By Jennifer Von Ohlen
When immersing oneself into another culture, one can sometimes identify similarities between what is new and what is known. For others, however, the experience is altogether totally different.
For Marcos De la Fuente Ruiz, 16, Dassel-Cokato High School’s foreign exchange student from Spain, his emergence into the American life-style falls into the latter category.
Marcos arrived in the US at the end of August, wanting to learn the language and experience the American lifestyle and school system.
“Here, it’s really different between American high school and Europe high school,” Marcos stated. “[In Spain] we don’t have laptops, and we always stay in the same classroom and the teachers are [the ones] moving [from room to room].”
He also said that back home he does not have the same classes everyday, and that the American lunches always include some type of meat dish, while he is more used to vegetable-based meals.
However, Marcos is not the only one learning a new culture.
His host parents, Brian and Rachel Kimber of Dassel, said Marcos has been sharing Spain with them, cooking tortilla de patata (which Marcos said did not taste as good as his mother’s), teaching them Spanish slang, and other aspects of his culture.
Marcos is the Kimber’s third foreign exchange student they have hosted, although they did not plan for it.
Being the exchange program coordinator, Rachel is responsible for placing students at the high school. She and Brian were supposed to simply serve as a welcome family, but Marcos’ stay ended up lasting longer than expected.
“I was supposed to find him a home,” she stated. “But. . .”
“He’s kinda grown on us,” continued Brian.
“He got a little too comfortable here. So, he’s staying,” Rachel finished.
The Kimber’s past foreign exchange students were girls from Germany and Brazil, and each of the students had different experiences receiving credit for their time at DC.
The Brazilian student got credit for some of the DC courses, while the German had to redo everything. For Marcos, his entire year counts.
Because of this, Marcos was not allowed to freely select his DC courses as most foreign exchange students are allowed to do. As a result, several class schedule changes had to be made at the start of the school year, involving conversations with Marcos’ mother, his school counselor back in Spain, and DC guidance counselor Ryan Tool.
With that situation resolved, Marcos now only has to focus on maintaining good grades described by the exchange program as an average C or higher.
If any of the students fall below that standard, they could be put on probation.
And if grades do not improve, they could be sent home.
Inspite of the academic pressures, Marcos has managed his time to include hanging out with his American friends, visiting Chicago over MEA break, and shopping.
“He likes to shop,” Rachel said, later stating that Marcos hopes to visit the Mall of America before he returns home.
Back in Spain, Marcos said boys enjoy shopping, while in America it seems to be less common.
During the three months he has been here, Marcos has purchased about five pairs of shoes, several sports jerseys, some DC Charger apparel, and has even started looking at prom clothing.
“I don’t know why all the boys dress [the same at prom],” Marcos commented, explaining he wants to dress differently.
He also wants to do baseball in the spring, being a Minnesota Twins fan and having watched about two months of televised baseball before the season ended.
“I’ve never tried it, but I will,” Marcos stated.
Marcos has also never been a member of a team before, something he is now experiencing on the DC boys basketball team.
“I used to play just for fun with friends in Spain,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s hard, but pretty cool.”
Other experiences the Kimbers are planning with Marcos include attending a Twins game, a Timberwolves game, viewing the Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” in Duluth, visiting Gooseberry Falls, taking him out on a frozen lake, going snowboarding (an activity he loves), and traveling throughout other parts of Minnesota.
As he continues his trip abroad, Marcos remembers to keep his connections with home by Skyping or FaceTiming every Friday.
Brian and Rachel also keep in touch with their previous exchange students, Skyping with them about every three weeks and planning visits to see each other.
The German has been back four times since her first stay, and the Brazilian is hoping to return after she completes college.
“We keep close contact with both of them,” stated Brian. “And we will with him.”
For information on how to become a host parent, visit www.erdtshare.org.