Often, we hear of students studying abroad, but how might teachers and faculty go about experiencing new cultures that can add value to their classrooms back home?
We spoke with Greg Semplice, an avid traveler and high school teacher, and discussed his self-led program EdOdyssey had designed for him while exploring Spain this past July. Greg was able to experience lots of history, cuisine, and culture, and even returned to the U.S. with a few unexpected impressions.
This past July, Greg and his wife spent three weeks traveling to Madrid, Santiago, and Barcelona, Spain. We want to share Greg’s story with you today so you can catch a glimpse into his wonderful experience exploring Spain!
A Lifetime of Traveling
Greg has always been interested in traveling, which began when he was invited on a cross-country camping trip as a child and visited over 25 states. He reminisced how, “[the road trip] wet my appetite for traveling and I have always loved it”.
Since he has been teaching, Greg has been on class trips, including Washington DC and Quebec, as well as overseas trips, such as taking 27 students to Spain in 2013, and teaching in Peru with EdOdyssey in 2016. Greg’s passion for travel has been a major component of his life, as well as his career as an educator.
New & Old Connections Overseas
Greg had spent some time at a local high school in Madrid with their vice principal and teacher, and discussed their curriculum and possible plans to do a Skype classroom setup with both schools. It’s a bilingual high school, and as Greg puts it, “learning English is a very positive thing”.
Another exciting venture for Greg during his time in Madrid was meeting up with an old connection. Greg had dinner with a former exchange student from his high school, whom he had gotten to know very well during her time in the States. He had contacted her old homestay family before departing, and reunited with her after 50 years.
There’s something so fulfilling about having friends in other parts of the world, and having travel be the essential piece that establishes new, and old, connections.
Adding Value To The Classroom
Picture a gorgeous and comfortable train ride for a handful of hours as you make your way from Madrid into Santiago de Compostela, one of Spain’s most iconic northern cities.
While visiting Santiago de Compostela, one of the sites that was particularly moving to Greg was Santiago’s Cathedral, which welcomes thousands and thousands of people from around the world annually who hike from different parts in Western Europe.
Greg explained that the Cathedral had, “different roads coming from Portugal, France, other parts of Spain, which was very impressive.'' Greg also brought home a few movies on Santiago and its history so that he could include those in his curriculum with his Spanish classes. Having these experiences gives teachers the opportunity to incorporate other cultures into their curriculum, by bringing parts of the world into their classrooms.
An International Appetite
Barcelona is known for its great cuisine, and Greg and his wife were able to join a cooking class that made homemade paella, which was “phenomenal and we absolutely loved it”. They also attended a wine and tapas tour, and visited 3 to 4 restaurants, sampling different tapas.
Not only did Greg receive plenty of information on Barcelona’s cuisine, but also came back with an urge to cook after purchasing spanish rice to take home to make the perfect paella!
Taking the time to meet locals and be involved in their cooking or learn about customs allows travelers to bring newfound knowledge home and share it with others.
Art is History
While in Barcelona, Greg had a “Gaudi day” where they visited Palau Güell, followed by La Sagrada Familia and Parque Güell. Greg shared that, “La Sagrada Familia blew me away. Wow. That was so incredible. I had done a lot of reading but that doesn’t prepare you for walking into it for the first time...I could’ve spent the whole day there”. Greg got to spend the day observing Gaudi’s works, where poetry has been transformed into breathtaking architecture.
Reflecting on Spain’s Culture
Part of the vibrancy of spain is not only about the architecture, but also the cuisine, and the people themselves. When asked what the most unexpected realization Greg found about Spain’s culture, he replied:
“Their culture is very much more laid back then people are over here [in the United States]. As soon as we’re done here at a restaurant the waiter tells you you’re done, whereas in Spain, you can sit and take your time and the food is made so fresh. They’re much more of a relaxed atmosphere, and we didn’t feel pressured to do too much.”
Another unexpected interaction Greg encountered was his journey to the Cíes Islands while in Santiago de Compostela. The Islands has a limited number of visitors per day and Greg had gotten a bit lost and had asked for help.
A local ran to help get Greg's tickets for the ferry ride before the boat took off, Greg was shocked and thought, “Where in America would they do that? The hospitality and compassion here is great”.
Finding the Right Fit With EdOdyssey
Greg enjoyed spending time in three different location, and felt a week in each was just right.
He spoke of how the pace of the program, “...was nice because it gave us some time to explore things in each place, and we took our time”.
When asked what he would say to someone showing interest in a self-led program, Greg advised prospective faculty to, “Be adventurous and take the time to do a lot of research and everyone is different. Yeah, don’t be afraid to try these things, and we had never been to certain places, but research with books on the locations. And you just have to explore and plan ahead! Don’t be afraid to try new things!”
Interested in customizing your own program? Check out “Four Major Benefits of Customizable Programs” to find out more on what you can gain from EdOdyssey’s programs!