Continuing with education after school means more than solely classroom based study. Each year Alton College offers students an array of trips at home and abroad to give them opportunity to travel and develop a range of skills before they progress into Higher Education or the workplace. In 2015 trips have already included photographing Morocco, family exchange trips to France and Spain, skiing in Switzerland, an art trip to Istanbul and taking on the Marine Commando training programme in Devon.
This year’s photography and textiles trip to the flamboyant and vibrant country of Morocco began and ended in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and whilst there, students took in the winding alleyways of the souks, the aroma of the ancient tannery, the Arabic culture and the array of street traders, snake charmers, acrobats, monkey trainers and fortune tellers of the Djemaa El Fna square. They also visited the Maison de la Photographie which houses a collection of Moroccan photography and history from 1870-1950.
Taking time out from the excitement of the city the group travelled in 4x4s to the outskirts of the Agafay dessert, allowing them to witness the barren landscape and beauty of the country. Photographic opportunities were abundant along with time out to share ‘Berber Whisky’ with a local mountain family. The journey continued in beautiful weather taking in the far reaching views of the Atlas Mountains where a picnic lunch by the side of the stunning enormous manmade lake known as Lalla Takerkoust Lake was enjoyed. Fun was had ‘glamping’ and camel riding at the remote location of, Bivouac Couleur Berbere. The group’s accommodation was comfortable under canvas in nomadic tents, decorated in a traditional Moroccan style.
In contrast to the outskirts of the dessert, the group travelled west to the UNESCO coastal town of Essoauira, also famous for being a stunning real life location in the series Game of Thrones! At first glance it appears striking with its fortified walls, fishing harbour and seagulls soaring over the town, with strong French influences mixed in with Portuguese and Berber architecture.
The group ate well enjoying the traditions of couscous and tagines, with food highly flavoured with spices such as cinnamon, saffron and cumin. The final evening culminated in an extravaganza of good food, inspirational music and a display of dancing by the tribesmen and women from the surrounding Berber villages, charging horsemen firing traditional guns, horse acrobatics and a flying carpet! More photos are on the Photography Facebook page.
Another Creative Arts trip in February took a culturally enriching excursion to Istanbul. After a 32 hour delay (due to Turkish blizzards) the students and staff threw themselves into a busy itinerary. Modern Art, boat trips on the Bosphorus, exotic bazaars, spectacular Mosques and palaces filled the days. Evenings were spent sampling the wonderful local cuisine, along with entertainment from belly dancers and whirling dervishes. The snow cleared, the sun shone and all agreed the trip was a real Turkish delight!
The Spanish Department organized another successful trip to Salamanca in February 2015. Students stayed with families and attended four hours of Spanish tuition every day at Isla language school. They had salsa and cookery lessons and guided tours of the city, which included climbing to the top of the Cathedrals and visits to the Art Deco museum and the Spanish Civil War archives. Trips to Segovia and Madrid were also part of the package and they saw Picasso’s most famous painting, El Guernica. Students from the AS group said: ‘We couldn’t have wished for a kinder, more welcoming family who were so helpful if we struggled with the language and encouraged us to speak as much as possible.’ Food and shopping were also important aspects of the visit, from churros, tapas and paella at a restaurant to the wonderful Zara sales. Olga Culebras, Head of Spanish at Alton College commented: ‘Once again our students were great ambassadors, the language school staff were very professional and friendly and our students thoroughly enjoyed the experience.’
Whilst the Spanish students were in Spain, a group of college French students were visiting Paris for a week. The aim of the trip was to improve fluency in the language via the direct experience of staying with a French family and lessons in French with a French teacher.
The students stayed in the southern suburbs of Paris near Brétigny Sur Orge. They were amazed at how easy it was to talk to their French families. Students said that right from the word go there were no awkward moments and they felt that they had learnt a lot about French culture such as the differences between the French and British. They also improved their pronunciation and their accent, and were able to pick up colloquialisms and practise question forms and re-formulating things in different ways. It was quite a culture shock to see what French colleges are like, but all students felt that it was highly beneficial to experience lessons exclusively in French and to be totally immersed in the culture.
In the afternoons, a great deal of fun was had visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, the Louvre, the Musée de la Musique and Montmartre where the AS topics of shopping, food, fashion, advertising and music were highlighted. Students are definitely going to keep in touch with their adopted families and are keen to further their experiences of living the authentic French dream. Next year there may be the possibility of doing some work experience in central Paris.
Students on Public Services courses regularly have the opportunity to experience life in a number of services including the Army, Navy and emergency services. A recent trip to Commando Training Centre Royal Marines Lympstone in Devon gave 10 students the opportunity to experience a week-long training course and inspired five of them to consider signing up for the Royal Marines in the future.
Forty students travelled to Leysin in the Swiss Alps in February half term for a week of skiing and fun. The 33 boys and 7 girls from the first and second years were all keen and eager to improve their technique and were up early in the mornings on the first lift, skiing all day until the light faded. Everyone made considerable progress throughout the week and came home completely exhausted! In the evenings students enjoyed donutting, ice hockey, swimming (and the steam room!) a trip to Top Pub and a tournament evening including ping-pong, Pictionary and a game of human sardines. All students are welcome on the annual Ski Trip, so keep your eyes peeled for details of Fiesch 2016!
Find out more about trips on offer at Alton College here.
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