The Worlds of Spain Educational Program’s group, including 22 Desert Vista High School students, during the immersion trip pose for a photo in Alicante, Spain. [Submitted photo]

More than 20 Desert Vista High School students studying Spanish are getting the ultimate experience in their choice of second language, with an immersion program that sends them to Spain for three weeks.

Through Worlds of Spain Educational Program, students in intermediate and advance Spanish courses travel around the east coast city of Alicante where they live with host families for a completely immersed experience in the Spanish culture.

“To me, that’s the way you learn when it’s about survival,” said Desert Vista Spanish teacher and program coordinator Shawna Thue, about learning Spanish. “Here they are forced to speak it.”

Developed 11 years ago by Vanderbilt University professor Jose Aznar, the program aims to give students a real perspective of the Spanish culture. More than 500 students in high schools around the United States have participated since.

“My vision for the program was to provide them experience living the Spanish way of life instead of just looking at it,” Aznar said, who accompanies the students.

Thue, who is also on the trip, said the students get to travel around the city, have participated in street festivals, learn native sports and tour museums as well as living with their host families.

Desert Vista student Blake Hoffmann said his experience on the trip so far has been “remarkable.”

“Every day I experience something new and out of the ordinary,” he said. “I’ve been here for two weeks and do not want to leave.”

Hoffmann is one of 23 students from Desert Vista, also joined by two students from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. Along with the activities, students take lessons based on a developed curriculum for three hours a day during the weekdays of the trip and normally obtain a three-credit hour college credit.

“As an educator, I feel there is a need to have programs of this nature in high schools,” Aznar said. “This is the time for them to possibly change their mind about foreign languages and the importance of them.”

For more information about the program, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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