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Cultural exchange: Spanish students get a taste of American culture during DeKalb homecoming

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the country,” said Lozar, who was seeing the U.S. for the first time. “We’re more used to traveling in Europe.”

DeKALB – When a group of students from Spain visited DeKalb last week, they were naturally expecting to see a lot of different things. One thing they were not expecting was the snow that fell Saturday morning.

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“Where we live, we don’t get much snow,” said Ana Femia, an art teacher who lives on the southeastern coast of Spain. “The weather is very nice all year long. We come to America and we’re freezing.”

Raquel Lozar, who teaches English at the same school, said the visitors didn’t know how to dress for the Illinois weather. The two teachers led a group of 12 boys and eight girls between the ages of 15 and 18 from Adra, Spain, on a 10-day trip to DeKalb.

DeKalb High School Spanish teacher Amanda McCabe, whose husband comes from Adra, said this is the third time a group from Spain has visited here. Since 2010, Spanish students have visited DHS in each even-numbered year, and a group of DHS students visits the Adra school in odd-numbered years.

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the country,” said Lozar, who was seeing the U.S. for the first time. “We’re more used to traveling in Europe.”

The visitors toured Navy Pier, the Art Institute of Chicago, Matthiessen State Park, and Northern Illinois University, and had a pizza party at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb. They also attended classes at DHS and participated in homecoming activities.

In Spain, Femia said schools don’t have homecoming, but they do hold something similar when students finish school and decide what they want to do. Beltran Sanchez, 15, said dances and parties in Spain last longer than in America, sometimes ending as late as 7 a.m.

Sanchez said popular sports in Spain are rugby and soccer. The students were originally scheduled to attend a DHS soccer game last Saturday, but most decided to sleep in late because of the snow and cold.

Lozar said American houses and schools are much bigger than in Spain, and noted the differences in school schedules. Femia noted that American students have to get up much earlier to go to school, then attend classes all day, and go home to wait for dinner. People stay out much later at night in Spain, she said.

Despite the differences, Femia said everyone they met was very friendly.

“Everyone was very welcoming,” she said. “All the students felt they belonged here. It’s just like being at home.”

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