Exchange program forges bonds between Spain and America
By John Chambless
Over the past two weeks, Katie Castro and Carmen Munoz have realized that they have a lot in common, even though it's a very long way from Castro's home in Chadds Ford to Spain, where Munoz lives.
The girls, both 17, are part of an exchange program that made its debut this year at Unionville High School. Students from Spain live with Unionville High families for three weeks, learning about American culture and forging friendships that will last a lifetime.
Munoz said that at her own school, Colegio San Jose in Malaga, Spain, she likes biology and English, and hopes to study medicine. Castro said she wants to study nursing.
"We actually have a lot of things alike," Castro said during an interview at Unionville High School on Monday afternoon. "We're both allergic to cats, we both have asthma -- just things you wouldn't expect."
For the time she's here, Munoz has followed Castro through her classes, and the group has taken trips to Washington, D.C., and gone bowling together. This Friday, they'll go to Philadelphia as a group, and Castro said they hope to take Munoz to New York City this coming weekend, which is her last in America.
"I want to see the Empire State," Munoz said with a smile.
Munoz said families live differently here in America. "We live in flats, not in houses," she said. "That's a big difference."
She has fallen in love with American-style shopping, since malls are a rarity in Spain, and the monetary exchange rate makes American clothing cheaper to buy here. The 20-hour travel time to get to America was not her favorite part, she said.
"This is my first time in America," she said, "but I love America already, because they are so different from our way of life."
Castro said "They were typical tourists in Washington, taking pictures of everything they had never seen before. We did pretty much everything but the White House."
Castro said Munoz has fit right in with her family, which includes her brother and sister. Munoz is an only child, so she has enjoyed living with siblings for the past few weeks.
Although Castro is bilingual, she discovered there's a big difference between the Spanish she speaks and the Spanish that Munoz speaks.
"It's so different from the Spanish we speak at home," Castro said. "They speak so much faster, I can't catch all of it. I didn't think it would be that different, but apparently it is."
While students in Spain study English beginning in early elementary school, Munoz found American accents challenging. "We study English of England, so there's a big difference," Munoz explained.
As the second part of the exchange program, Castro will visit Spain for three weeks in April, and will stay with the Munoz family. "I think we are going to Madrid for several days with all the American people," Munoz said. "They will be there during our holiday of Easter, so we can go to a lot of places."
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail email@example.com.