The 2018 Spanish Exchange Program
By Emma Campbell '21
During the last week of October, our school welcomed ten students from Spain so that they could experience the typical American lifestyle and learn about the culture. Many of you had the opportunity to meet them, or at least saw them in morning meeting, but a lucky nine families had the pleasure of hosting them in their homes, (myself included). Hosting Josep was an extremely educational experience for me; I loved getting to know him and the other students, as well as discovering more about their culture while sharing my own. For those who may be curious about the exchange program or even interested in getting involved, these were the highlights of the experience…
The evening of October 26, Mr. Campuzano finally pulled up to Teel in the Severn bus with ten exhausted Spanish students. A few other host families were already standing in front of the bus doors— the atmosphere full of frenzied excitement. This had been months in the making; since late May when we applied, all of the hosts had been awaiting their guests’ arrival. It was everything I could do to not jump on the bus myself. There was an eagerness to meet them all, combined with the anticipation of the week to come. What would they think of the United States? What expectations did they have? It was a blur of giddy thoughts and questions, all of which would be answered within the next couple days.
A large part of why the role of host is enjoyable lies in exposing the guest to numerous new experiences. I never realized how many ordinary activities we partake in every day are completely unfamiliar to non-Americans. I suppose I forgot that we can be the foreign ones. For example, my student Josep had never eaten Chinese food before. He had never spent a day at the mall with his friends, or had s’mores around a campfire. Even when he performed at Open Mic Night, he admitted that they did not have any sort of talent showcase at his school.
It was an honor to expose them to the typical American lifestyle. We took them to their first football game, the big Severn River Classic, of course, and we took them bowling for the first time too. They also had the chance to go Trick-or-Treating and experience a trademark American holiday. When we traveled to D.C. for a day, there were some monuments that even I don’t think I have seen before, and I have lived in Maryland my whole life. They were able to at least get a feel of what life in America is life, beyond what they had assumed from movies. It was eye-opening to learn about what was different in America compared to Spain. I remember driving past Anne Arundel Medical Center on the way to the mall, and Josep’s fascination at the size of the hospital. He mistook it for the mall at first. Then, he was further shocked by the magnitude of the actual mall.
These types of differences were a common topic of our conversations, although we discussed nearly everything. Frankly, I learned more about Spanish politics than I ever thought would interest me. This is another reason the program is excellent; it provides the opportunity to bond and become friends with people from wildly different backgrounds. The Spanish students were in America for a mere ten days, but by the end of it, we were all saying goodbye with tears in our eyes. These friendships span thousands of miles, but I doubt the distance will affect the strength of the bond. Now, we can look forward to March, when the hosts become the hosted.