Exchange Student Program Brings the World to Park Center Senior High School
The school year has just begun, but already the Park Center Senior High School choir is in full song.
One of its newest members is 16-year-old Gracia Dominguez, an exchange student who says extracurricular activities like choir or even sports are not part of her public education back home in Barcelona.
She’s been in the United States for only about a month, but already she’s amazed at how different it is than back home.
“Everything is really big!” said Dominguez. “Everything, the houses, the gardens, the school is like three times bigger than my school in Spain.”
Dominguez applied for a scholarship made possible by the owner of Zara. She said 10,000 people in Spain applied for a chance to have a year in the U.S. or Canada paid for. She was one of 400 who received the grant.
“Of course you’re leaving your whole life behind, but you’re also going to create a whole new life here,” said Dominguez.
Allie Erickson, of Maple Grove is the local coordinator for the Council on International Educational Exchange. She works with host families to pair with a student that may best match with what they’re looking for or can help care for.
“Even if a family is interested in hosting maybe 2-3 years down the road, we’d like to get connected with them now to sort of see what their family profile is like, if they’re interested in a certain area, like maybe Spain or France, or do they want someone from Thailand or Korea?” said Erickson, who herself lived overseas as a child. “What student might be a good fit?”
Erickson said those who are interested in hosting can find out more here.
Dominguez said she’d already studied English but was looking for a more immersive experience.
“I think it’s really important because it opens your eyes and your mind. We are really stuck in our culture and all we know about others is in movies, series, and everything, and it normally has nothing to do with that,” she said. “So, just knowing that you’re not the center of the world, that there’s people out there living their lives in a completely different style.”