Not all education can and should happen within the classroom. Sometimes, traveling is the best form of education, as students can get a number of personal and educational benefits from travel. From learning about other cultures first-hand to seeing where historical events took place with their own eyes, educational travel gives students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of art, science, history, and culture in ways they never have before. But the benefits of student travel go far beyond the actual subjects taught during the trip. When students can see how other people live their lives, they learn so much about being able to see through another’s perspective, building their capabilities for compassion and empathy. After all, as previously mentioned, traveling students learn that cultures may have several differences, but they also learn that people from other cultures aren’t so entirely different. When they travel, they learn so much about other people and the world is no longer full of “other” people, but just people, and the world starts to feel like it, as a whole, is home.
Each year Mountain Springs provides an International Trek–an amazing way to experience new cultures, see fantastic sights, eat amazing food and take the learning outside the classroom. This year our adventure took us to Portugal and Spain. We discovered Lisbon exploring through downtown and the viewpoints and waterfront, navigating the subways and buses, Rossio Square, the Arch of Rua Augusta, San Jorge’s Castle, Alfama, The Lisbon Cathedral, the Oceanario (Aquarium), incredible food, even better gelato, the Monument to the Explorers, Belém Tower. And stairs, lots and lots of stairs. Getting out of the big city and into the countryside and Sintra, Portugal just grew more and more beautiful with each passing mile. We loved Quinta Da Regaleira, an awe-inspiring estate complete with a castle, chapel, towers, spiraling wells to descend – and ascend,mini castles and an entire park of lush gardens and underground labyrinths.
Spain was next! Seville during Holy Week is quite an experience. We toured the Seville Cathedral, with a tour of the rooftop and city views, to the Plaza de España where some of us rented the small rowboats in the canal circling the front of the grand edifice. The Plaza’s ornate style and bright tiled lampposts were truly iconic. A day in Malaga was next where we dipped our toes (or crazily for a few, their entire bodies) into the frigid Mediterranean Sea. The final days of the Trek were spent in Madrid and Granada, a beautiful sprawling town, mixing old with new on every block.
For many of our students this was a once in a lifetime experience. Many thanks to Jon Larsen, Executive Director who planned this amazing adventure. We can’t wait to see what next year brings!