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“Abroad” perspective

Exchange student Patricia Martinez discusses life in Holt


by Maria Chico Garcia


Martinez playing a basketball game against Okemos. Photo Credit: Jacob Szetela

Most students of Holt High School get to school by car, some of them by bus, and the ones that live close enough may walk, but for senior Patricia Martinez, it was a little bit different.

She had to take a plane.

Martinez is one of 12 exchange students who are studying at Holt High Schoolfor one to two semesters. She is from Madrid, Spain, and she will be in the U.S. for 10 months. In her time here, Martinez has been part of the varsity basketball and volleyball teams, and she plans to be on the track team in the spring.

Martinez explained how she has personally changed since her exchange experience started seven months ago.

“You have to be more responsible and know what you're doing all the time, and basically act like an adult, even though we're 16,” Martinez said.

Martinez said the experience of being a new student at HHS was challenging because of how people interacted with her. She noted that exchange students have to take the initiative to talk to others because social groups are very close.

“I was definitely the one that had to go and talk to people. And also, it's like they have two different personalities in school and out of school,” Martinez said.

Academically, Martinez noticed differences in the way students learn between the U.S. and Spain. In Spain, there is more memorization of facts, whereas school in Holt is more about deeper understanding and the reasons why things are the way they are.

Martinez and her host family ,the Vandenberghe's, at her senior night. Photo Credit: Studio M Sports

“School in Spain, it's really hard. …Here, [you] just, you have fun. …The way we learn things is just completely different,” Martinez said.

Martinez’s host sister, junior Hadley Vandenberghe, explained what it’s like living with an exchange student.

“It was a very different adjustment, but it's been cool learning about a different country,” Vandenberghe said.

Vandenberghe also discussed how the relationship with Martinez is different from her relationship with her younger brother.

“It's different because with my younger brother, I feel like I can't really say as much around him as I can with her. Like, I feel like I have a different personality around each of them, but it's fun either way,” she said.

Vandenberghe shared her favorite memory with Martinez.

One time we made dinner together, and it was really fun. Like, we just got to talk. and like, it was really good because we got along…,” Martinez said. “We've gone thrifting together, or we like to go to Target or just go on drives.”

Vandenberghe also talked about one of Martinez’s hobbies besides basketball.

“She's a good cook . She likes to cook a lot.”

Martinez’s English teacher, Jessie Kauffold, explained the positive aspects of having exchange students in a class.

Martinez having a discussion with her classmates in her English class. Photo Credit: Maria Chico Garcia

“Students are coming from places very different from Holt. This allows an opportunity for both of them to see a different part of life than what they're used to and it gives a different viewpoint of the world,” Kauffold said.

Kauffold also shared some of the most common characteristics that exchange students normally have towards the class and academic part of the program.

“Exchange students work really hard and they are very dedicated to doing stuff, ” she said.

“When you have an exchange student or somebody from a different place in the room, they can potentially contribute differently to that conversation so we can get a broader understanding.”

Martinez said that even if there are ups and downs during the experience it is a really enjoyable period of her life.

“It's a really good opportunity for all the exchange students who come here,” Martinez said. “We have bad times and we can be really sad but in overall, it's just amazing,”

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