Melrose High School, Melrose, MA

Melrose High School, Melrose, MA

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

50 Shades of Grady

Travel is often looked upon as a luxury. To me, it’s much more than that. Cultural immersion and first-hand experience are essential to learning. Travel, especially in an educational setting, is something that every student should experience during high school. I love to travel. I've grown up traveling, so it was only natural that I participated in some of the many trips offered by MHS.
My sophomore year, I was a member of the Spanish exchange. The idea of the trip was daunting, because I wasn't close with any of the other students on the trip, most of who were upperclassmen, and my fluency in Spanish left a lot to be desired. Living with a Spanish family in Valencia allowed me to delve completely into the culture in a way that learning solely in a classroom never would have allotted. My Spanish improved tenfold, and I was able to experience unadulterated or culture for myself, instead of just reading about it inside my textbooks.
Over April vacation, I traveled to Portugal. The trip was meticulously planned by Mr. Santos, who had been to Portugal several times prior to bringing us there. I decided to go because; as he pointed out during a preliminary meeting for the voyage, when else would I get the chance to go there? Our time in Portugal was, in a word, beautiful. Though I learned little Portuguese (most notably gratís), I now have a solid understanding of the nation’s culture. For example, an earthquake in 1755 caused damage to many of Portugal’s greatest landmarks, such as castles, monasteries, and cloisters. Before visiting, I had no idea of just how religious the Portuguese people are and how large a role Catholicism has played in shaping their history. Of course, I would know none of this without the expert knowledge of Sergio, our amazing guide.
I feel that I have a unique perspective on educational travel, having participated in both an exchange and a trip. The experiences I had on these journeys were very different from one another, even if the countries I went to are not. My time in Spain was definitely more immersive linguistically, just because I was living in a household where only my exchange partner spoke English. Though I was living in Spanish culture, we visited a lot of touristy sites, which didn't take away from the experience but created one slightly dissimilar to the one I had in Portugal.
An often-overlooked benefit of traveling with people outside of your family or friend group is bonding. Both of my trips abroad allowed me to forge wonderful, albeit unlikely, friendships with my peers that I now cherish. Being in close quarters with people you've just sort of passed by for the last few years is an interesting endeavor that usually pays off well.
Next time you hear about a trip to [insert European or South American nation here] on the morning announcements, do yourself a favor and look into it. 

By Allie Grady

1 comment:

  1. wow. what a remarkable article, written by a voice of a generation. wow.