Last fall, Carmen Ester was one of many new students at Bishop McGuinness, nervous at the thought of meeting new teachers and classmates.
Perhaps that’s because she was also meeting a brand-new country. Ester, a junior, came to the United States in mid-August of last year as an exchange student from Aragon, Spain, and had one week to adjust before school started.
“I was very excited to meet my host family and, obviously, to be in the U.S.,” she said. “I was excited to see what this year was going to bring. But I was also a little sad because I was leaving my family and friends behind, everything I’d known up until this point.”
This year Ester has competed in cross country, indoor track and now spring track. One might thing that Ester was a standout athlete at her high school back home, but that turns out not to be the case.
“We don’t have sports in high school or anything like that,” she said. “If you want to do a sport, you have to do it outside of school.”
Her 10-month immersion into American culture meant that Ester was away from her family during the holiday season. It was far from a morose experience, though.
“Thanksgiving? That was awesome,” she said. “I had only seen it in the movies. It was so fun to get to cook with them and have the turkey. It was so much fun.”
Ester will return home in June to finish her senior year in her native Spain. She hopes to attend college in Madrid and one day visit America again. For now, she is grateful that her experience in the exchange program placed her at a school like Bishop McGuinness.
“I came from a small high school in Spain — Bishop-sized,” she said. “I think if I had gone to a bigger school, it would’ve taken me way longer to adjust. At Bishop, they definitely help you. There’s definitely that community that everyone talks about.”
Three questions for Ester
Q: Who is your favorite musical artist?
Q: What is your favorite restaurant?
Answer: Zoe’s Kitchen
Q: What was your biggest culture shock?
Answer: You need the car to go everywhere. In Spain I don’t need a car. You just walk.