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International exchange Barcelona-Zagreb (part I)

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From 9th  to 16th of June, a small representation from El Puig visited Zagreb’s XV Gymnasium. The delegation was composed of 13 students and 3 vocational education teachers. This activity has been the first stage of the exchange between both schools, which will come to an end in September, when the Croatian committee will be our guest.

We organized the exchange with a double purpose in mind: on the one hand, we wanted to offer our students the chance to practice English; on the other hand, we wanted them to have a multicultural experience as a sort of training. They are expected to live  in a globalized world in which people from all parts of the planet do need to understand each other.

Due to the hardships of the current state of affairs, we decided that students and teachers would be hosted by the families of their partners. We wanted that everyone interested could join in. This way, participants only had to pay for a low cost flight ticket. We’d like to remark that our initiative received financial aid from El Puig’s multilingual project (PILE), and from the parent’s association (AMPA) as well. We’d like to thank both for their support.

The eight days of our stay went by pretty fast thanks to the tight schedule that our Croatian colleagues had prepared for us. The day after our arrival, both students and teachers experienced the daily routine of a Croatian high school. Zagreb’s XV Gymnasium is a public institution, similar but quite different from ours. Thanks to its success in Maths, Physics or Computer Science competitions, it is considered one of the most prestigious schools in all the country. At the end of the morning, Roger even dared to teach a class about numerical systems… and about life itself.

Next we had a touristic tour across Zagreb already waiting for us. We could appreciate the most remarkable spots of the city, and the vigorous Croatian summer as well. And once it was finished, some of us decided to depart to rest, while the others enjoyed the Zagreb’s vibrant nightlife.

                  

Wednesday, just after arriving school, we got on a bus to travel to the Dalmatian coast, where we spent a couple of days. We first stopped at Zadar, a beautiful city surrounded by the sea and with plenty of Roman ruins. Following the mandatory cultural tour, we savoured the hotel’s pool and the chance of swimming at the beach.

                  

Apparently, some of our students didn’t rest that night, according to how difficult it became for them to stay awake next day, during our visit to the Nin’s Salt Museum. However, everything seemed solved after taking another dip in the sea. Finally, we closed the day visiting the Nikola Tesla’s birthplace in Smiljan. We could assess that the influential inventor is one of the national heroes Croatian people feel proudest about. After coming back to Zagreb, we still had energy to watch the inaugural match of the World Cup between Croatia and Brazil: a significant event that gathered every human being in the country around the TV or the big screens located at the city’s main square.

                                  


F
riday we spent the first part of the morning at XV Gymnasium again. A workshop was organized. The students prepared some presentations exposing their thoughts about the exchange. They mentioned the little cultural differences they had noticed in their foreign new friends during those days. The plan was completed after paying a visit to the city’s technical museum, where we walked along a simulated old mine, and we attended an exciting show about Tesla’s experiments featuring our own students.

Saturday morning, after visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships (one of the most original exhibitions in all Europe, internationally awarded), we enjoyed some spectacular panoramic views of Zagreb. Then, it was time for our students to enjoy some free time with their hosting families during the rest of the weekend.

The moment to depart came sooner than we had expected, just when we felt more comfortable in Croatia. We found that the fact of being forced to live and relate to others in English was illuminating to our pupils. They suddenly realized about how essential learning languages is. It was a challenging experience, and they did not just "survive". They accomplished more than that: they were able to build bridges.

We said goodbye at the airport crying, singing, laughing, and hugging. We promised to wait for the end of the summer until we meet again. We feel that reciprocating the hospitality of our Croatian friends is going to be a hard task. But mostly we feel that it doesn’t matter how different our habits and mother tongues are, they have already become part of our lives.

 



David S. Murga, is the author of this excellent documentary about the trip: