Embracing Spanish Culture: A Journey of Discovery in Madrid and Barcelona
Ruth Urzola Teacher Experience in Spain

As part of her Round Square teacher experience, CDS Lower School Spanish Teacher, Ruth Urzola embarked on an enriching journey to Spain, delving deep into its vibrant culture and language. Over two weeks, Ruth had the privilege of immersing herself in the rich tapestry of Spanish history, art, and tradition while exploring iconic landmarks in Madrid and Barcelona. Read about her journey in her own words below:

I am immensely grateful to CDS for allowing me to participate in this enriching exchange program. I extend special thanks to Brad Hayes, our CDS International Programs Coordinator, for his unwavering support and trust throughout this journey and to Hector, the Round Square coordinator at SEK, for his invaluable assistance and guidance during my stay in Madrid.

During my time at SEK International Schools, I had the privilege of immersing myself in a dynamic educational environment deeply rooted in innovation, inclusivity, and personalized learning. Collaborating with Camilo Jose Cela University, SEK International Schools boast over 130 years of educational excellence, serving a diverse student body of over 7,000 students from 80 nationalities across multiple campuses worldwide.

At SEK International Schools, the 'Intelligent Classroom' framework introduced by SEK Education Group founder, Felipe Segovia Olmo, continues to revolutionize education. This framework, coupled with the Future Learning Model, prioritizes flexible, personalized, and collaborative learning approaches aimed at developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and entrepreneurship skills in students. SEK's curriculum focuses on concept exploration and skill development, emphasizing bilingual and international education to foster a diverse and inclusive learning environment. Recognized as one of the top 35 IB Schools globally, SEK International Schools offer the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and a range of activities promoting the SEK Profile, including Global Citizenship and Social Innovation.

My observations at SEK highlighted the school's immersion approach to language learning, facilitating impressive bilingualism among students. The school's open learning spaces encourage collaboration and personalized attention, complemented by innovative pedagogical outings and cultural exchanges like Erasmus Plus. My time at SEK was incredibly enriching. It allowed me to immerse myself in the daily operations of the school, from observing classroom dynamics to engaging in fruitful discussions with educators across disciplines. The school also provides high-performance athletes with the opportunity to combine their studies with sports in a personalized manner, fostering their all-around development.

During my observation at SEK International Schools, I was struck by the impressive verbal fluency and eloquence displayed by students proficient in two languages, Spanish and English, with some even mastering a third language. The immersion approach to language learning offered at SEK provides a notable advantage to students compared to other educational institutions. To cater to students who are not proficient in either of the two languages, the school offers individual or small group classes tailored to their needs, ensuring they can catch up with their peers. SEK's open learning spaces facilitate collaboration between students and grade teachers, allowing for personalized attention and support. Additionally, the integration of pedagogical outings such as Outdoor Learning Forest School, La Goleta, and SummerSEK provides students with unique real-world experiences that complement classroom learning.

The school places a strong emphasis on learning through curiosity and exploration in real-world contexts. Through cultural exchanges like Erasmus Plus, students engage in second language practice in authentic settings, living and learning alongside international classmates. These experiences, including collaborations with NGOs in India, serve to broaden students' perspectives and deepen their understanding of global issues. Innovative approaches to education, such as sensory classrooms designed to stimulate and relax students, and the use of Harkness Tables to encourage critical thinking and teamwork, are notable highlights of SEK's educational model. The student-led radio station, where students create podcasts, serves as a platform for student expression and creativity in both languages.

Overall, SEK International Schools offer a dynamic and inclusive learning environment that prioritizes personalized learning, real-world experiences, individual freedom, and holistic development to prepare students for success in an increasingly interconnected world. SEK Education believes in individual freedom, fostering a supportive and inclusive community where every student can thrive.

During the second week, as part of my Round Square teacher experience, I, embarked on an enriching journey to Spain, immersing myself in its vibrant culture and language. I had the privilege of delving deep into the rich tapestry of Spanish history, art, and tradition while exploring iconic landmarks in Madrid and Barcelona.

From the awe-inspiring architecture of La Sagrada Familia Church and the whimsical designs of Parque Güell to the majestic halls of The Royal Palace and the historic streets of Alcala de Henares, my exploration took me on a captivating journey through Spain's cultural heritage. Each site not only deepened my appreciation for Spanish history and art but also provided valuable experiences that I can incorporate into my teaching at CDS.

Venturing further afield, I explored the serene beauty of Monastery de Montserrat, the lush landscapes of the Royal Botanical Garden, and the tranquil oasis of Parque El Retiro. A visit to Museo Picasso offered insights into the artistic genius of one of Spain's most renowned painters, enriching my understanding of Spanish art and creativity.

Yet, it was not just the landmarks and museums that left a lasting impression on me. Immersing myself in Spanish traditions, I attended a football match and had the honor of meeting Ortega Cano, a celebrated bullfighter, gaining unique insights into the cultural nuances and traditions that shape Spanish society.

As part of the cross-cultural exchange, I had the opportunity to participate in a cultural field trip to Toledo with a delegation from India, highlighting the importance of multicultural learning in education. Witnessing the interactions between students from different backgrounds and nationalities underscored the value of embracing diversity in the classroom and nurturing global citizenship among students.

Reflecting on my experiences, I am inspired to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students at CDS. Through pedagogical outings, fostering communication between students from SED International School and CDS, and creating an interactive and inclusive classroom environment, I aim to cultivate my students' language proficiency and cultural awareness. I believe that by embracing Spanish culture and fostering global perspectives, my students will become proficient Spanish speakers and empowered global citizens ready to thrive in an interconnected world.

Thank you to Ruth Urzola for sharing her experience with us and to Bray Hayes, our CDS International Programs Coordinator for being our Round Square ambassador. Being part of the Round Square network has enriched not only our students and faculty but has reinforced our IB World School vision and approach.