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Spanish Exchange Student Maria Makes New Memories and New Friends

Maria with the Spanish flag

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Tyrone had a new face at the beginning of the school year: Spanish exchange student Maria Barnuevo-Collado. Since then Maria has been an active member of the Tyrone community, participating in Tennis, Swimming, Track, YAN, Allegheny Chorale, Student Council, and Concert Choir. She also reads to Mrs. Olivia Grugan’s Spanish class every Wednesday and helps with Mr. Zupon’s class every Thursday.

“Every Thursday, I go to Mr. Zupon’s classroom during my study hall period to help his students to get to know my culture. We read, draw, play games, etc. It is very fun. I would like to be a teacher in the future and it has helped me improve my skills,” Maria said.

Maria’s from Albacete, Spain, which is between Madrid and the East Coast in the center of the country. She lives with her dad and brother. When she was nine, her mother passed away. Since then, her father has a very nice girlfriend, who also has two sons.

I learned how important family is and that you should appreciate them and never stop demonstrating them how much you love them. I know my mum is always with us.”

— Maria

“After [my mom’s passing], I learned how important family is and that you should appreciate them and never stop demonstrating them how much you love them. I know my mum is always with us. One of [the sons] is a year older than me, and the other one is a year older than my brother. I love all of them, and I definitely see them as my family,” said Maria.

Where Maria grew up, there were only 15 public schools and 3-4 private schools. She went to the newest public school, #15.

“It is very modern and the infrastructure is very nice and new. During the year, there are some field trips and activities we do, and lots of exchange programs by which people have the opportunity to go abroad for a week or two. Thanks to my high school, I’ve been an exchange student in Poland, England and Italy, and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to participate in a long-term exchange. I love my high school and I am very involved in everything that is done there,” Maria said.

Even though now Maria is a well-known student, she wasn’t always comfortable with the Tyrone environment.

“The beginning [of the school year] was hard. We all know Tyrone is a very small town, and so is its high school. When I started, at least for a couple of days, I felt lost. It made me very mad that everybody was talking about me, but just a few people actually came and talked to me. However, very soon, things started to change. I got to know people and you can’t imagine how proud I am of being a part of this high school,” said Maria.

However, being active in sports gave her the chance to make new friends in tennis.

“[In swimming,] we were a very nice and diverse team full of good people, with a very nice coach as well. I will miss dancing Spanish music with some teammates before getting on the pool,” said Maria. “[For track,] I had never done [it] before, [but now] I love it. It has given me the opportunity to get closer to more people and to discover how much I like running long distances. I will miss practices and running 5k’s on Wednesdays with my teammates, they were always fun.”

Our American lifestyle may seem normal to us, but for someone not from here, it can seem entirely different.

We also let ourselves get lost on the streets, and we found very nice things to do like going to a comedy show or listening to a jazz singer at the basement of an ice cream shop.”

— Maria

In Spain, they live in big cities and have five meals a day, unlike our rural areas and three meals. Spanish teenagers also don’t work during the school year because most of their time goes into studying.

“We eat breakfast around 7:30-8:00, and we have small snack (fruit, a sandwich…) around 12:00 pm, your lunch time. Lunch is between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m, and we have it at home. After that, people usually go back to work, and teenagers go to the library to study. Around 6:00pm we have another snack, and finally, around 9:15-9:45pm we have dinner,” Maria explained.

The Spanish education system is also very different from that in America. Students have to study for at least three hours everyday from 9th grade to 12th grade.

Students don’t change classrooms either; the teachers rotate rooms. Students have more freedom too.

“We don’t eat lunch at school and, once you turn sixteen, you are allowed to go out of the high school for 30 minutes in the middle of the day in order to have a snack, get something you forgot, or just get some fresh air. Going back for the next three classes is up to you, you are becoming an adult and that is how you are treated. You are free, but you have to assume the consequences,” said Maria.

There are no substitute teachers in Spain. The material taught is very hard. There are no games, movie days or free days.

Tests and quizzes are not multiple choice. They are essay-type questions.

“It can take you as much as an hour and a half to do it. The last test I took in Spain was eight pages long, and they were all blank paper at first. I had to type everything I knew,” said Maria.

While in America, Maria has visited New York twice, Philadelphia, and Knoxville, TN. In June, she will be travelling along the West Coast for 14 days.

The first time she went to The Big Apple was with her host family, the Longs. The second time, she traveled by bus to meet up with her best friend’s family.

As soon she came back from NY the second time, her boyfriend’s family asked her to go to Philadelphia with them and she couldn’t say no.

They visited the Liberty Bell, the Magics Garden, and the Rocky Steps.

“We also let ourselves get lost on the streets, and we found very nice things to do like going to a comedy show or listening to a jazz singer at the basement of an ice cream shop,” said Maria.

With her second host family, Maria went to Knoxville, TN, at the end of April. In TN, she attended her first American wedding, hiked the smoky mountains, ate at cool restaurants, and went to an interesting arts festival.

“From June 23rd to July 6th I will get to go on a bus tour to the West Coast. It will be a 14-day trip in which we will visit places as famous as Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Nevada and Los Angeles. It is a trip for Rotary exchange students, so I will be there with people from all over the world. My boyfriend and most of my best friends are going. You can’t imagine how excited I am,” Maria said.

Even with how exciting it can be to travel, some of Maria’s greatest memories come from right here at TAHS.

Before I came I was told this was not going to be just a year of my life. This would be my life in a year. And that is totally right.”

— Maria

Even though it can be difficult to leave one’s comfort zone and daily life environment, Maria wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. For her, this year and journey has been indescribable.

“Before I came I was told this was not going to be just a year of my life. This would be my life in a year. And that is totally right,” Maria said. “I’ve definitely grown inside. I have always considered myself a very outgoing and mature person. When I got here, with the language and the cultural differences as an obstacle, I could see me from another perspective. Looking back to the beginning, what in that day seemed like a huge mountain, now it is nothing more than a small sand grain.”

Now as the school year winds down and her departure date of June 9th approaches, Maria wouldn’t change a thing about her experience. She is overwhelmingly happy and proud of what Tyrone has offered and given her while she has stayed here. The worst part is leaving.

“I have enjoyed every minute to the fullest and I have worked hard to make it successful. I will miss almost everything: my friends, my host families, Tyrone Area High School and its teachers and, of course, the Village Pantry milkshakes,” said Maria.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Spanish Exchange Student Maria Makes New Memories and New Friends”

  1. Diane Irwin on May 25th, 2017 11:40 am

    It is a great pleasure to have Maria as part of the Rotary Club of Tyrone.

    [Reply]

  2. Lydia on May 30th, 2017 11:17 am

    Wait when did Maria actually like come to our school?? I thought she was here the whole time, I didn’t know she traveled to other schools before coming to ours in this year. wow she must have been very busy. I wish you best of luck Maria and It was fun having you here! I hope maybe someday you can come back just for fun.

    [Reply]

We have been getting a lot more comments recently (which is good!). Unfortunately, some of them have been kind of nasty (which is bad!). Not surprisingly, most of the nasty comments have been submitted anonymously. Therefore, if you would like us to even consider publishing your comment you must use your REAL NAME and a VALID email address. If you are a TASD student please use your school email address. Thank you and please comment responsibly!

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The voice of the Tyrone Area High School
Spanish Exchange Student Maria Makes New Memories and New Friends