Lucia Perez, who lives in Spain, has dreamed of traveling to the U.S. to study since she was 12. She studied English for years to prepare for her trip.
“I want to learn a new culture,” she said. “I want to improve my English and meet lots of friends.”
She had to convince her parents to let her go. Ultimately, they agreed.
“They know it’s going to be a good experience for me,” Lucia said.
Her sister, who is younger than Lucia by three years, was sad to see her leave but “she wants me to do this,” Lucia said.
Lucia is staying with the Schowengert family, with parents Daniel and Nicole, their son Noah, 13, and daughter Bella, 11.
Because Lucia had to spend two weeks in quarantine, the Schowengerts took her on a family trip to Colorado, where they were secluded and could enjoy activities in the mountains.
They want to take her on trips and have a variety of adventures, at least as much as they will be allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to give her a really good experience, and see all the things she’s able to see,” Nicole said.
For about a year, the Schowengerdts considered hosting a foreign student. Nicole’s mother made friends with an exchange student when she was in high school, and enjoyed the experience.
Still, the decision to host Lucia happened very quickly.
“It really was so last minute but it worked out,” Nicole said. “It was perfect timing.”
She’s excited for her children to learn more about a different culture, and hopes they might follow Lucia’s lead and study abroad when they are a little older.
“It’s really good for teaching independence, to get to know someone from another country, and expand their horizons by having new experiences in a different part of the world,” Nicole said.
“I would encourage other families to do this. After Lucia leaves, I hope to host again.”
Lucia said her primary goals are to learn more about the culture and language, but she also wants to grow as a person.
“I think you improve and you have new goals and you become more independent.”
Lucia is excited to join the volleyball team. She started playing six years ago. She’s also been dancing for two years and has enrolled in Miss Chelsea’s Dance Academy.
She’ll start classes at Iola High School Monday.