Being fully immersed in another culture motivated HSDC students to gain invaluable work and life experience during an exciting funded trip to Mexico.
A group of 29 students from a range of curriculum areas took part in a Turing Scheme-funded trip to Puebla, with the aim being for the group to take part in work experience and learn about the culture.
Students from across the college’s campuses took part in the trip, including those from Vocational Hospitality & Catering and Film & Media courses, as well as those studying A Level Spanish who acted as translators.
HSDC formed an educational partnership with UPAEP, a large university within Puebla which developed the educational and cultural programme for the students.
The 18-day trip saw the chefs and cabin crew students being placed in seven restaurants across Puebla to work in either the kitchens or as part of the front of house teams.
Their journey through the challenges of working abroad, with the added obstacle of the language barrier, was documented by the Film & Media students who followed them around their placements.
Aaron Butson, Assistant Principal Business, Employment & Skills, said: ‘This mobility proved to be a challenging but rewarding experience for all those involved. For some of the students this was their first time abroad, and so their first flight was an 11-hour journey.
‘Part of the raison d’etre of the Turing Scheme is to offer opportunities to students from more deprived backgrounds and 20% of the cohort that went on this mobility came from postcodes of more deprived areas.’
The chefs and cabin crew worked for eight hours a day for nine straight days, so the restaurants had time to train the students ready for busier periods of service. For many, this was also their first experience of a demanding work pattern.
Media students followed them throughout and continued filming after the work placements and into the cultural visits, as well as editing in the evenings and planning for the day ahead. This was also the longest period any of them had worked on a filming brief.
The cultural visits included visiting a cactus farm where they harvested the plant to make mezcal (a tequila-style drink), traditional Mexican cookery experiences with families keeping traditions alive such as making chocolate and chilli sauce mole the traditional way within family homes.
There was also a Mexican folk art workshop and visits to numerous Mexican restaurants and market places.
However, the highlight of the cultural journey for many was the visit to the Teotihuacan Pyramids, a truly remarkable historical site dating back somewhere between the 1st and 7th Centuries AD.
Aaron added: ‘Despite the challenges of this schedule, the students stood up to it with amazing resilience. They all threw themselves at it and tried their very best to make it a successful experience. The documentary that has been made since demonstrates the deep level of learning each of them had in both a professional and personal way.
‘The scheme also offered the college the opportunity to forge new relationships with other organisations in Mexico for other potential exchange programmes. This was the business development aspect of the mobility and has proven successful to date, with the potential of a new programme with a new partner in 2023.’
Due to the overwhelming success of this trip, HSDC is now committed to developing future funded opportunities for students.
Plans are already in place to start recruiting potential candidates to take part in the next Turing Scheme project, with the opportunity to be opened up to other A Level, BTEC and T Level students