The first day of school can often be hectic. A new school year, despite representing new beginnings, can also present new challenges to overcome. For many students it is just another new grade but for a few select students, it’s a new high school and a new country.
Alicia Rodenas, junior, is one of a hand-full of foreign exchange students at Lake Ridge High School this school year. Rodenas signed up to be a foreign exchange student through a program called “SHARE!” for multiple reasons, one being her sister, Angela.
“I have an older sister who was in the foreign exchange program five years ago. She was picked by a family in Pennsylvania. She said she had a great experience and she encouraged me to do it. I also wanted a change in my life so I went for it,” Rodenas said.
From the beginning, Rodenas was excited to come to the United States. She says she has always felt attracted to the culture here and is ready to see how this experience effects who she will become.
“It’s going to help me a lot with my English for sure. I know I’ll be really good when I get home but it’s also going to help me in my personal life as far as meeting other cultures. I can tell this is important in my life and will help me grow as a person,” Rodenas said.
A lot of paperwork was involved in getting Rodenas into the program. SHARE! students are between 15 and 18 years old and are required to have insurance and a desire to learn in order to join the program. However, when all the formalities were completed, Rodenas was selected by a family in Mansfield to come to the United States.
“I’ve only been here three weeks. At first I was really ambitious I wanted to meet and to learn everything. But my second week I was so stressed with everything because it was so hard for me to do things the way they’re done here instead of what I’m used to at home,” Rodenas said.
“Home” for Rodenas is a city in Spain called Alicante. She says she hasn’t found many similarities between here and Alicante but she hasn’t found anything she dislikes yet either.
“I haven’t noticed much that’s the same back home. I don’t have anything I dislike about being here, it’s more just a weird experience because I’m not used to it. I do like the blocked scheduling, the big school and the way teachers teach though,” Rodenas said.
Despite only being here three weeks, Rodenas has noticed a big difference in the way school works here, from the heavy emphasis on technology to the work load students have to manage.
“We don’t use white boards or a lot of technology. We have blackboards and usually have to write everything out and there aren’t any iPads. The teacher explains and we have to study but after the exam we don’t go over it again. Here, you have to remember what you’ve learned and you have assignments about it and look for information,” said Rodenas.
One major difference that has thrown Rodenas off so far has been the structure of Mansfield and it’s surrounding cities. Even the home she’s staying in seems unusual.
“Alicante is actually really different from here. In the center of the city is where all the department stores and restaurants are. Outside of that you have neighborhoods but we don’t usually live in houses like [in Texas.] We have high buildings with flats,” Rodenas said.
Rodenas arrived on August 11th and will be going home sometime next June. Despite her new and exciting experiences here, Rodenas says she does see herself returning home.
“I really like [the United States.] It’s a beautiful country and people are so nice. I’ve thought about living in the United States and it could be possible, but I love Spain and right now I’d rather live there,” Rodenas said.
Rodenas will be a part of the graduating class of 2020 at her school in Spain. After that she plans to attend Miguel Hernandez University, a school only half an hour’s drive away from her home town, to study tourism and business.
Although Rodenas will not be graduating from Lake Ridge, there is no doubt she’ll be leaving her mark on all the students she comes in contact with.