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Students' Impressions of Aviles

Ericka Bancks
St. Joseph Academy

Spain is a place of beauty and enchantment where the air is always cool, but you are warmed by the friendly hospitality. When I first arrived in Spain, I was greeted with many smiling faces. There were also reporters everywhere that kindly interviewed us on Spanish TV. Ever since that first day all of the students have been showered with gifts and still followed with the video cameras. The people here are so generous and have done everything they could to make us feel comfortable.

Throughout our many excursions, I’ve had the chance to see the breathtaking sites of Asturias. I’ve hiked up a mountain for a picnic lunch and looked on for miles from the top. While visiting the ancient ruins, I marveled at the age of this civilization and country that goes back not hundreds but thousands of years. It has been an exhilarating experience viewing the mountains while swimming in the chilly ocean waters. Traveling around this beautiful country has been an unforgettable experience.


Danielle Brewer
St. Augustine High School

Spain is the most generous place I have ever been in my life. Every where our group goes, we are welcomed with open arms and showered with gifts and pleasantries. The people are very patient and understanding when we mispronounce or misuse words. Everyone wants to make sure we are as comfortable as possible.

Everyday we travel by bus or foot to different places. We’ve climbed mountains, met officials in different cities, gone to the beach, and my favorite going to a volleyball game on personal invite by España’s team! We’ve also all improved on our Spanish, being surrounded by it constantly.

I think one of the hardest things to endure, along with being so far from home, is adjusting to their eating habits. They are as follows: In the morning we have a small breakfast of cereal and fruit. Then mid morning, we have a snack. Lunch is around 2:00pm, and is the largest meal of the day. It has three courses of meat and potatoes, then dessert. I haven’t seen a green vegetable in days. Mid afternoon another snack, then dinner at around 10:00pm.

All of the students here are excited about coming to America. We are constantly telling them how things are different and what we will be doing while there. I just hope we can show them the same endless gratitude that they have shown us.

I wanted to share a few of our experiences and at the same time, thank the City of St. Augustine, and Sister Cities for such a wonderful opportunity, to come and experience a whole new culture while being in the heart of it.

Thank you so much.


Johnathon Cozart
St. Joseph Academy

The sister cities exchange program has been a huge success. This year’s trip to Spain has opened my eyes to a whole new world. The trip has given me a once in a lifetime experience to view and take part in different customs and traditions with my peers.

Here in Spain many activities have been set for us to do. So far, we have traveled as high as the mountains to as low as the beaches. Landscape is much different in Spain than in America. Spain is much more mountainous than Florida.

Trying to increase my Spanish has been a major goal of mine since we have arrived in Spain. There has been a great increase in my Spanish vocabulary. I am becoming more fluent with the language.

As I said before, Spain has opened my eyes to a whole new portion of the world. So far, it has been a great experience for me as well as my peers.

¡Hasta Luego!


Justin Davis
Bartram Trail High School

The experience here so far has been amazing. Everyday, being able to try new things, its great! A problem that arrived in probably every family was communication. Very few, if any, of the parents spoke any English. I, myself, was a little rusty in the Spanish area.

After getting to know the students a little better their true personalities glowed vibrantly. Other than a few misunderstandings, everything has been going pretty smoothly. Before I forget, I must say, "The nights are very lively, especially during the weekend."


Yvonne Davis
Bartram Trail High School

The trip to Spain began slowly. After the delayed plane rides and hours of bad sleep, I became despondent. Was this trip even going to be worth it? Consequently, my attitude quickly changed.

When we arrived in Avilès, we were greeted with an abundance of smiles and kisses. Cameras swarmed us and conversation was non-stop. Not knowing what was going on or what everyone was saying; I simply observed everything with a smile. Hearing the Spanish students speak English words gave me hope. Maybe I could make it through this trip after all!

As we drove home, the family talked excitedly as I took in the scenery. I was surrounded by lush, green trees, and the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen. I smiled subconsciously, and at that moment, I knew that I had made the right decision to come to Spain.


Theresa Doll
St. Joseph Academy

The people here are very hospitable. We received a very warm welcome at the airport. The city gave us statues of Pedro Menendez de Avilés, as well as books on the environment here in Spain. They were in Spanish of course, so reading them has been a bit of a problem, but I have been working on it. We have pins from the cities we have visited plus the one their school gave us so we ‘should’ be up to at least four pins each.

The students from Spain were very creative with the gifts they gave us. They gave us CD’s of their favorite music. I like them very much. Some of the songs are in English such as Blink 182’s Man Overboard, and some of the songs are in Spanish.

The ‘state’, for lack of a better word, of Asturias, the City of Avilés, and the host families have been amazing. All of the students American and Spanish eat lunch together everyday and it is always a cultural experience as are the bus rides to and from our daily destinations.

I am adapting quickly to the culture. The hardest cultural experience I have had to swallow so far may have been OCTOPUS!

¡Hajta Lueu!


Sarah Drysdale
St. Joseph Academy

So far, the trip to Avilés has been fantastic, and I expect it will go on being so. The mountains are quite a change, considering that Florida terrain is 100% 180°. We have visited many Asturian cities and learned many things about the industrial and environmental aspects of this beautiful region. We have climbed a mountain, been accepted by many city halls and officials, had family outings, gone to the beach, and visited natural parks.

I have found that the most rewarding activity is climbing a mountain and being able to see all that surrounds you. There are no city sounds, only those of birds and wind. It is so peaceful. My second favorite part was the beach, of course. It was very fun, although the water was like ice. Playing soccer with my new friends is also a blast! The worst part of the trip is when the bus is hot and stuffy and there is no A/C.


Cassidy Hunt
St. Augustine High School

As we wind up the steep mountain roads the students laugh, talk, and sing despite all the language and cultural barriers. The language barriers aren’t hard to conquer; dictionaries and daily games of charades serve us well. Cultural differences are what snag most of us, and more importantly food differences. The food is good but there seems to be a lack of veggies and an abundance of meat. Not to mention every meal is at least three courses long.

Still despite all the differences there are the things that override the fact that several of us would appreciate a cheeseburger and fries, like the gorgeous landscape, the vista from the top of rocky cliffs dropping to the sea, even more importantly the kindness of the people here. Not one person has been rude; everyone wants to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The people of Asturias have a kindness, gentleness and sense of humor that penetrates all other barriers.


Brooke LaDue
Bartram Trail High School

The land in Spain is beautiful. There are a lot of mountains. Before I came to Spain, I though I would love this country for that reason. I was wrong because I realized a few days after I got here that it wasn’t about the land. The people here are what I love about Spain. All I want to do is spend time with them.

The people of Avilés are very happy with their lives. They are always smiling and laughing. They always offer to share whatever it is that they have with anyone who wants it. If you are thirsty, they will share their drink’ and if you are hungry, they will share their food with you without even thinking about it first. Spain’s people are very generous. For the first time in my life I feel like I could live somewhere else besides America. Spain feels like a second home to me, and all of its people are my family.


Sholem Palevsky
St. Augustine High School

I’ve gotta say this experience has been something else. The first thing an American traveler to Spain has to get used to is the realization that the language you were studying in high school is now all around you, and maybe you can pick at a word or two but most of it whooshes past your head at 45 MPH. Eventually, I got the hang of it and now I can speak Spanish pretty well, of which I’m proud. After all, you get a better sense of the people if you know their language.

The Asturian friends I’ve made are some of the friendliest people I’ve met. You hang with them and you feel like one of the pack. They’re constantly joking around, patting each other on the back, making elaborate handshakes, etc. The kids from St. Augustine and those from Avilés have formed a web of inside jokes, which is just as important as cultural exchange. It strikes me that people are right when they say that Spanish people are more open and intimate with each other. Maybe Americans could use a dose of that.


Lindsey Picard
St. Augustine High School

The student exchange to Spain: this is my once in a lifetime chance. That was how I convinced myself to go, and is now how I’ve convinced myself I want to stay. To tell the truth during the first few days, I wanted my home more than anything. Now, however, my aspect of this trip has made a complete 180° turnaround.

The places we’ve visited are more beautiful than anything you could imagine, and the mountains are taller than the sandunes we have in Florida. Along with the beautiful landscape are beautiful people who go out of their way the whole time to ensure your happiness. Avilés and my host family have made me feel at home and I could not ask for more from this trip. At first I didn’t know I was getting what I should out of it, but now I’ve realized that we live in two completely different cultures and the differences aren’t bad, but fascinating


Stephanie Turner
Pedro Menendez High School

Avilés, Spain: lots of walking and cool temperatures. It’s a different feeling when you can look out a window and see mountains; when you walk down the street and you don’t understand the conversations being discussed; when you meet people who are ready and willing to give you the world.

So far, this adventure has been the best experience I have ever had. I have met so many good people. I have seen so many things that I would have never thought existed. Being in another country has been a great privilege. While enjoying my stay I have also improved on my Spanish language. I only wish I could do this more often.


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