The back parking lot of the Municipal Center is crowded with suitcases and kids, both Spanish and American. It is the final day of the Spain to Bethel exchange program, and the bus driver is waiting for the Spaniards to load themselves and their luggage onto the bus, but no one is making any move to do so.
The Spanish students and their host family brothers and sisters are too busy taking the last of their pictures together, getting final hugs, and even shedding some tears. No one wants to leave!
This may seem incredibly cheesy, but as three of the Bethel students who hosted Spanish students this summer, we can honestly say that this is true.
None of us knew what was in store when their bus pulled up to the same building four weeks earlier. They were strangers to us. Not to mention, strangers who spoke a different language, and could not entirely understand us! But what enabled us to get through that first night, and the rest of their stay, was that they were all extremely cooperative and ready and willing to be welcomed into our families and to get to know us.
This summer, the same opportunity has arisen. The company, Go Inspired, that brought the Spanish teenagers (12-18 years old) to Bethel last year is bringing a whole new group of kids to our town for the summer of 2015. One of the members of the company, Margo Kopec, (a former Bethel resident herself) has devoted her life to travel and facilitating interaction between people of all cultures. Therefore, she is eager to pair you and your family with the perfect match! She is great to work with, and she will strive to match your family with a Spanish student who is the same gender, close in age, and has similar interests as all of you – no need to worry about an awkward sense of having nothing in common.
We know everyone has dreamed about having a new brother or sister at some point in their lives, and here is a great opportunity to gain a new sibling for the summer and frankly, a new friendship you will hold for the rest of your life. From fourth of July celebrations, to pool parties, to relay races, to playing Spanish card games, flag football, ice skating, hiking, and getting to experience Ferris Acre’s Creamery and s’mores for the first time through your new Spanish friends’ eyes, you are promised a summer that you will always remember.
Furthermore, last year a lot of the host-siblings went to NYC to see a Yankee game and the Broadway show, Matilda, with the Go Inspired group. Then, on another weekend trip, they experienced Boston with all of their Spanish friends. Just imagine being part of someone’s first time seeing these amazing landmarks and events America has to offer. It is an extremely rewarding and amusing experience!
However, hosting a Spanish student is not only a great experience for you, but an unforgettable one for the student you host. Friendships are made, experiences shared and culture and language learned. Ester, a sixteen-year-old girl from Castellón who came to Bethel commented that, “The best of my time that I spent in Bethel was with the family… I also liked Boston and New York, and I can’t forget about the shopping! But the best thing was that I could learn English a lot because we were more or less with American people the whole time”.
Most of the exchange students will come from either the country’s capital city, Madrid, or a scenic coastal town, Castellón, for the opportunity to stay in our “quaint New England town” of Bethel, CT. BHS is still looking for approximately 20 or more families to host the Spanish students who are excited for their once-in-a-lifetime trip to America. Feel free to contact any three of us, or Ms. Taranovich with questions, and check out this website: https://sites.google.com/a/bethel.k12.ct.us/spain-bethel-exchange-program/!