Case study: Salamanca, Spain

Date Posted: 05/08/2015

School: St Augustine’s Priory, Ealing, London
Subject: Modern Languages, Spanish
Key Stage: 4 & 5
Number of pupils: 30

In an age of increasingly stringent safeguarding policies and risk assessments, overseas visits that involve staying with a host family might initially be viewed as a bridge too far. However, with the right planning they can provide students with a truly authentic experience that can never be replicated in hotels.

St Augustine’s Priory, a Catholic, independent day school for girls, is a keen advocate of homestays and a recent trip demonstrates how successful – and safe – they can be.

The Ealing-based school works with Educational Spain, the only UK study travel company to specialise exclusively in trips to Spain. In addition to offering a selection of destinations and programmes, the company can organise bespoke packages to suit specific school requirements that cover a variety of subjects including Science, Religious Education, Art and Design, History and PE.

The aim of St Augustine’s Priory was to study the world’s second most widely spoken language. A group of 30 students and three teachers from the school visited Salamanca, two hours’ drive from Madrid, for a five-day language trip which involved staying with host families in pairs or groups of three. The students took part in language lessons in the mornings and cultural activities running into the late evening.

“Homestays are essential for language students"

Ari Alejandro, head of Modern Languages, said: “Homestays are essential for language students and they can still adhere to all the safeguarding policies put in place to protect our young people by partnering with reputable organisations within the host country.

“Staying with a host family allows students to completely immerse themselves in the language and culture. They pick up everyday language uses that can be bypassed in the classroom, as well as subtle nuances of cultural life that they would otherwise not notice. Staying in a hotel, we find, greatly decreases the opportunity to engage in these linguistic and cultural interactions.”

The historic university city of Salamanca is a popular setting for Spanish and international students. Ari said: “It is a fantastic place to bring a group. The student population gives the city a safe and youthful vibe. Salamanca, in particular, offered our girls something extra; independence. In the mornings, students made their own way from their homestays to the language school.

After lessons they went back to their families for lunch and, who knows, maybe a cultural siesta. They then returned for an evening session of cultural activities.

“We teamed up with the Don Quijote language school in Salamanca, an internationally recognised organisation which allocated us our homestay families and arranged our activities.

We did paella making, a tapas-tasting restaurant crawl, a tour of Salamanca’s historic sights, a visit to the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and we even managed to fit in a stop in Madrid on the way back.”

Ari concluded: “There is something about getting on a plane which enhances the school trip experience and visiting Salamanca, in particular combined with staying with a host family, brings all the necessary elements together to guarantee an unforgettable educational experience.”

Back in the classroom

Subject: Spanish

There are a whole host of options for following up after a language trip. Students can share the new vocabulary they have learnt with the rest of their class using tools like flashcards, and practice new words and sayings using role play scenarios.

When a partner school has been involved, as in the case of St Augustine’s Priory, the two partner schools could exchange materials back in the classroom, such as viewpoints on world events like the World Wars or other topical news, to compare and contrast outlooks.  

For more information visit

School Travel Organiser's Guide