Special bonds form in Mount Pulaski and Spain student exchange here in the U.S.
Part 1: Students quickly settle in, pack in travels and fun


“We don’t meet people by accident. They’re meant to cross our path for a reason.”
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[October 24, 2016]  MOUNT PULASKI -  It’s been said that often times you can meet someone for just a brief moment and they can leave a lasting impression on you. These words certainly ring true during this time of reflecting back on a recent experience that fifteen Mount Pulaski High School students, led by their amazing Spanish teacher Rachel Grunder, shared with thirteen students and two teachers, Ana and Isabel, from Madrid, Spain.

The Spain students recently spent a whirlwind three weeks here in the United States and by the end of the American experience you could tell the students had made life-long friends with the Hilltoppers. It was also evident that the feeling was mutual. Once the group arrived in central Illinois, after months of anticipation, there were lots of hugs and laughs shared as the students got to know each other in person. They bonded very quickly.

The Spaniards and the Hilltoppers were matched up beforehand based on their interests and the teachers involved certainly did a perfect job putting the students together. By the time the three weeks had ended, the group had made quite the tour around Illinois and even the surrounding states.

On their last day in the United States, there were more hugs, more laughs and a ton of tears as the group said goodbye until next summer.

In this exchange, the Hilltoppers will visit Madrid in June of 2017. Thank goodness for social media or it would be a very long and agonizing eight months.
Jamie hosted by Peyton Taylor
Luis hosted by Corey Beccue
Jakub hosted by Sebastian Scassiferro
María hosted by Emma Schoth & Abbey Phillips
Nuria hosted by Faith Doerr
María---yes, there were 2 Marías: hosted by Isabella Wade
Paula hosted by Fikirte Mott and Alyssa Stauffer
Patricia hosted by Jaden Elliott
Elena hosted by Abby Howard
Cristina hosted by Madeline Moody
Miren hosted by Olivia Letterle
Ainhoa hosted by Emily Siebert
Karla hosted by Skylar Hayes

Three crazy, crazy, crazy busy weeks!

The exchange group from Spain arrived in Mount Pulaski on the evening of Saturday, September 10, 2016 and pretty much hit the ground running.

Following a brief reception in the cafeteria at Mount Pulaski High School, the group ventured uptown on the square to check out the annual Mount Pulaski Fall Festival. The next day the students and their host families had time to do whatever they wanted, and for some that included shopping for Homecoming dresses.

During the evening, the group attended a cookout at Pine Lake, located just outside of Mount Pulaski. The weather was perfect that evening and the students and their host families just hung out casually, eating, playing games and talking by the campfire.

While the weeks did include school for the students, there was still plenty of time for field trips. The students traveled to Springfield on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, and visited the Illinois State Capitol building, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, and Scheels.

Then on Sunday, September 18, 2016, the students went on a St. Louis adventure that included a visit to the world famous Arch and a fantastic day at Six Flags Amusement Park. Here the students enjoyed perfect weather again and no waiting in lines, according to Grunder.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the group headed to Chicago and covered a lot of ground in the Windy City. A river and lake tour was on the itinerary in Chicago as well as stops on Michigan Avenue and a thrilling experience at 360 Chicago, which is the Observation Deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building. Here the students experienced an exhilarating one-of-kind attraction called TILT, which allowed them to literally tilt at a 30 degree angle looking out the window high above Michigan Avenue.

High school students and their teachers also love to eat and they were treated to stops at two Chicago favorites, Portillo’s for hotdogs and Giordano’s for that famous stuffed deep dish pizza.

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A neat story came out of the Windy City adventure and Grunder tells it perfectly:

“In fact, when we were in Chicago waiting for the bus, we noticed a couple taking their engagement pictures. The girls were enthralled, and we all found ourselves gawking at them: on DuSable Bridge overlooking the river...it was from a movie.

"Well, I suggested we serenade them. And, it was the SPANIARDS who sifted through their mental playlists and chose the perfect Ed Sheeran song for us to sing. Most of us were like: Um, what song? By whom? But, we played along. And, the entire group squished together overlooking the couple on the bridge and we, well the Spaniards, serenaded them.

"It was lovely. The young man actually took his fiancé and started dancing. We were so into it, that none of them took out our cameras....unheard of, right?

"Sorry we missed the chance to capture it, but also pleased to know we all enjoyed a spontaneous moment together.”

"Oh, that perfect Ed Sheeran song was “Photograph” and Abby Howard did manage to take a selfie with the couple in the background, the only known photograph found from that experience."

The students also enjoyed Homecoming at Mount Pulaski High School while they were here.

According to Grunder, the Spaniards LOVED all of the Homecoming events and especially the dance, which took place on September 24, 2016, at the Mount Pulaski High School. The theme for the dance was “The Great Gatsby” and the students looked magnificent all dressed to the nines.

The Spaniards had even practiced a dance before coming to the United States and they entertained everyone at the Homecoming Dance with their spectacular dance performance.

The group also visited Bloomington-Normal and made a trip to the Illinois State University campus on September 28, 2016. The campus tour was shortened by rain, unfortunately, but it was the only day of rain while the Spaniards were here, so that was definitely a positive. The students managed to have fun rock climbing indoors anyway that day at Upper Limits in Bloomington and also visited some nearby Route 66 sites for pictures, according to Grunder.

[Teena Lowery]



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