Rachel Norotsky | On 09, Apr 2017
Senior year is an eventful time for the average South Burlington High School student. They begin looking towards the future and what they hope to pursue upon graduation. Though everyone may experience similar circumstances, no two students will look back on their final year of high school the same. I am confident that no matter how old I get, I will always remember the 19 days I spent in Spain when reminiscing on my senior year.
For those of you who don’t know, South Burlington High School offers a unique study abroad program to sophomores, juniors, and seniors enrolled in foreign languages known as TIE (The International Exchange). Through this program, students are paired to a host student in the designated country of exchange (Spain, France, Germany, Italy, or Japan). After getting to know their students through email, texting, and social media for a few months, the international students come stay in Vermont for three or so weeks in the fall. After their time in Vermont is over, they return home. In the winter of that year, SBHS students travel to stay in their host’s houses for another three or so weeks and experience a cultural immersion like no other.
As a junior, I was apprehensive to apply for the TIE program. I didn’t like the idea of being in a stranger’s home for three weeks away from my family, nor the idea of falling behind in schoolwork. However, I loved the Spanish language. I opted to apply in hopes of practicing my Spanish dialect and hopefully spending time with my friends in Europe.
I gained more from my TIE experience than I ever could have imagined. I was fortunate enough to have two Spanish exchange students residing at my house for three weeks in September. Getting to know them throughout their time in America made me so excited to see their daily lives in Spain that my prior fears about traveling to a foreign country and staying with strangers were assuaged. By the time we were hugging goodbye as they departed for their home country, I was ready for my impending stay with them in a matter of months.
There was no bad day spent in Spain. I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the cultural immersion. From shadowing my exchange student at her small private school in Salamanca to analyzing paintings done by El Greco in Madrid, I loved it all. I never got bored of learning about how Spain differs from America, because each difference between the two countries was incredibly interesting. I feel lucky that I was given the chance to experience siestas, tapas, and many other Spanish traditions that I would not have had the chance to learn about in America.
A large concern that I had when debating whether or not to apply to the TIE program was that my scarce Spanish vocabulary was not enough to communicate with the locals in Spain. After completing my trip, I feel that my vocabulary and my confidence when speaking Spanish both increased significantly. My host family, Spanish friends, and teachers, were very sociable and understanding. The amount of Spanish I spoke in my host sister’s house pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but I am very fortunate because of the expansion of my Spanish knowledge that came as a direct result of the trip.
If you are debating whether or not to apply to a SBHS TIE program, do it. I traveled to Spain with such a unique and diverse group of SBHS students, yet we all shared an amazing experience that benefited each of us in a different way. The best opportunities to grow come from expanding on your comfort zone and trying something that scares you. Traveling to a foreign country can certainly be scary, but the teachers that came to Spain were like parents to me. As I mentioned previously, I know that I am going to cherish my three weeks in Spain when looking back on senior year for the rest of my life. With that being said, I feel strongly that I would have loved the trip just as much as a sophomore or junior instead. Despite your grade, despite your level in school Spanish classes, I encourage any of you taking a foreign language to apply for an SBHS TIE program.
Contact Theresa Mazza-Anthony at [email protected] to get more information about the TIE program or with application inquiries
Pictures from this winter’s TIE trips to Germany and Spain from the public TIE Facebook page (The International Experience: South Burlington HS)
TIE Germany students completing a team bonding activity at Northern Lights Rock and Ice in Vermont
TIE Germany students with their host students in Germany
TIE Spain students doing some sightseeing in Salamanca, Spain
My two exchange students and I at the welcome brunch at SBHS this past fall