During the 2014-2015 school year, three Milford families are hosting two students from Spain and one student from Venezuela as part of the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) program. From the small city of Alicante, Spain, Lucia Sanz Linares and Arturo Mora Ojeda are experiencing American life in Milford, DE as they stay with Michael and Debbie Taylor and Joe and Rita Wells, respectively. Ariana Taylharda from Caracas, Venezuela is staying with Jay Lingo and his wife Kathy.
CIEE is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that aims to help build relationship between countries throughout the world through the sharing of cultural experiences. The organization began more than 65 years ago in the aftermath of World War II in an effort to promote peaceful coexistence and respect between nations through student and teacher exchange programs.
Experiencing American culture while sharing their own with their host families, the students have been in the United States since August and are now attending Milford High School. “I wanted to learn another culture and the English language, I have had a very good experience here,” said Linares. “The school is very relaxed and my host smily is really good.”
Artiro Mora Ojeda has already noticed the level of interests that Americans place on sports. He states that at his high school in Spain there are no sports, only education. There are club and travel sports but they are not connected to the school. “There is so much emphasis on sports, here you can go to college to play and make a career out of it,” said. Ojeda.
This year, Ojeda was on the Milford High School soccer team and he plans to play lacrosse or tennis for the school this Spring. Both Taylharda and Linares said that they are trying to understand the “obsession” that people in the States have with “American football.” Linares would like to try out for the Milford High School swim and softball teams as Taylharda wants to try out for track or soccer team in the Spring.
After experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time, the group is now getting acquainted with the holiday season. The teens have noticed differences in the way that families in their home country celebrate Christmas versus families in their new host country. “We have Christmas and celebrate with parties at home but it is not as big of a deal as it is over here,” commented Ojeda. “At home we celebrate for one day, here we have already begun to celebrate Christmas and the Christmas trees are already up.”
While in the United States each of the students hopes to become fluent in English and to connect even further with their host family. While Linares would like to see other states including North Carolina, Ojeda and Taylharda would like to spend more time in big cities such as New York City. Ariana Taylharda, who is from Caracas, the capital city of Valenzuela, is getting used to the slow pace of life that Milford, DE has to offer. “Where I live everything is more active, the day here is slow and in Valenzuela it is so fast,” said Taylharda. She states that people are also friendly and more patient in Milford than she is used to.
All three teens said that their mothers and fathers were determined that each of them live in a smaller town because in larger cities in the United States it is “too easy to find people that speak Spanish.” They each are very thankful for the experience and the effort that their host families have given to make them feel welcome. “There has been a really big effort on the part of my host family and I am happy to be with them,” said Linares. For Taylharda, she hopes that her experience can teach others about thinking with a more open mind and a larger world view. “People should make an effort to learn and understand each other’s language and culture. This world would be a much better place.”
All three students will remain with their host families until the end of the 2015 school year. Linares and Ojeda will have one more year of high school after they return to Spain and both hope to attend college. Taylharda has already graduated from high school in Valenzuela and hopes to attend college in Canada.