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An International Adventure

Year 10 Sunderland student, Akarsh Shankar shares his unique insights from studying abroad in Madrid, Spain at Kings College School Soto De Viñuelas – The British School of Madrid.

For many, the thought of travelling to studying abroad in a foreign country would be a daunting prospect, but with the right support systems in place, (and friend Jasmer to accompanying him)! Akarsh discovered it to be a truly enriching experience and one that he would absolutely recommend to his fellow students.

Arkash Shankar - Sunderland Year 10 Exchange Student

Read on to hear Akarsh's full account of his incredible five-week adventure!

I had a great start to the year where I participated in a Global Exchange Program through Inspired. My close friend Jasmer decided to join me, which made my experience more enjoyable. It was an awesome four-week program and we even stayed on for an extra week to explore the country, including going to Barcelona.

The purpose of my trip was to experience the learning, lifestyle and culture of an international country, and ultimately the whole experience heavily contributed to my self-development. It gave me independence which was improved by the encouragement in participation and confidence of my capabilities in schooling. 

I stayed in the school’s boarding facility; Tenbury House. Arriving there for the first time was exciting, but with that excitement came nerves. I was nervous coming into a completely new environment out of my comfort zone and staying for a month, but something that I soon realised was that staying with 3 roommates really changed my perspective on it. I initially thought that it would be hard living in the same room with other people and sharing things like a bathroom, but now after experiencing sharing a room, I learned that no matter who they are you started to develop a connection with them, and after repeatedly being with them and having a routine, it starts to feel homely.

The boarding residence was a very carefree environment with great facilities including a dining room, kitchen and laundry room, and an entertainment room which included a lounge area, pool table and table tennis table. One of the many boarding activities, boxing, was held there, which was one of the programs I took part in. The food served, which had a set time for all meals including snacks, was very nutritious and delicious. In addition to that, snacks and staples were always available. Something very valuable within the boarding house is that they are always making sure that we are taken care of. To create a culture, activities are run within the boarding students whether that’s a movie night at the residence or out for a restaurant in Madrid city. 
Originally, I was placed in year 9 because in Spain the school year starts later than in New Zealand; but since I had already completed year 9 at ACG Sunderland, I wanted to move up a year to challenge myself and learn something new. This was a success, and I got moved up to year 10, which turned out to be awesome because year 10 was the year you could start picking subjects rather than taking everything.  Maths, English, science, PE and Spanish were compulsory, and on top of that we could pick three optional subjects from arts, social sciences, languages, and technology. I chose to pick economics, geography and media studies; unique subjects to learn something new and interesting. There was also a program called ‘Global Perspectives’ which helped develop skills like collaboration, research and critical thinking with a focus on global ideas and issues. 

The overall school structure is quite similar with six hour-long periods in a day. The school day is longer, starting at 9:15 a.m. but ending at 4:35 p.m.  At first, the school buildings were confusing, and the school felt huge.  Eventually though, I understood the system of classrooms, floors, and building names. The teachers were all really kind, supportive, understanding, and ready to help; and the facilities in the school were impressive. The school campus consisted of the boarding house; sports and science building which included laboratories, a sports hall, gymnasium, indoor heated swimming pool and a fitness centre; and the main school building consisted of four floors of classrooms; a dining hall; a room that can seat 100 people, dedicated to just cycle tests and exams; an auditorium; and a senior study centre. Outside there were also several astroturf’s, playgrounds, tennis courts and even a stables and riding school. 

Learning in a non-English-speaking country was fun and challenging. One of the reasons I chose to go to Spain was because we take Spanish classes at Sunderland already! Going to Madrid gave me a great opportunity to apply my knowledge practically, whether that was in school or out on the streets of the city. I don’t know to speak fluent Spanish, so learning to communicate with fluent Spanish speakers who don’t know English was another skill I learnt. 

In boarding it was important that I stayed organised, since living in a room of four people can get messy. The staff did room checks for cleaning purposes, so it was important that we stayed on top of it. We also had certain days for laundry so making sure things were labelled and not getting mixed up with other roommates was beneficial. There was a consistent routine every day which meant time management was vital. Making sure we were waking up, getting to breakfast, school and other meals and activities was a skill I gained. One of the biggest things I learnt was being independent from my family for the first time in my life. Being able to manage myself whether it was packing, organising things in my room, preparing the things I needed for school, or using public transport. A unique physical skill that I really enjoyed learning for the first time was boxing. The coach was very experienced and skilled, even running his own boxing gym. Finally, I was passionate about the new subjects I tried which made what I learned more valuable and enjoyable. 

In conclusion, the start I had to year 10 was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was very fortunate to be part of Inspired’s Global Exchange Program, and live life as an international student. I’m grateful to ACG Sunderland for being part of the Inspired group and providing me with the opportunity for this incredible journey. - Akarsh Shankar, Year 10

The Inspired Group understands that Student horizons are significantly broadened through enriching experiences, while exploring new and exciting environments, students develop the lifelong skills of independence, confidence, and resilience to help them flourish and succeed.  This is why we provide students with the opportunity to take part in international exchange programmes ranging from 4 weeks to an entire year. 

To find out more about opportunities to take part in an exchange experience click here.