The Experience of an Exchange Program

Blog, London

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.



Tarragona is located on the Costa Daurada about 100 kilometres from Barcelona. The city was founded in 218 BC and remains the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian peninsula. The city still displays a wealth of ruins in one of Spain’s most important Roman sites, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. The city houses a total of 11 Roman constructions, the most popular being Les Ferreres Aqueduct, a giant Roman aqueduct;  Passeig Arqueològic, a park featuring Roman walls, sculptures and gardens; the Roman theatre of Tarraco, an ancient Roman theatre; and Circ Romà, a first century CE Roman chariot-racing track and tower. Tarragona serves as a clash between Roman history and beautiful beaches with a lively port that serves as a transporting hub for petroleum.



Naples is located in the region of Campania and is the third-largest Italian city after Rome and Milan.  The city is a major cultural centre with various historical sites in its surroundings, like Pompeii and Herculaneum. Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world as the Greeks settled in the region in the second millennium BC. The city also offers spectacular views of the coast, the Mediterranean Sea and the legendary Mount Vesuvius.

With the abundance of pizzerias at every corner in the city, one cannot forget that Naples is the birthplace of one of the most favourite foods in the world, pizza. The best-tasting pizzerias in Naples are overflowing with crowds of people waiting to get a bite of the authentic, mouth-watering delicacy. I can strongly agree that these wood-oven, masterpieces were among the greatest pizzas I have ever had in my life. I can still taste the flavour of the juicy tomato sauce, oozing mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; the perfect Margherita pizza!

Football is a sport that flows through the veins of many Italians. It is part of their culture and passion and there is one player who will forever remain in the hearts of every Neapolitan fan. This player became a legend, a symbol of liberation and measured up to the title Dios, GodHe is an adopted son of the city and fills the chests of every Neapolitan fan with pride. That man is Diego Maradona, the legendary Argentinean-born footballer.

Although his reign in SSC Napoli was from 1986-1990, the soccer legend is still worshipped in the city as shops continue to sell jerseys bearing the name Maradona above the number 10. In Maradona’s second season on the team in 1987, he helped Napoli claim the Serie A title and continued to give Napoli the most successful period in their history within his seven seasons on Napoli. Teams in the Italian south struggled to measure up to powerhouse, wealthy teams in the north like Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma. That all changed, however, when Diego Maradona stepped onto the pitch wearing the sky-blue jersey. With Maradona behind the wheel, Napoli won the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989,  another Serie A Cup in 1990 and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1991. Now in the city streets, thirty years after his first triumph with the team, you can find massive murals and posters of Maradona and even shrines that worship Maradona as a patron saint.

There is no doubt that Naples is a city full of culture, history and fantastic pizza.



Pompeii is one of Mother Nature’s greatest attempts to preserve history. It is an ancient Roman city about 23 km from Naples that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD along with Herculaneum, Stabia, Torre Annunziata and other communities. The city is about 8 km from Mount Vesuvius, covers approximately 67 hectares and was a major city in the region of Campania. The city was buried in about 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice (volcanic rock) and is estimated to have had up to 11,500 inhabitants at the time of destruction.

The city was founded between the 6th and 7th Century BC by the Osci people and came under the domination of Rome in the 4th Century BC, giving the city extremely ancient roots. In 62 CE the city experienced an earthquake that damaged many buildings, which were not fully restored 17 years later went Mount Vesuvius erupted.

The city was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader uncovering 150 years later.  The ash, pumice and volcanic debris covered the city more than 6 metres deep and perfectly preserved it in a time capsule. Archaeologists have even been able to see the exact position a person was in at the time of death by pouring cement into the hollows formed in the volcanic ash to make body casts. The objects and the buildings in the city have been preserved for more than a millennium because of the lack of air and moisture when the city was underground. The work to uncover Pompeii is extremely important as it marked the start of the modern science of archeology.

The burial and destruction of the city have allowed us to see the social, economic, religious and political life of the ancient Roman city. Unfortunately, since the city has been uncovered it is endangered by weather, tourists, vandalism and vegetation. In July 2008, the Italian government declared a one-year state of emergency for the site and appointed a special commissioner to look after Pompeii.

This ancient Roman city is a remarkable display of the force of nature and of a city permanently frozen in time.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples


The National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy is one of the largest archaeological museums in the world with over 3,000 artifacts divided into eight thematic sections spaning on four levels. The museum is extremely important for its abundance of Roman artifacts and preservation of its heritage. Most of the Roman artifacts in the museum are from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum.

The building was constructed as cavalry barracks in 1585, then later a seat of the city’s university until the late 18th century when Bourbon king Charles VII made it into a museum. The core collection of the museum is from the Farnese Collection, inherited from the King’s mother, Elisabeth FarneseThe museum holds one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in Italy with 2,500 objects including sculptures, mummies, sarcophagi, papyri and ceramics. The museum even includes a Secret Room with an extensive collection of erotic and sexual items, mostly from Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 1848, the government proposed to destroy the artifacts, but the room remained restricted with limited access until April 2000 when it was made public.

The museum is a historical mashup of Greek, Roman, Renaissance and Egyptian history, booming with sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, glassware, ceramics, silverware, jewels and coins.