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Sophia and her Spanish exchange student, Carmen, compare and contrast Portland and Madrid

Me and my host sister, Carmen

For the month of March I hosted an exchange student from Madrid, Spain named Carmen. At the time I was planning to travel to Spain as well for a few weeks this summer. Having my own exchange student was a perfect test to see if I wanted to go on exchange.

I had an amazing time with Carmen and we were able to learn a lot about each others culture. I got an idea of what my trip will look like from the other point of view. It helped prepare me for my trip by showing me the other side of things and I believe hosting my own exchange student will actually help me be more successful on my exchange. By the end of Carmen’s stay, I wanted to interview her to hear what it is like to be an exchange student. I wanted to share it in case it will help any other future travelers or host families with their exchange experiences.

What were your expectations of what the U.S. was like before you came?

"I thought the school was going to be exactly like High School Musical, that all people are very fat and eat hamburgers, and hot dogs all the time, and I also thought that all people have flags and guns in their house."
Why do you think you had those preconceived notions?

"I only knew the U.S. from the films and I thought what happened in them, happened in America. I got those ideas from The Simpsons, High School Musical etc. Now I see that all people don’t eat hamburgers all days, and people eat carrots and vegetables!"
What has been your favorite part of your exchange?

"I loved the school. Here, people are kind of weird. People don’t judge other people for their appearance, and here, people don’t care what you look like, and I think that's really cool."
What have you learned on this trip?

"I learned a lot more English, and I have to talk slowly for people to understand me. I also learned you have to be careful of what you say because some words might be okay in your own country, but not here. I learned how to wake up by myself because at home my mom just goes, 'Carmen!!'. I learned how to cook some food, but only pasta and how to make a sandwich. I had to organize my bedroom, and clean the dishes, walk the dogs, which I don’t have to do at home. I had to be more mature and do things for myself."
What advice would you give a student going on an exchange?

"Don’t believe all of what films show you because it’s not all true. It was very different than what I thought it would be. You have to be open to meet new people and talk. You shouldn’t lock yourself in your bedroom and watch television. Be social! When your family says, 'do you want to come here?' Say yes, and try new things."
What has been the hardest part about being an exchange student?

"Talking has been hard, because people don’t always understand me. I have to repeat many times and have to be patient. I think people sometimes forget I’m not from here and talk to me very fast, and I also have to ask to repeat."
What did you have to do differently on exchange than at home?

"I had to be more open and outgoing. I only had a few weeks to practice my English so I wanted to speak as much as possible to use the time I had."
What have you missed the most on your trip?

"I miss the food. Its very different here. I want my mother and grandmother’s cooking. But the food surprised me and is good. I also miss my family and friends too."
What are you going to miss when you go back home?

"I am going to miss the people a lot because they were very friendly and happy. I am going to miss the friends and family I made here, and the dogs a little bit. These four weeks were some of the best weeks of my life."

Get more information about hosting a student here.

Check out ANDEO's programs abroad here.


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