Dancing on air

Foreign exchange student gets traditional high school experience


Sophomore Nora Casado poses in her prom dress. Photo contributed

Ava Hoover, Staff Writer

Sophomore Nora Casado, who is from Spain, wasn’t always on board with the idea of becoming a foreign exchange student.

“When my mom brought up the idea of me becoming an exchange student when I was in seventh grade, I totally freaked out,” Casado said. “I was so scared and sure that I would never do that. Now, looking back, I think that I just needed some time because in my freshman year I went to my mom and asked her about what she said a while ago.”

When she eventually made the decision to travel to the U.S., she met a fellow exchange student on the plane. That made her transition to a new continent more comfortable.

“My flight from Spain was actually really nice because when I was in the plane, I found out that the girl sitting next to me was also an exchange student from Spain going to Indiana so we both had the same exact flights from Madrid, Spain to New York and from New York to Indiana,” Casado said. “I did have a lot of papers because traveling out of your country is kind of difficult and it requires so many things, but it was fine because I was with that girl that I met so we did everything together.”

Language has always been important for Casado, and she currently knows three of them. As a result, the foreign exchange program gave her the opportunity to learn more about English and American culture.

  “I’ve been learning English basically my whole life, since first grade,” Casado said. “I only had four hours of English class per week, and the teachers weren’t natives, so you don’t learn the accent. They also usually teach us British English so there are some differences from American English. The language also made me not be able to say things that I wanted to say, especially the first months that I was here. I wanted to make a joke or say my opinion about a topic but I just didn’t know how to explain it.”

Another new challenge for Casado to face was high school, which is far different in the US than in Spain.

“In American high schools, students move from class to class every period, but in Spain I stay in the same class for the whole day; the teachers are the ones that move around,” Casado said. “Therefore, the people that I have class with are always the same so you make friendships and know everyone in your class. This can’t be done in America because the people in your class change all the time and you don’t get to talk with them a lot and become friends.” 

During her time, Casado found schoolwork in America to be easier.

“I think American school is easier not just because of the things you learn but also because of the way you learn them,” Casado said. “I think teachers here generally try to make the subject easier for you, giving you the chance for retakes, extra help and more time to turn your assignments in. That is not as usual in Spain. Especially due dates, if you don’t turn something in, your possibilities of turning it in late and not getting a zero are very few. Tests here are also not as difficult. Not a lot of multiple choice tests are done in Spain. There are always questions where you need to answer with essays.” 

Throughout the year, she has been able to attend many typical American high school events that she does not have in Spain. For example, athletic events are seen as social events in the U.S., which is not the case in Spain. Homecoming was another occasion that Casado was eager to participate in.

“Homecoming was a really fun experience because we don’t do dances in Spain so it was something different that I always watched in movies and getting to experience it was really nice, even if it wasn’t as big as they make it seem in movies,” Casado said.

Additionally, because of her status as an exchange student, Casado also got to attend another recognizable American high school dance. 

“I think prom was pretty fun because I spent time with my friends and we took so many pictures, we also went to dinner before and we had so much fun overall,” Casado said. 

Despite this, there are aspects of her home country that she misses. In addition to not being able to see her family and friends, Casado misses certain characteristics of life in Spain that make her home feel like home.

“I miss the food so much but what I miss the most about Spain is certainly the freedom that I had there,” Casado said. “Hanging out with your friends or going somewhere is so much easier there. There’s no need for a car and I can just walk everywhere. Here I always need a car for everything and it’s kind of frustrating,”Casado said. 

Casado took a chance by becoming a foreign exchange student. When she arrived in America, she had no idea what to expect but by the end of her journey she got to reflect on all the new friends she made, what she learned, and what she experienced. When Casado returns to Spain one week after the end of the school year, she will return having had the high school experience she was looking for.