Field Trip To Paradise

They had to change their destination, but the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t prevent a group of Glenwood Community High School students from taking a long-anticipated trip together over the summer to the Caribbean.

In June, Spanish instructor Christina Boldra and chaperone Jeni Kirsch escorted nine GCHS students to Puerto Rico where they spent nearly a week taking in the sites, learning the history and experiencing the culture of the historic American territory. The students are all seniors who have learned to speak Spanish in Boldra’s classroom.

“I just wanted them to see the world beyond Glenwood so I wanted them to get a little taste of what it would be like to be in a Spanish speaking country,” Boldra said. “Originally, we were going to go to Costa Rica but with COVID we couldn’t. We were lucky enough to be able to go to Puerto Rico.”

They visited historic sites, toured the forts of Old San Juan, slid down the Las Paylas natural rock waterslide, went ziplining, sampled Puerto Rican cuisine and spent time hanging out at the beach.

“They did a lot of fun stuff and they tried to get as much Spanish in as they could,” Boldra said. “As a teacher, my favorite part was just being able to see them interact with the people from Puerto Rico – hearing them having conversations with them and being part of their culture for just that week.”

GCHS student Molly Killion said she was taken back by the friendliness of the Puerto Rican people. Nearly all of the conversations the students had during the trip were in Spanish.

“Everyone is really nice and open and they want to make conversation with you,” Killion said. “I think they understood what I was saying but Puerto Ricans talk really

fast so it was kind of hard to understand them. Once they got that you were trying to catch up, they slowed down and were really understanding knowing you were trying to figure out what to say.”

Carter Kirsch said he, too, enjoyed meeting and conversing with so many Puerto Rican people.

“Everybody is a lot more open there and there’s a lot more culture,” he said. “Talking to a lot of people was fun because they could actually understand me.”

Olivia Compas echoed the thoughts of Killion and Kirsch.

“I really just enjoyed being able to talk to people and it was really cool to actually use the Spanish we’ve been learning in the classroom,” Compas said. “Puerto Rican Spanish is really different from what we’ve learned. It’s faster and shorter than Mexican Spanish.”

Ethan Parks said what stood out for him during the trip was the openness of the Puerto Rican people and the landscape of the country.

“Nobody is rude – it’s like everyone just talks to everyone,” Parks said. “And the scenery is beautiful.”

The students mentioned the natural rock waterslide and beach as two of their favorite stops on the trip. They also enjoyed the food – empanadas, rice dishes, Puerto Rican pasta and smoothies were among the favorites.

Kirsch said his favorite meal was a rice dish served with a whole chicken. Parks enjoyed the pasta buffet.
Boldra said the trip was enjoyable for many reasons but also made her students feel more comfortable speaking the Spanish language, even if it is a little different than the Mexican Spanish taught in her classroom.

“I think it was very beneficial because it gave them confidence just being able to speak it,” she said. “Even if they were going to have a small mistake here or there, they were still being understood by the Puerto Ricans and that gave them more confidence to want to talk it in class and some of them to even minor (in Spanish) in college.
“I have a couple kids who are saying now they’re probably going to study abroad.”

Boldra said she envisions arranging similar trips for senior Spanish students in the future, but not every year.

“It’s not cheap, so it’s something I might try to do every four or five years and give them (students) time to save money.”

The Opinion-Tribune

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