During lockdown, student travel ended in the UK. Erasmus exchanges were replaced by virtual meetings and activities, school residentials were cancelled, and many of these programs have yet to be reinstated. 

However, that didn’t stop the group of sixth formers from across the country who travelled to the Spanish city of Valencia in order to undertake work experience placements from the 7th-13th April, 2024 with a company called Bluestamp Travel. Arriving for the end of the Fallas, a Valencian festival, the students had the opportunity to explore the city when not at their placements and were able to attend parades and even the Mascleta, daytime fireworks that occur during the annual Fallas. 

The students were accompanied by a guide who arranged activities for them, such as a night out at an escape room, dinner at a paella restaurant, and a bike ride around the famous City of Arts and Sciences. One student, Ellie Smiles, said that she found the experience “really enjoyable and had a great time”. She added that the work experience “really developed” her Spanish skills, and that she also felt it helped her gain life skills, and that her host family was “so welcoming and supportive”. Overall, she repeated that the experience was one she “thoroughly enjoyed”, and that she would like to return to Valencia in the future. 

Ellie was placed at a cafe for her work experience, and other placements included retail work, working at a restaurant, translation work and childcare. Around their work experience, the students had plenty of free time and were able to visit places like the beach, cafes and shopping centres. As they were expected to find their own lunch, the students had the opportunity to try authentic Spanish dishes, and dinner with the host families provided chances to practice their Spanish and try new foods such as ensalada russa, a Spanish fish salad, and paella. 

Many of the students felt the experience not just developed their Spanish skills, but also their confidence and independence, and one student who has asked not to be named plans on arranging another trip through the company to return to the city. “By the end of the week, I was in love with Valencia,” the student stated. “I’m planning on going back after my A Levels, through Bluestamp Travel again.”