Are the language department trips worth it?

Late march of 2018, I am in an airport wondering about this very question.  “Are language department trips worth it?” At the time I had no idea, as I searched around the busy terminal for familiar faces.  A group begins to gather near the check-in for Brussels airlines, and after minimal chaos and about an hour were boarding an 8 hour flight to Málaga Airport (AGP) in Andalucia Spain.  The next week and half consisted of jumping budget hotel to budget hotel across several Spanish cities seeing every sight there was to see, equaling a cost of upwards of my entire spring break but also $3,000 according to my parental unit who payed for my spot on the trip. In the end is it worth it? Simply, yes, not from a purely educational standpoint however. Over the course of the trip students would speak approximately a sentence of Spanish each day. We never had to ask anyone anything because the planning process meant we knew where everything was and most of out meals were just given to us or in the form of a buffet so we rarely had to order food let alone in Spanish. The cultural education was definitely a plus though. Day two we are in Granada (which means pomegranate in Spanish) visiting the Alhambra. It was beautiful but I was very sick at the time but what I was able to appreciate was marvelous. The architecture and intricacy of the design was astounding. I especially when we went back at night for a wonderful view of the temple lit up in the darkness of the night. With that being said the trip’s cultural education was great but as far as immersion into the language it’s safe to label it as disappointing.

In my own opinion the Spanish department trips are worth going on and I would recommend them to students in Spanish while it did not open my eyes to the language I definitely found a new appreciation for it.

In order to get a second opinion I sought out some information from one of Robinson’s own spanish teachers, Senora Urban. My main purpose with this interview was to understand the parts of the trip I did not see, the planning. On the two trips that she had been the process was quite similar. According to her the planning process begins a year and a half before leaving for the trip. The process begins with about 2 months of decided where to go including the country they will travel to and choosing the company they will travel with. Last year the Spanish department partnered with a company called EF. Later for another two months is the process of choosing a “package” from the company that includes the locations visited in the country which leads into the planning for the rest of the schedule. The next half year is taken up by advertising for the trip and training the adults. Senora Urban then told me something quite surprising. According to her during this period of training EF funded a trip for her and other adults who were going to lead one for students on a practice trip to Paris, France in order to train them for leading trips of their own. This served to familiarize the teachers with the process of bringing 20 kids to another continent. Finally for the last six months before the trip are packed full of meetings with the students and their parents to brief them on the logistics of the trip until finally the date for  he flight rolls around and the planning process ends.

Within the interview I also asked about their own options. For instance they reinforced the notion I had about the real educational value coming from the culture opposed to language practice. They all stated that the goal of allowing students the opportunity is to expose them to the culture and to re-spark their interest in the language. Many high schools have never been out of the country let alone get this much in-depth knowledge of the culture and history of the world. With all that being said are they worth going? If you are willing to spend many afternoons in meetings for half a year, all of your spring break and ~$3000, then yes.