SPHS students spend spring break among flamenco dancers, cathedrals

What does it take to turn small town farm kids into world travelers? A spring break trip to southern Spain has a handful of St. Paul High School students well on their way.

From the intense passion of flamenco dancers to the soaring heights of ancient cathedrals, 16 St. Paul High School students spent spring break soaking in the culture and sights of southern SUBMITTED - Soaking up the culture - The group of St. Paul High School students, teachers and chaperones  on a trip to Spain pose in front of the third largest cathedral in the world, located in Seville.

The group spent nine days abroad touring six cities in Spain and venturing out on a day trip into the exotic culture of Morocco. The students were accompanied by trip organizer and SPHS career education teacher Jeff Hulbert and his wife, Melanie.

When SPHS junior Karina Diaz’s mom dropped Karina off at the airport before the trip she told her mom that this was just the first of many international trips she hoped to take.

“One of my goals is to get the kids to become travelers,” Jeff Hulbert said. “I want to take them on a trip and guide them along the trip. But by the end of the trip, I would hope that they could go to a country by themselves and use the metro, order food and they could figure out the city maps.”

For many of the students, Spain marked the farthest they had ever been from home. Being away brought a host of new experiences, from hearing Spanish spoken everywhere to trying unusual food.

“It was really interesting,” said senior Karen Anaya about Spanish food. “All the different tastes. I really liked the soups and everything else.”

“I’m a really picky eater and I basically had to try new things,” junior Brandi Turpen said. “It was stepping out of my own bounds and a total introduction to new things — and I loved it.”

Diaz said one of her most memorable moments was watching a flamenco show danced by gypsies in an ancient cave on the outskirts of Granada.

Several students on the trip spoke fluent Spanish but noticed big differences between their Spanish and that of native Spaniards.

“It’s actually kind of different from the Spanish that we know,” Anaya said. “They use different words to express themselves and the accent was different, too. It was harder for me to understand it, but I could still get what they were saying.”

The biggest culture shock came during the day trip to Morocco when the group wove through a labyrinth of narrow streets past vendors selling dead chickens hanging from the ceiling and piles of fish heaped on the ground.

“Where some of our kids were able to understand Spanish and get the gist of things — read a sign and recognize words — in Morocco, you just didn’t recognize anything,” Hulbert said. “It really was immersion into a whole new world, which is just awesome.”

“I think this (trip) will really help us if any of us get a job at a business where you have to travel,” Anaya said. “Now we are more comfortable at an airport and finding where we need to go. Before, even if I travel with my family, my dad does everything. I didn’t really pay attention to anything. But when it was just a group of students, we each had to pay attention to see where we needed to go. I think that really helped us.”

“I think we were all impacted very well by going to a new place,” Turpen said. “We would all want to travel more. We don’t just want to be in our hidey-holes here in Oregon forever.”

Turpen said she thought going on the trip would satisfy her urge to travel abroad. Instead, it had the opposite effect.

“I didn’t expect to want to travel much,” she said. “But now I just want to see the rest of the world even more.”

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