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Brattleboro Reformer

Study abroad program takes local students to Spain

By JARED STABER / Special to the Reformer

POSTED:   07/29/2014 03:00:00 AM EDT|

(L-R) Rachel Racco of Putney, Gracie Childs of Dummerston, Anja Stolper of Walpole, Liam Johnson of Brattleboro and Sophie Guerrina of Westminster West after walking near the Castle of San Sebastian in Cadiz, collecting beach glass and soaking up the Spanish culture. (Submitted photo)

BRATTLEBORO — On June 28, 10 local students traveled to Cadiz, Spain, for a 15-day Study abroad program. They traveled with Liz Jackson, a local Spanish teacher and founder of GOGI Abroad, based in Saxtons River.

Although GOGI Abroad offers programs for students of many ages, this trip consisted of students in grades eight through 10, from five different schools in southern Vermont. The students, with varied backgrounds and interests, came together to learn and grow through experiencing a new culture with some new and old friends.

A typical day for these students began with Spanish Language classes at K2 Internacional School, learning the fundamentals, grammar and vocabulary to give them the tools needed to thrive. After morning classes together, the students had lunch and “took siesta” with their host families. Spending this time with the host families gave them a supportive yet real-life experience to practice conversational Spanish. Despues (after) siesta, the students explore more of the city and culture through a variety of activities such as surfing, sea kayaking, boat rides, cultural excursions, Spanish cooking, discovering white Andalucían villages, as well as time exploring the many unspoiled beaches in Spain.

“One day we went to visit some Roman ruins at a beach in a nearby town,” said Liam Johnson, of Brattleboro. “After a while, we went swimming and some of us decided to conquer a sand dune on the opposite end of the beach.

The sand burned our feet as we walked, but eventually we made it to the top, only to find another sand dune after that. That happened a couple more times until we finally made it to the top. It was like a whole new world. But the sand was still scorching. I noticed a hill with some cool shaded sand and dove down it. Everyone else followed quickly behind. There was this little grove surrounded by some kind f tree we don’t have here. We relished the cool sand and lay down and buried ourselves.

(L-R) A mark(L-R) A market vendor speaks with Miranda Fuller of Putney, Abby Brennan of Saxtons River, Ivy Dall of Putney, Sadie Bursky of Walpole, and Liam Johnson ofet vendor speaks with Miranda Fuller of Putney, Abby Brennan of Saxtons River, Ivy Dall of Putney, Sadie Bursky of Walpole, and Liam Johnson of Brattleboro while the students shop in a large outdoor market speaking Spanish and ordering ingredients for a cooking class. (Submitted photo)


In that moment, the only sound was the sound of our heartbeats. It was completely, devastatingly silent. I could hear my thoughts and worries drifting listlessly away. There, in that little nook behind a sand dune in Spain, I think I encountered one of the most genuinely peaceful moments of my life.”Putting themselves in unfamiliar situations created conditions conducive for growth and awareness in these students. These students experienced a gamut of emotions in a safe and nourishing environment.

“This was my daughter’s first time traveling anywhere on her own, let alone out of the country,” said Karin Mallory, of Walpole, N.H., whose daughter, Sadie, was one of the students on the trip. “From the first interaction we had with Liz, I knew that Sadie was in competent hands. Liz covered all of the details, kept us informed, and planned and executed an experience for all 10 kids in the group that will impact their lives forever. Her love for travel, culture, and discovery … of new things both internal and external … infused every aspect of Sadie’s experience. We were lucky to have had the opportunity to travel with Gogi Abroad.”

The name GOGI Abroad (Go Outward, Grow Inward) comes from Jackson’s own study abroad experience. Gogi Arroyo, a woman from Madrid, took Jackson under her wing on her first trip to Spain as a teenager, a trip that changed her life, inspiring her to become a lifelong student of the world, its people and their cultures. Gogi embodies the experience a study abroad student could ask for and more. Gogi is an elder, a sage. She is a teacher, a friend and most importantly, she is family. She lives the culture and has inspired how Jackson sculpts her programs to give the students the same opportunity to cultivate rich and unforgettable life experiences.

For more information about the trip and to find out about upcoming programs please email us or 802-275-2948.