OHS welcomes its newest foreign exchange student from Spain

OHS welcomes its newest foreign exchange student from Spain

Caroline Berry, features editor

Oxford High School is thrilled to welcome Paula Navarro, a Spanish foreign exchange student, to the district for the 2022-2023 school year. Navarro is originally from the Spanish Canary Islands. She arrived in the United States roughly a month ago. This grand adventure is Navarro’s first time in America ever. Navarro has been attending classes for several weeks now as a junior at OHS. She is taking lots of advanced coursework, such as Advanced Placement Biology.

Navarro has desired to study abroad for quite a while now. Through her exchange agency, she wasn’t able to pick what country she was going to live in for a year, but is ecstatic to have been placed in America.

“I have wanted to study abroad for one year since I was little, and I won a scholarship so I didn’t have the opportunity to pick the country,” Navarro said. “Anyways, America has always been interesting to me. I will be here until school ends in the spring.”

Though spending a year abroad in an unfamiliar country may seem daunting, Navarro is overjoyed to be here. One aspect that has made her transition easier is her host family. Navarro is staying with the Carrington family for the next ten months. Tucker Carrington and Desiree Hensley are both faculty members at the University of Mississippi, and one of their children, Glenn Carrington, is a junior at OHS.

“My host family is great, so I have been really comfortable with them,” Navarro said.

Glenn Carrington has been enthusiastic about the experience of hosting a foreign exchange student. Going through the entire process of becoming a host family is not for everyone, but the Carrington’s are up to the task.

“We applied about two years ago, but then because of COVID, nothing really happened,” Carrington said. “Randomly, we got a call this year that was just like that asked if we would want to be a host family. Then they sent us applications and we had to go through and pick a foreign exchange student. It’s kind of awkward because we’re literally going through and choosing which exchange student we wanted, but yeah we chose Paula.”

Carrington has been a great friend, and sister-like figure to Navarro since her move to the United States. Being a member of a host family is mostly what she expected, and is pleased with how the experience has gone for the both of them so far. De- spite any initial awkwardness or tension, the two have become sweet friends over the past month.

“It’s always kind of weird when you first meet someone, then have to fully recognize that you’re going to be living together for the next ten months,” Carrington said. “We better have liked each other, because there wasn’t any going back. It was a little awkward to have someone you don’t know living in your house at first. But we’re both really excited. She’s really nice, and I like to think I’m really nice. We’ve been getting along, and we’ve been getting a lot closer, so yeah, it’s very exciting.”

Additionally, Carrington has been especially empathetic towards Navarro’s struggles. It can be quite the culture shock to move one’s life to a different continent over the span of a few weeks. As one might expect, nothing ever goes perfectly when traveling, but both Carrington and Navarro continue to make the best of every situation that comes their way.

“There really haven’t been any major difficulties for me,” Carrington said. “I know for her there have been plenty. Like her luggage was missing for the first two weeks she was here, and that’s been a real struggle for her. There hasn’t been anything that’s gone majorly wrong with her like moving in or house stuff though.”

Navarro has managed to combat typical homesickness after a big move, but of course still misses Spain at times.

“Leaving my family and friends in Spain has been really difficult,” Navarro said.

One thing that has been particularly helpful in her adjustment, is that Navarro is an excellent English speaker. She is even enrolled in Advanced Placement English III at her high school this semester. Often the biggest concern for new foreign exchange students is the language barrier but Navarro has had no trouble at all communicating and making friends since she’s arrived.

“She had really good English so there really haven’t been any language barriers,” Carrington said. “The main issue is that I like to speak Spanish at home for fun and she makes fun of me and laughs at me when I speak Spanish.”

During her first month in the Oxford area, Navarro has found plenty of opportunities to get involved. She was recently named the manager of the Oxford High School Chargerettes Dance Team. Navarro danced back in Spain, and is elated to continue her dancing in her year abroad. Additionally, Navarro gets to have head dance team coach and math teacher, Jenna Antolik, during the school day for algebra class.

“Having Paula as our manager has been the best way to get her involved at OHS, Antolik said. “She’s a foreign exchange student, so the role of manager is perfect for one year only. She dances back home, so she is able to participate at practice and work on technique with us. She fits rights in with the rest of the girls, and we have loved getting to know her!”

Navarro helps the team rehearse for all of their upcoming performances. Members of the Chargerettes are thrilled to have this new addition and feel that she will be a valuable asset in helping the team improve. One junior on the team, Graham Sherman, has made an especially great connection with Navarro since she joined the team.

“I’m so excited that Paula is a part of our team as a manager this season,” Sherman said. She has such a positive energy at practice and is up to do anything. We are so lucky to have her with us this year, and I can’t wait to get to know her better. I’m really happy she’s gotten to participate at practices and come to some of the away football games with us. She’s so sweet and I glad she will be with us for the whole season.”

In addition to being the manager of the dance team, Navarro has participated in many other organizations and American activities to get the full experience of being a teenager in the states.

“She’s on the dance team obviously and she’s been enjoying that a lot,” Carrington said. “She also really likes going to the football games and other school activities like that. Just this week, she’s started a painting class at Ole Miss and I think she’s really going to enjoy that.”

Oxford High School has been welcoming foreign exchange students to its campus for several years now. From sporting events, to academics, to spectacular theatre performances, OHS has a lot to offer foreign exchange students who are look- ing for the traditional American high school experience. One of Oxford’s former foreign exchange students from the 2021-2022 school year, Celine Erdman, comments on her past experience living in America for a year after returning to Nürnberg, Germany.

“What I learned from the experience is definitely to never judge a book by its cover,” Erdman said. “Throughout the year I met so many different people and ended up with a group that I did not see coming but it was the most fun I’ve ever had. I actually plan on coming back to the States for Oxford High School graduation this year. I really miss the Oxford football games; they were my favorite part. Getting to come to America was so amazing and I wish Paula the best of luck this year.”

Carrington and her family will surely learn a lot after hosting Navarro for this next chapter in their lives. Navarro is in great hands and will hopefully continue to have a positive experience. Carrington found this experience to have already altered her outlook on exchange students and traveling abroad.

“I’ve always wanted to travel abroad, and living with a foreign exchange student definitely exacerbates that feeling a little bit,” Carrington said. “In our heads, we think of people from France, or Spain, or wherever as so different from the people we interact with on a daily basis, but Paula is just like a regular person from a different country. It really changes your perspective and makes it more interesting because I have an inside view on how different our cultures are in everyday life.”