In my first year teaching English, I had the wonderful opportunity to help out with an exchange program to London. Twenty-one of our 16-year-old Spanish students travelled to London for four days where they stayed with a host family from a school in Surbiton, a neighbouring suburban city of London. The English students also spent four days in the students’ home in Badalona, a neighbouring city of Barcelona.
During the program, our students formed close bonds and friendships with the English students; it was truly beautiful to see young people with different mother tongues getting along so well. Many students were even in tears when they had to say goodbye to their new friends. They all, however, made a promise to keep in touch and see each other again.
For a few of our students, it was their first time on a plane and their first time travelling so far from home without their parents. At the tender age of 16, the program offered the students an opportunity to see a different country, to expand their cultural awareness and, of course, to learn English.
During the program, I saw significant improvements with a few of our students in regard to their ability to understand and communicate in English. Since the students lived with English-speaking families and still communicate with their English friends through WhatsApp, they have no choice but to apply their knowledge and dive right into the language. The English students’ level of Spanish, however, wasn’t as advanced as they have only been learning Spanish for two years while our students start learning English at three years old, which urged our students even more to use English.
The program puts the classroom into the real world and immerses the students in the English language. I believe this type of program is the perfect way to motivate young learners to foreign languages when they usually might be intimidated or embarrassed in a classroom setting. As I teach English to three-year-olds to 16-year-olds in Spain, I see that the hardest part is to motivate students to learn English. With an exchange program, the students interact and apply their learning to other people their age who are learning a foreign language as well. In this setting, the students became learners as well as teachers. It is an excellent way to teach leadership skills and encourage students to continue their language learning journey. It is important for young people to become a global citizen and to interact with people from different countries and learn about other cultures. A vital way to do this is to learn new languages, especially English, which is the most widely spoken second language in the world. An exchange program is a perfect way to mobilize learning to the real world and show students that the world is so much bigger than just their school.
Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of Great Britain is the world’s most visited city and the most populous city of all of the UK. As the largest city in the European Union, London is a world cultural capital, leading in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, tourism and more. London has been a major settlement for two millennia with the largest city airport system and over 300 spoken languages. The city still retains its original 2.9 km² medieval boundaries and has the oldest underground railway network in the world. London is home to numerous museums, galleries and libraries and contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens, including the Palace of Westminister and Westminister Abbey; St. Margaret’s Church; and Greenwich, which defines the prime meridian of 0°. London is a historically elegant city full of history, landmarks, monuments, telephone booths and double-decker buses.
Near the Hampstead Road Lock of the Regent’s Canal in London, the buildings manifest into sculptures of the imagination, filled with colour and detail. Camden Market is a one-of-a-kind place with over 1,000 unique shops, stalls, bars and cafes selling crafts, clothing and fast food. These venues take merchandise displays to a whole other level with vividly unique spreads. Need new shoes? Look no further than the massive sculpted Vans that literally hang “off the wall.” Hungry? How about South African cuisine with a big warm welcome from a 20-foot high warrior statue? It is no wonder why Camden Market is the fourth-most popular attraction in London with approximately 250,000 visitors a week. The magical Camden Town includes the Camden Lock Market by the Regent’s Canal; the Stables Market, which was formerly Pickfords Horse Stables; Buck Street Market, which focuses on clothes; and the Inverness Street Market. Camden Market is a place full of life and imagination where crazy characters like the Mad Hatter can be spotted.
In the city of Westminster in Central London lies one of the most famous public squares, Trafalgar Square. The name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain. The battle took place on October 21, 1805, off the coast of Cape Trafalgar in Spain. Trafalgar Square has been a significant landmark since the 13th century and originally contained the King’s Mews. The square has been used for community gatherings and political demonstrations and protests. At the centre of the square are an extensive water fountain and Nelson’s Column standing at 52 metres and guarded by four colossal lion statues. In the past, the square was a popular spot to feed pigeons and a booming zone to sell bird seeds. Now, due to health hazards, the sale of bird seeds stopped and the government used birds of prey to draw out the pigeons.
The British Museum located in London, England is among the largest and most comprehensive museums in the world. The museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture with around 8 million permanent works. The museum was established in 1753 after physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane, gave King George II his collection of over 71,000 objects after his death in return for £20,000 to his heirs. The museum opened to the public January 15, 1759, and became the first national public museum in the world. The number of artifacts in the museum has grown along with the expansion of British colonization and the number of visitors a year has increased from 5,000 to 6 million.