Augustinian Spain Exchange

Along with three other Sophomores and two Juniors, I arrived home from my three week Spanish Exchange on February 3rd. From living a week with my first host family, switching to another family, having school from 9-5 most days, and going to a sold out Real Madrid match, here are my thoughts on my experiences abroad.




Looking back now, the preparation side of the exchange was a journey itself filled with hard work and discipline. Applying for the Spanish Exchange was a no-brainer for me. The fact that I loved Spanish culture, food, soccer, and that my brother Jack had a great experience six years ago on his exchange meant that as soon as applications were welcome, I applied. Despite all this, even after being accepted, it never sunk in that I’d be staying 3 weeks in Spain away from my family and school. Luckily for me, I had lots of home to remember because of my exhausting preparation for the trip. The three nights prior to January 13th were absolutely relentless in school and club work. With math midterms, biology labs, and chemistry tests on my mind just days before leaving, the preparation was a big challenge.


First Three Days


I met my first exchange family immediately upon arrival at the Madrid Barajas Airport. For all of us, the greeting experience was a good one, as each family welcomed us into their differently styled Spanish homes like another son. While going through final security prior to meeting the family, it felt funny, but all of us asked Ms. Lohse what the common meeting expressions and etiquette were. She explained to us that it was up to us and included that it truly wasn’t a big deal. So, all of us made a choice between the common word greetings “hola” and “cómo estás” and etiquette like hugging or “Spanish besos” – where a hug is combined with two kisses on both cheeks. Putting all stress aside, I made it home with what I thought would be my family for the next three weeks.

I don’t know how I could even begin to explain the first two days on the weekend. For all of us, the first day went really one way: sleep. This made sense because we went from 8 pm in Philly time to 8 am in Madrid on a six hour flight where it was nearly impossible to sleep thanks to cramped seats and a crying baby. Almost immediately after I’d arrived at the apartment, which was just a 3 minute walk from the monstrous monastery, I took a 2 hour nap and was greeted shortly after by a strong migraine prompted by very little rest and travel induced stress. That night, I’d walked more around the town than I had in the past week or two at Malvern. The town  which I’d lived in, called San Lorenzo del Escorial, was a relatively small town. With no big houses unlike America, the town was a simple yet styled one with apartments and townhouses. Accounting for almost half of the town’s area, El Escorial was a massive 675×528 feet monastery containing libraries, Alfonso XII, catacombs, a monastery, and a basilica. Shortly after calling the night over and walking home, I had a 14 hour overnight sleep to wake up around 12 pm. Just like that, Sunday night came around after a successful day trip to Madrid. My task for the night was getting ready for my first day of Spanish school at Alfonso XII, which I heard was going to be very different. 




School was nothing short of the amazing experience we all expected. Coming from Malvern, the major differences included a longer school schedule, no school sports, less heating, and the teachers moving classrooms while students stayed. Will Daphtary and I, along with our hosts, were in the same class of 4ESO, or, translated from Spanish school grading, sophomores in high school. We stayed each school day from 9-5 with a 30 minute recess and later a 1:30 midday break where students had the choice to go into town to eat, eat school food, or go home. When not in either of these breaks, we would shadow our hosts, sitting in their mostly entertaining classes, or,  take free periods where we would mostly discuss our home lives or funny stuff that just happened. Since my school work was already completed prior to my departure, these free periods became great opportunities for us to connect with one another. 


Will and I shadowed various classes including Technical Drawing, History, English, Religion, Literature, Math, Physical Education, and Technology. While teachers were mainly focused on covering their lessons in rapid Spanish, we felt like the celebrities of every class among the students. Both boys and girls would approach us saying hello or asking about our favorite soccer teams or celebrities from the States and Spain. Most students could ask us in English, and some were even fluent. The most recurring question we experienced was if we had met Mr. Beast, the famous American YouTuber. One time, a group of 2 Bachillerato students (Seniors) visited us during the middle of math class. They couldn’t go inside the classroom during the teacher’s lesson so they kept waving, laughing, and showing photos of the United States flag on their phones while saying “these are the Americans!” While school and the initial days were great, I ended up having to switch my host family for a variety of reasons. 


Switching Host Families


According to the Exchange Coordinator from Alfonso XII, this was the first time a host family was changed during the three week exchange. My switch in host families brought many blessings to my trip. Quickly after meeting the Cano family including Sergio (exchange student), Jorge (older brother), Ana (host mother), and Jose (host father), I built relationships that will last my lifetime. For me, and I could assume the other 5 students, my best school memories came from visiting Jose’s 4th Primary (4th grade) class. With this group of young kids, we played soccer and hockey in physical education class, helped them with their school subjects, signed autographs, and took pictures. Outside of school, I had the opportunity to play four soccer practices with Sergio’s club soccer team named Moralzarzal CF. Since many schools in the area often ended at 5 pm, we had practice from 7:30-9, which was different from the usual 5:30-7 in the United States. My most memorable moment was going to a Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad game, where an almost sold out crowd watched a scoreless but action filled game at the Santiago Bernabéu.


Another one of the biggest changes that came with my switch was living with Luke, another Malvern student. Initially, I was worried that by my arrival I was impeding Luke’s experience with the Cano family. I knew that having both of us in the house brought a more easy or comfortable experience, but it certainly wasn’t what he agreed to in the first place. Both Mr. Cano and Luke dismissed my worries by expressing openness and being welcoming to me. Luke and I shared a loft-styled 3rd floor room that had more than enough space for both of us. Sergio was nearly fluent in English, but his parents, Mr. Cano in particular, spoke mostly Spanish to us. Together, Luke and I were able to handle Spanish in the home very well, with our school taught Spanish skills and occasionally Google Translate. 




All in all, I could not be more grateful to have had this experience. The crumbling worst and exhilarating best moments of my 3 weeks forever changed me as a person religiously, emotionally, and socially with my peers. Many thanks to Profe Lohse, our exchange coordinator who accompanied us for the first four days. Despite leaving just a few days in, she was always there for all of us and certainly helped me when I was in rough moments. For myself, it was in these moments that I learned a valuable lesson of learning how to deal with unexpe

cted adversity in the hardest circumstances. To my 5 other Malvern Brothers, our 5 host families, our Exchange Coordinators, Real Colegio Alfonso XII, and our newly made Spanish friends: thank you for the 3 week exchange of a lifetime.