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Saints Enjoy School’s First Trip to Madrid, Spain

Saints Enjoy School’s First Trip to Madrid, Spain

When students in our upper-level Spanish courses traveled to Madrid during March break, the experience wasn’t just very good—it was muy bien!

The first-ever Canterbury trip to Spain’s capital city gave them the perfect opportunity to interact in Spanish with tour guides, shop merchants, and other residents. The itinerary was purposefully designed by Director of International Travel Programs, Form Dean, and Language Teacher Julio Omaña P ’19, ’20 to allow students to see and experience what they learned in class throughout the nine days. 

“The students did a wonderful job engaging with people and in different activities while we were there,” Julio said. “They dove right into the culture and had ample practice speaking the language, and it showed. There was a notable difference between how much they could understand from the first tour guide versus the one we had at the end of the trip. They clearly became more comfortable using their Spanish along the way.”

The student travelers—Elizabeth “Liz” Carlson ’25, Elena Chowdhury ’25, Patrick Heslin ’24, Rahee “Ren” Kim ’25, Isabella Mavuli ’25, and Noel Schaab ’25—were wholly immersed in the rich culture, from local markets selling their favorite “jamon” to making their own fresh “zumo de naranja” to the ancient architecture surrounding them.

The many memorable stops on their journey included:

  • Three renowned museums—Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Sorolla, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

  • The historic buildings and cobblestone streets of Old Madrid

  • A theater company to see the dramatic play La casa de Bernarda Alba

  • Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote

  • Santiago Bernabéu Stadium for a Real Madrid soccer match (the home team won 4-0!)

  • The sprawling, Gothic-style Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and of Saint Fructus in Segovia 

The group also spent quality time with Canterbury alumni living in Spain, including José Álvarez ’91, Olga López Olarte ’94, Carlos Sánchez-Tejera ’96, and Diego Paredes ’22, who is from Ecuador but studying in Madrid. Our students developed an especially strong bond with Olga’s two children, ages 16 and 14, who helped show them around an open-air market and other parts of the city.

Olga was so delighted at the chance to interact with current students from her alma mater that she was moved to tears by the experience. “I have no words to express how happy their visit made me,” she said. “The students were very friendly and well-mannered. My children had a great time with them and exchanged their accounts on Instagram. Living at Canterbury was the happiest time of my life. I told Julio the School always has a home here with us!”

The trip was emotional for the visitors as well. This was Ren’s first time in Europe, so she was grateful to experience as much of the region as possible. “The traditions and cultural differences are fascinating, and the city is so beautiful,” she said. “This trip motivated me to consider going abroad more to study and explore the world. I recommend people get out of their comfort zones and see different cultures because the world is a beautifully diverse place.” 

Patrick was in complete agreement. “I immersed myself fully in the expansive culture of Madrid. Visiting museums such as the Prado was truly remarkable—a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he shared. “Admiring the works of El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya was particularly captivating and left a lasting impression on me. This cultural exploration of Madrid created unforgettable memories that will stay with me for a lifetime.” 

And while Julio had previously visited Madrid, he was just as excited to experience it again through the eyes of his students. “I had a strong sense of joy and satisfaction being there and sharing that time with them,” he said.