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Valhalla students on Colombia trip
Valhalla students on Colombia trip
Valhalla students before leaving for Colombia
Valhalla students on Colombia trip
Valhalla students on Colombia trip

Valhalla Visits Colombia for Language Fluency

After spending several years learning Spanish in class, a group of Valhalla High School students put their language skills to the test and traveled to Colombia for an educational learning adventure.

Twelve upper-level Spanish students joined Peace Works Travel for a two-week excursion to three cities: Bogota, Barranquilla and Cartagena from June 30 to July 10. The teenagers were either in teacher Richard O’Riley’s Level 4 Spanish or College-Level Spanish classes during the 2018-19 school year.

“The goal is for them to use the language in the appropriate context,” he said. “We want to immerse the kids in this socio-linguistic process and give them real-world experiences.”

The group observed Colombia’s society and schools, and viewed how the Civil War, along with more current social and political factors, influenced the country’s progression.

“I’m looking forward to coming home with increased fluency in Spanish,” recent graduate Matt Connolly said before the trip. “Being put in a completely Spanish-speaking place is the missing puzzle piece to my fluency.”

While enjoying Colombia’s food was a bonus for rising senior Isabella Fountain, she agreed that she wanted to learn a great deal of Spanish and surprise her family upon returning home from Colombia.

For fellow rising senior Ben Rieber, his excitement stemmed from site-seeing throughout Colombia’s landscapes and geographical areas. “I’d also like to immerse myself in the different culture and be around the language,” he said.

Classmate Owen Dore spent half of his 2018 summer in Spain, where he heard fluent speakers and experienced the language’s different dialects. His aim this year was to learn even more in Colombia.

The group had a full itinerary. In Bogota, they visited the Museo Casa Botero and the Contemporary Art Center. They also participated in a cultural exchange with students at the Universidad Monserrate and were toured by locals through street art of the Egipto neighborhood.

In Barranquilla, they performed a service-learning project at the Martin Luther King School. They witnessed a justice work day called La Mesa de Victimas, which is a reconciliation process where victims of the civil war share their stories. The group also stopped at the Museo del Caribe to learn the cultural history of Colombia and the Caribbean region.

In Cartagena, the group toured the Inquisition Palace and explored historical sites like Puerta del Reloj, La Plaza de los Coches, La Plaza de la Aduana and Bolivar Square. They visited Tambores del Calbildo after school to learn about youth engagement and community transformation through music. Lastly, they took a boat to the Rosario Islands to view the coastline, hike, practice snorkeling and sit on the beach.