauss Gymnasium in Worms, Germany; the Nanjing Foreign Language School in Nanjing, China; and Collège-Lycée Saint-Joseph in Thônes, France, and Colegio Alemán de San Felipe in, central Chile. As a result of the exposure offered by way of the exchanges, students studying any of the four spoken languages taught at Mercersburg–French, German, China, and Spanish–have opportunities to hone both their language skills as well as the skills necessary in breaking down cultural barriers by giving them the opportunity to form friendships and bonds with those who live oceans away.

Among its five partner schools, Mercersburg is the only boarding school. As a result, the experience of an exchange student manifests itself in ways different from that of an exchange student at a day school. All guest students are hosted by roommate pairs in their dorm rooms. Exchange students attend regular classes, participate in Performance Group Activities, and are expected at all required appointments, just like any other Mercersburg student.

The success of these exchanges has prompted Mercersburg to bring even more travel programs to Mercersburg. In addition to the school’s extensive list of break travel trips offered every year, Mercersburg has maintained its ties with School Year Abroad (SYA), which engages students in language immersion programs for the entirety of the school year or for five weeks in the summer. SYA, based in Boston, Massachusetts, also claims sites in Italy, France, China, and two locations in Spain.

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