25 October 2018

We arrived in the early hours of a cold, wet Friday morning in Santiago. Groups of families huddled around the bus to welcome us and take us home to a variety of different houses and flats dotted in and around the city. The first noticeable cultural difference was that Spanish people are quite happy to have dinner at half past midnight, the next, at breakfast, that they make cereal very differently –  pouring the milk into the bowl before the cereal! Another strange thing was that on the first day it seemed that all of us, completely independently, were given fried octopus to eat! Strange as these things are, in general we found the food in Spain absolutely luscious – amazing seafood and great tapas.

Over the first long bank holiday weekend, the families organised lots of exciting activities like go-karting, trips to the beach and the huge shopping centre, several meetings-up in town (lots of conversation over poorly salted crisps) and football matches at the university campus. The latter made for some very exciting times and included the skilful yutes of Inglaterra demolishing the Spaniards in multiple games. All in all we would describe it as one of the best weekends we’ve ever had. 

The icing on the cake came with the dawn of Monday 15 October: Spain v England. Which Gibraltar-themed country would conquer? Even the mild temperatures could not keep the heat from rising. We all watched the game in a room above a kebab shop (yes, strange) in the centre of Santiago (with Sra Payne and Sra Fraile camped outside!). There was a lot of noise: the first half, the room erupted into English joy, the second, it was filled with lesser Spanish relief. Score: 3-2 to England; and so, to us, Spanish kebabs will always symbolise English footballing fortune.

The rest of the week consisted of activities in the school (which is a collection of really modern and high-tech buildings) – a dance workshop (“best UK movers in all the years of the Exchange” – honestly), a Spanish general knowledge quiz, an introduction to traditional folk music instruments (although actually the tambourine was nothing new!), a few lessons (Biology, PE, Economics and Maths – we understood much more than we thought we would!), and of course the inevitable football and basketball played in the playground before lunch. We also had a fantastic trip to A Coruña – sun at last! – and another to one of Cristóbal Colón’s (now we know he’s not called Columbus) boats at Bayona.

The most important thing to be said is that we made some really great friendships with lots of our Spanish partners – and are really looking forward to welcoming them back here in late February.

Written by Alex Hankinson, Charlie Masters and Jasper Rolls

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