For some, leaving the comfort of home for a place halfway across the world is unimaginable. But for Jorge Llamazares, a senior exchange student from Spain, the trip has been full of new and fun and pleasant experiences.
Llamazares was thrilled for a chance to come to America. However, as the departure date approached, he became very anxious. “I realized then that I would be coming to a new country, a new culture with different customs…It made me very nervous, but I was still very excited,” said Llamazares. Wanting to study to be a lawyer or business administrator in college, he recognized that English was a common language spoken throughout the world and that it would be beneficial for him to learn it, no matter what occupation he chose to pursue.
The process to come to the United States was multifaceted. Llamazares had to be cleared by the foreign exchange program and then by the United States embassy. He then had to apply for a visa and receive his passport, all done within a summer’s worth of time.
For Llamazares, one of the major cultural differences lies in the education system. Where he came from in Spain, it was the teachers who traveled from class to class, and the students who stayed in one room. Llamazares found it very strange that it was the students who constantly moved throughout the day. However, he had no problems with it, as it gave him more opportunities to see his friends.
In Spain, according to Llamazares, the education system is much tougher than in the United States. On the weekends, he did not have time to play sports as American kids do; most students in Spain would study all throughout the morning and the afternoon, and then go hang out with friends or have time for other leisure activities during the evening. Llamazares was pleased to discover the emphasis that the school system itself put on sports. At his school in Spain, they did not put aside time specifically for the students to practice their sports.
He also struggled with the mealtimes in United States. In Spain, lunchtime is usually around 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and supper is around 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Llamazares was surprised on the first day of school when one of the administrators told him that he had lunch around 12:30 p.m. At his school in Spain, the students only received one 25-minute break where the students could go outside for a little bit to relax. Students ate lunch after school. Llamazares found adjusting to the different meal times one of the most difficult parts about coming to the United States.
In terms of actual food, Llamazares had very little trouble adjusting. “I enjoy the food here; it is very similar to that in Spain. Only a couple of popular food items are different, like the omelette is served differently here than in Spain. But besides that, the food is good,” says Llamazares. He also mentioned that most of salads consumed in Spain were served with oil-based dressings, something the people in United States did not seem to use as much.
The time difference of seven hours also affected Llamazares, but not in the way one would think. Of course, he had some difficulty with the jet lag and the time change. However, his problem with the time difference more than anything was that it limited his ability to watch his favorite sports, soccer and motorcycle racing. A big fan of the soccer club Real Madrid, he watched all of their matches back at home. However, with the time change, Real Madrid would only play when he was sleeping, something that frustrated him as a fan.
Llamazares has had no regrets about coming to the United States. “I love America! I like the food, the culture, and the people here. I’ve never really been far away from my family before, and so it’s hard to be only able to Skype them twice a week. But it’s been a really interesting experience so far.” Even though Llamazares finds it tough to live without his family, his experience at Central has been nothing short of amazing. If given the chance to come back to the United States after his foreign exchange program, he would not hesitate to do so.