First day of school and we were already buzzing with excitement. Early in the morning, we met Santi, one of the Spanish organizers, and he gave us directions on how to get from the hotel to Iles de Valdemoro. The remainder of the international students, more precisely the Spanish and Turkish students who had already arrived at the high school, were introduced to us. Before each country’s presentation, which was much anticipated, we held casual conversations to get to know each other. We were amazed by the academic differences, and, to be quite honest, it was a little challenging to understand how their class numbering worked. The day continued with a brief tour of the school grounds to familiarize ourselves with the facilities. One of the highlights of the day was being able to play chess in the schoolyard with other exchange students and simply enjoy the break.
After school, we took the bus back to the hotel in Pinto, where we stayed for a while before deciding to visit Madrid. Later, we traveled to Atocha by train, where we marveled at the breathtaking views from the tropical station. Following that, we decided to eat at a traditional restaurant, where we tried our first traditional paella. Our taste buds were in awe of the incredible flavor of the food!
(Isabela G, 10th grade, Spiru)
The second day came, and we arrived at the school very early, excited for the new day. Now that all of the countries were here, we had another round of presentations and then we were taken on a more detailed tour of the school grounds, where they mostly focused on all the laboratories and activity rooms they had. After that we started with the programming, though we were only introduced to the basics of Python, as team work would start on Thursday.
Once the school day was finished, we took the train and headed to Madrid once again. We walked through the promenade, browsing through all the cute stores before we finally sat down to eat at a traditional Mexican place. The food and drinks were all incredibly good and surprisingly cheap, and we continued visiting on a full stomach. We decided to head towards the royal palace, and we arrived there just as the sun was setting, painting the sky gorgeous shades of pink and orange. It was a truly breathtaking view, and I vividly remember a man playing guitar as the clouds swirled and the sky got darker. It was my favorite moment of the whole trip.
Because it had already gotten very late, we made our way back to the train station and headed to bed, a fresh batch of memories on our minds.
(Lara I, 10th grade, Spiru)
On Wednesday, the Spanish coordinators decided to take us on a trip to Toledo which would last throughout the whole day. Right before we arrived in the city a local guide joined the bus and started presenting general information about Toledo such as it’s architectural provence and basically just about the beginnings of the city as it was once the capital of Spain. The guide also explained to us the fact that in the city several religious changes were made throughout time, being a cultural spot of high interest for the Hebrew, Islamic and Christian. After showing the city from the outside, the local guide presented us with the UNESCO protected city, with all its secrets and perks. I was surprised by many surroundings but what I liked the most was the Art School and also the cathedral of Toledo, Santa Iglesia, considered to be by the third biggest gothic church in the world. After the visit, the teachers gave us a 2 hour break in which we would have time to eat and maybe look around for some souvenirs. Eventually my team decided we were kind of hungry and searched for the best rated restaurant nearby. Seeing that the Macedonians were also trying to get a bite of something as well, we invited them to stay with us. They didn’t mind. It was a lot of fun staying with them and after trying some Valencian paella, we decided to try Toledo’s renowned marzipan which turned out to be delightful. On our way to the bus we had to use several escalators due to how high the historical city is situated, unlike the industrial part of it. We actually had a lot of fun.
(Matei S, 12th grade, Spiru)
The 4th day spent in the city near the Spanish capital, Valdemoro, began with one of the most important activities, namely the distribution of the members of the 5 teams for the final project. The activity took place in a large hall, with round tables, in the school in Valdemoro. 5 teams of 5 students were formed, one from each country. Each team received 2 work laptops. The theme of that day was making a drawing using the Python programming language, after which, at the end of the assigned type, each participant had the right to vote for their favorite drawing, but without having the opportunity to vote for their own drawing. Socialization was quite difficult because the Romanian and Macedonian teams were the only teams that could socialize in English. However, the project was completed.
After the workshops, Santi, the Spanish coordinator, led us to the train station, from where we took the train to the center of Madrid. Although it wasn’t the first time we arrived in the city center, this time we were together with all the team members, and the Spanish students, our hosts, gave us a tour of the most important monuments in Madrid, and told us about each one separately. We continued with a short visit to the Royal Chapel of Madrid, which is inside the Royal Palace, then we would walk through the Sabatini Gardens in front of the Royal Palace, which are very large and extremely beautiful. Because we had about an hour and a half left, we ended the evening with a shopping session. In the center of Madrid we were able to walk through many shops, some of which we can also find in Bucharest, such as Zara, Pull and bear, Bershka, and buy some memories and souvenirs for ourselves and for people dear to us.
(Delia N, 8th grade, Spiru)
The 5th and final day of our learning experience began with another team activity. After a brief lesson offered by Santi, the Spanish supervisor, we were tasked with creating a program meant to alleviate the light pollution in a park. In the given scenario, we had to manage 2 meters that detailed darkness level and energy use, the darkness increased depending on if the area around our character was illuminated or not and the energy depended on how many lights were active at once. Thus, we had to position the light poles in such a way that our character was illuminated using the least number of lights possible. To win this activity, we had to keep the meters constant for as long as possible, in the end, the winning team achieved a time of 129 seconds. Even though communication within the teams was quite lacking seeing as not all members spoke English and had varying levels of knowledge in programming, we managed to complete the task. After this activity, we gathered in the main hall of the school to receive our diplomas and take photos with the organizers. Next, we went back to the hotel to prepare for the goodbye party that took place at the school that night. When we got there, we had the chance to say our goodbyes to the Macedonian team with whom we socialized the most during this experience, seeing as they were the only ones that could understand English. All in all, it was an eventful last day and it felt very rewarding to finally receive the diploma.
(Alexandru S, 12th grade, Spiru)