Spanish students discover American culture


Eryka Hackett, Staff Reporter

Seventeen students traveled from a private school in Palencia, Spain, on Sept. 5 to experience life in America, specifically in Fauquier County. Five students are staying with host students from FHS.
“Its fun but it’s very different,” junior Serena Marshall said. “it can be nerve-racking, though, because you want them to have a good experience while they’re here and that’s a big responsibility.”
Speaking through a translator, Spanish student Andrea Mendez says she hopes to visit major tourist attractions, experience the American lifestyle, and improve her English.
“Being here in America is like being in a movie. The first thing I thought when I arrived was, ‘Woah, it’s like the Sims!’,” Spanish student Clara Fernandez-Me said. “I live in an apartment in the center of the city and everything is close, but here, you have to travel by car to get anywhere. Back home I can walk to everything.”
To ensure a fun and an exciting visit for the students, the exchange program has planned many activities.
“There are bonfires, and we will go to a lot of the football games because they don’t have football in Palencia,” Marshall said. “We’re also going to go shopping because [the] fashion is different.”
The entire exchange group was able to get a touch of the American landscape by hiking the White Oak Trails.
“We had a huge group and at first they all complained because it was a lot of exercise, and they didn’t like that too much,” junior Claire Burke said. “Then we got up to the beautiful waterfalls and started swimming. Even though it was cold, they enjoyed it because it was something adventurous that they don’t get to do everyday.”
Some have found communicating with a native Spanish speaker to be a challenge, but not Marshall.
“For me translating is pretty easy because she speaks really good English, and I speak a little bit of Spanish so we balance out.” Marshall said.
But translating doesn’t come as easily to others.
“We communicate by sight and visuals, and even if the grammar is wrong, you can get still get your point across,” Burke said. “But it’s hard to have abstract conversations with her.”
Junior Olivia Burke, (no relation to Claire Burke), attended last year’s spring foreign exchange trip to Spain, and loves the easy-going lifestyle of the Spanish culture.
“The atmosphere in Spain is a lot more relaxed,” said Olivia Burke. “Everything here is very structured and more schedule-oriented, but there, they never make plans ahead of time, and they just sort of ‘go with the flow. Everyone there is really touchy-feely and gives kisses on both cheeks when they meet people, where here we just shake hands or say hello.”
This coming November, FHS students who are hosting Spanish students will travel back to Palencia to visit and experience life in Spain for two weeks.
“I’m really excited to meet my host family because I’m not sure who that is yet,” Claire Burke said. “I think it will definitely be more family-oriented, and I feel like school will be a lot different. My only fear is that I won’t know enough Spanish.”
~Eryka Hackett, staff reporter