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Submitted photo Perham High School students Alexis Peichel, McKenzie Leslie, Tanya Berns, Suzanne Coleman, Chelsea Honer, Zac Campana and Nick Honer sit on a bench in the Plaza de Espana, which has different benches representing regions of Spain.

10 days in Spain: Perham High School students take a trip to remember

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Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

Seven Perham High School students got a first-hand experience of Spanish culture this summer. The students, along with Spanish teacher Amy Haire and a chaperone, spent 10 days abroad in Spain.

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They sampled traditional Spanish cuisine, browsed vendors along narrow streets and navigated through the metro train system. They skirted around protesters objecting the shaky economy, and explored historical castles, churches and gardens throughout seven cities.

June 19-29, Haire brought Perham students Alexis Peichel, Zac Campana, Nick Honer, Chelsea Honer, McKenzie Leslie, Suzanne Coleman and Tanya Berns to tour Spain. Haire and Peichel reminisced during an interview last week.

Peichel said it was interesting to see the buildings and culture that teachers had told her about during her years in Spanish class. Spanish is currently the only foreign language taught in Perham schools, first offered in middle school and also available at the high school.

The group's days in Spain were filled with walking and bus tours, spotlighting many towers, castles and churches throughout the country. At one point, the group climbed 35 stories up a tower in order to get an eagle's eye view of the city below.

Both Haire and Peichel agreed that Spain has amazing architecture. Most of the historical buildings are huge, with traditional bright tile work and complex designs.

"Everything is so intricate and big," Peichel said.

La Sagrada Familia, a Catholic Church, rises up out of the city above all other buildings, offering an ornate example of architectural excellence. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in the late 1800s, the spiraling towers are still under construction. It began being built in 1883, but at the time of Gaudi's death in 1926, the building was only a quarter of the way to completion. Construction continues to this day, and building should be near completion by 2026.

Another memorable spot that the group toured was a huge garden complex in Barcelona called the Paqrue Guell, also designed by Gaudi. The kids admired the stone and tile arches, houses and statues built many years ago. The longest bench in the world also weaves its way through the complex, offering a spot for viewers to sit and take in the sights.

The group also visited the site of the 1992 Olympics, saw the Holy Grail and swam in the Mediterranean Sea.

Haire said the trip really opened student's eyes about a culture and area far different from home.

Thanks to a donation from the 549 Foundation, the group took the opportunity to watch some traditional Spanish activities, such as a Flamenco dance.

"It was definitely a cultural highlight," Haire said.

Peichel had her own personal highlight - she participated in a dolphin show at the Valencia Aquarium.

Some students also took part in a fish spa, in which they put their feet in a fish tank and let fish eat the dead skin off their feet.

"It tingled," Peichel said. "It felt like my feet were falling asleep."

Peichel said she learned a lot of things on her trip, like how professional Spaniards dress. They wouldn't dream of wearing jogging pants around town.

Peichel also didn't realize how many different versions of the Spanish language there were; each region spoke a slightly different dialect.

A group of students from Perham visit a Spanish-speaking country every couple of years. Four years ago, a group went to Mexico. The next trip is tentatively planned to Costa Rica.

The trip is paid for individually, with some students saving for more than a year in order to go.

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