MOORESVILLE – For some of the 15 high school students who are visiting the area from Spain, the region’s greatest resource has been the biggest highlight.
Spending time on Lake Norman is on the list of several out-of-the-classroom activities the students who are attending Pine Lake Preparatory for three weeks are doing, as are taking trips to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, Concord Mills and Carowinds.
“I think the lake was the best one,” said Laura Santarmarina Puente, who is from Burgos, a city in the northern part of Spain.
Laura and the others are not only taking classes with Pine Lake students but are staying with their families via the CCI-Greenheart exchange program. Upon being accepted, the Spanish students filled out a questionnaire about their interests, including types of music, sports and certain foods for the matching process, Pine Lake Community Relations Manager Kristen Sutek said.
Laura is staying in freshman Abbie Wolley’s Huntersville home.
“Since me and Laura are the same age, and she lives with me, we spend all day together,” Abbie said.
She’s hosted other Spanish students and still uses the FaceTime phone app to talk to them once a month.
“I’ve had a couple of students before, and some of them didn’t speak English as well as these Spanish students,” Abbie said. “There’s a big difference. You can communicate with them a lot more. I bonded better with these students.”
And though having command of the English language is paramount for being accepted in the program, all the Pine Lake students have some grasp of Spanish.
“All Pine Lake students study Spanish, so this is a natural partnership,” Sutek said.
Connor Detiveaux, whose family is hosting a Spanish student named Victor, said his classes have taught him more than simply how to speak the language.
“Now we’re learning a lot about culture and what they do in Spain, and knew of some of the stuff Victor mentioned,” he said.
Like Laura, Rafael Valencia Kraus and Enrique Gonzalez Guerrero are in the United States for the first time. They went to their first football game earlier this month and have been going to places like Lancaster’s BBQ and The Soda Shop that Sutek said offers them a Southern experience.
Though there may not be much of an adjustment to the language, the meal schedule has thrown off Rafael.
“What shocked me was the timetable to eat,” said the resident of Marbella, on Spain’s southern coast. “They eat lunch at quarter past 11, then they eat at 2, then have dinner at 5. In Spain, we have breakfast, then have meal at 2:30 or 3 then have dinner at 10.”
Rafael said the food he misses the most is salad, while Laura yearns for her country’s bread.
“The bread is so good,” Abbie said.
The timing of the program made for the parents of the visiting students to be more worried than usual about their children.
“The hurricane made the parents very nervous, because in Spain, they don’t have big storms like that, so the coordinator was getting a lot of phone calls from worried parents,” Sutek said. “The footage they were seeing was from Wilmington, and it’s hard to imagine that we’re five hours away, so we didn’t see the same thing.”
Since the program is not a true “exchange,” there is not a group of Pine Lake students staying in Spain. But Sutek hopes those at her school are able to gain more perspective on the world.
“Hopefully it inspires our students as well, to get out of their Lake Norman bubble,” she said.