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Students learn about Mexican culture by being there

Seventeen high school students used spring break to learn something extra. The New Richmond students were part of the semi-annual trip to Mexico, coordinated by the Spanish department.

Local high school students have been travelling to Mexico every other year for the past 20 years. This is the first year that New Richmond conducted the trip during spring break. Typically the trip is planned early during summer vacation.

The group, along with three chaperones, traveled to Mexico City for two days, then spent five days in Merida living with host families. They completed their trip with one day on the coast.

Spanish teacher Bev Beuning said the trip always turns out to be an educational experience for students.

"They're using their Spanish and finding out how families in Mexico live," she said. "It was a great trip and the kids were great travelers."

Chaperone Heidi Stephens said for many of the students it was the first time they had ever traveled outside the U.S. For a few, it was the first time they'd ever flown on an airplane.

Beuning said the cultural trip gives students a chance to learn the history of Mexico and the Spanish conquest.

"They may come back to Mexico sometime, but most of them will go to the beach areas which are so Americanized," she said. "You don't get a sense of what Mexico is like in those places."

Student Sara Leahy said she especially enjoyed her stay with her host family.

"We were forced to use our Spanish," she said.

Emily Haugen said being immersed in a foreign language helped the students test their real knowledge of Spanish.

"You feel really smart when you can use all you've learned," she said.

The language training also came in handy when students went to the market.

Andrea Scheder said having to bargain with merchants was a challenge, but fun.

"It was different from the way we shop here," she said.

Among the interesting things students did during their trip was visiting various Mayan ruins and swimming in the underground river system.

"It was straight out of Indiana Jones," Beuning said of the trip underground.

The trip participants climbed four pyramids during their visit to the ruins. The Pyramid of the Sun contained 246 steps, the students proudly reported.

Some of the students gathered Monday night to share photographs from their experience and recount stories from the trip.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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