What could be better than traveling abroad to spend an entire week abroad in a warm, beautiful and tranquil country during a cold, dry, and dreary week in winter? During the week of February 18th, the Friends Academy language department had the great opportunity to travel with those FA students who desired to go to Malaga, Spain or the island of Martinique. The purpose of the trip abroad was to allow FA students to learn, study, and embrace the French and Spanish cultures in Malaga or Martinique. After doing a series of interviews with the students and teachers who participated, it seemed as if every student and faculty member had a memorable experience.
Dr. Polly Duke was the French teacher in charge of the trip to Martinique, an overseas region of France in the Caribbean Sea. In order to organize and prepare for the trip, she worked with a Martiniquan exchange program, which allowed for the partnership between FA and the high school le Lycée Schoelcher. Dr. Duke explained that the process, “takes months of communication with parents, travel agents and the partner school to set up an exchange, but it is worth every minute.” When talking about their travel experience, each faculty member and student agreed that travel both down and up to Martinique went very smoothly. The voyagers left midday on Valentine’s Day and took a flight from JFK to San Juan; then left almost immediately on a much smaller plane for Martinique.
Everyone who travelled to Martinique had a blast. Grace Covelli (10), one of the many students who went on the trip, thoroughly emphasized that she “enjoyed embracing the Martiniquan culture and had a wonderful time with her guide, Coralie.” Grace decided to go on the trip because she was eager to get out of the country and experience the 83 degree weather there in Martinique. FA students climbed part of the island’s volcano, Mont Pelée; swam at a volcanic beach and taught English to some orphans and participating in English class with the students of le Lycée Schoelcher. Both Dr. Duke and Grace agreed that the food at the island was different yet delicious. Dr. Duke noted that “the best bread in Martinique is similar to the French baguette and one specialty on the island is conch, which is called ‘lambi.'” Grace had her own encounter with “bloody sausage.” She said that it was, “unappealing in both name and sight, but they were not as terrible as they’re chalked up to be.”
When asked about their general feelings about the Martiniquan culture, both Doctor Duke and Grace felt that the consensus of the country is carefree and collective. Dr. Duke said,” the Martiniquais are able to sit, relax, communicate with each other, and eat well. While people work hard, there is a greater emphasis on living well. There is a saying: “Bosser moins pour vivre mieux” which means “work less to live better.” Ultimately, their work is just as efficient, it just includes more obvious and very welcome down time.”
Switching gears to the Malaga trip, Mr. Posada and Mrs. Carballo were the two faculty members who went on the trip. The trip was organized through the program Prometeur, which helped find a host school and host families. The program also scheduled the day trips that the students and faculty took to Granada, Sevilla, and Cordoba. Both the students and teachers thought the flight to Malaga was extremely long. The flight took 10 hours total. The travelers also flew from JFK and then to Zurich, Switzerland where they had a bit of a layover, but from there they were able to finally fly to Malaga.
Brittany Kriegstein (12), had the opportunity to go on the trip and she said, “She didn’t want to leave.” She also enjoyed her “incredible host family, the delicious food, and all the nice people” that she met. When I asked the students to describe the culture at Malaga, each one noted that the people had a much laid back lifestyle, which FA students noted is immensely dissimilar to the hectic routines that we Americans are accustomed to having. Cameron Hellerman (10), another student who went on the trip said, “the kids were so much more relaxed with school, the parents seemed less stressed, and when you walked the streets you really felt the friendly atmosphere everywhere.” Some memorable moments were going to see a soccer game, trying various new foods, spending time with the students in their classrooms, shopping, and staying with the homestay families.
Through the experiences of the both the teachers and the students, the travel abroad programs that were offered this past February break were remarkable. Both the students and teachers were able to gain a greater deal of knowledge about French and Spanish countries. Therefore, it is fair to say that during a cold week in February there could be nothing better to do than travel abroad to a warm and sunny place, such as Martinique or Malaga Spain.