In May 2010 a group of pupils from Airdrie Academy spent 10 days staying with local families on the Spanish island of Mallorca, as part of the Comenius school exchange project.
Last week I visited the school to talk to Lauren, Alison, Jordan, Sara, Ben and Ross about their experiences. They staged a powerpoint presentation featuring information and photos, and took it in turns to explain what they had gained from the project, both as individuals and as a group.
The pupils gained a working knowledge of Spain’s language – performing well above average in their Spanish Standard Grade exam – traditions and culture, and forged close bonds all with their Spanish peers. Despite initially struggling to adapt to staying with a strange family in a strange land, the pupils made a swift transition and, by the end of their stay, with many new friends and a wealth of new experiences, were reluctant to leave.
In just 10 days they had experienced the “real mallorca”, visiting many different villages, eating Spanish food and learning about Spanish music. They left emotionally, educationally and culturally enriched, determined to make the most of their experiences.
In January 2011 they returned the favour, inviting their former hosts to experience at first hand the joys of a Scottish winter. In playing host themselves, the Airdrie pupils were able to learn from their own experiences of travelling abroad, and do their best to ensure that their guests were not afflicted by loneliness or homsickness, as some of them had been. This in itself showed an impressive level of maturity, and throughout the presentation I was struck by the poise and composure on display.
The pupils all took different things from the project, and it was an absolute pleasure to talk to them. I would like to congratulate them on a first class presentation, and to wish them all the best for what I am sure will prove a very successful future.