“My head hurts from all of this English. I just want to be able to learn in Spanish again,” Senior Maria Otero said as she sat in U.S. History, hands pressed to her forehead.
Otero was born and raised in Spain but had her mind set on coming to America after she visited two years ago. Her parents encouraged her to learn English and dreamt of their daughter coming to America one day. They saw the opportunity for a scholarship that allowed for students to spend one year attending school abroad. Her cousin had earned the scholarship the year before so Otero expected to follow in her footsteps.
But, sadly she failed and did not earn the scholarship.
The scholarship given to 75 students out of the 700 applicants. The student has to meet the required grade point average of a seven out of 10, which is the same as having all A’s and B’s, as well as having the funds available. If the student meets those two requirements, they are selected to have an interview with the leaders of the company.
The Otero family had to find another way to send their daughter to America. So they began contacting companies all over Spain that specialized in the foreign exchange student program.
Otero’s parents found the perfect company, laid their money on the table and started the process of arranging her excursion.
The company began their search for the perfect place for Otero to stay.
When students in Spain dream of America they think of New York City or Los Angeles, but schools in those cities rarely accept foreign exchange students for free; however, Shawnee Mission did. People at East often ask Otero why she chose Kansas out of any place she could have chosen. She makes sure to say she did not choose Kansas. It was chosen for her.
Although she loves this new adventure she misses her family at home, especially her little sister. It does not help that won’t get to see her for almost a year. Otero and her sister have an extremely close bond.
That is the main struggle that Otero has as a student in America on her own: not seeing her sister. Otero is 16 and her sister is 14. They have always shared similar interests. Making music is their favorite thing to do together, Otero strums the guitar while her sister plays the piano.
She misses her friends just as much as her sister. And to add on to missing them, her friends are still on summer break, posting pictures on Instagram of them at parties until midnight while Otero is asleep in her bed, getting ready to go to school the next day.
Although Otero misses her sister and her friends, has loved her experience at East so far. She wants to try and go to all the sporting events, join a bunch of clubs and go to dances. She had never even been to a football game before two weeks ago.
“I did not know what was going on but I just clapped and cheered when everyone else clapped and cheered” Otero said.
Otero has never seen anything like an East football game: the crazy enthusiastic fans, the elaborate costumes and loud screaming voices. But understanding a Friday night football game is not Otero’s biggest concern.
Her main goal of coming to America is to build relationships with people and learn a different way of life. She wants to go back to Spain with 300 new Instagram followers and 100 more people watching her snapchat stories. The main people helping her to do that is her host family, the Cousineaus. They have a daughter who just graduated college, a daughter who is in college and a daughter who is a senior at East, Maggie.
[My parents wanted to host a student because] of empty nest syndrome” said Maggie.
The Cousineau’s have almost all of their kids out of their house and thought it would be the perfect year to do it.
Once Otero is adjusted she hopes to make as many new friends as possible and experience high school the best way she can.
You will see her cheering in the stands, dressing up for dances, singing the school song and listening to people talk in english all day without her head hurting.