Far from Spain, a Student Hopes for New Experiences


Payton McClowry and Grace Randall

COVID-19 has brought many troubles and shut down many opportunities for people all around the globe.

NHS is seeing this first-hand as the school only brought in two foreign exchange students this year. In past years, NHS has had around five exchange students per year but that has reached a new low this year as many had their plans frozen because of the pandemic.

Fernando Díaz-Alvaro is Neenah’s fourth exchange student from Spain in recent memory and was fortunate enough to be able to come to Neenah to further his education this year.

Díaz-Alvaro comes from the city of Mahon, the capital of Menorca island. According to the article Menorca Blue, Menorca is off the eastern coast of Spain and a few steps away from two other islands, Mallorca and St. Antoni de Portmany. Though Menorca is still a part of Spain, it has its own distinctive culture. Many other people in this geographic area define themselves by their work, and while the people of Menorca Island are proud of their work, many live by the motto: “Work to live, not live to work.” They also put great importance on family and friends, often spending the offseason (the winter season when most tourists have left the island) with family and loved ones.

Díaz-Alvaro lives in Mahon with his parents and sister. Preferring to stay active, he enjoys spending his time on the move: walking, jogging and sparring. He came to the United States as an exchange student to get a complete education as schooling in his area is not necessarily the best. Though he is interested in education, he also thought the United States would be different from his home, but he did not have any expectations. He was not sure how the United States would be different, just that it would be, which he finds to be true.

One thing he misses from the Spanish culture back home is Siesta, an hour-long break after lunch. He is used to taking that time to watch a movie or relax at home and he says he is still having trouble adjusting to the American lifestyle in that sense. Díaz-Alvaro also misses some of the classic food dishes that he is used to back home, but he does not mind American food that much.

One thing Díaz-Alvaro is exciting about seeing is something Wisconsin is known for: snow. He has not seen snow since he was a child, mainly as the coldest average temperature in Menorca is about 8 C (46 F) in the early months of the year, the coldest time of the year,  according to climatestotravel.com. Beyond simply wanting to see the snow, he also wants to try out snowboarding this winter and looks forward to trying other popular winter activities. Although the surfing conditions are not great in Menorca, Díaz-Alvaro has been surfing before and perhaps that will help him when he tries to shred on the slopes.

It is not easy living in a new country during a global pandemic and Díaz-Alvaro points out that he has not been able to meet as many people as he had hoped. Like most students right now, he feels like a dog in a kennel waiting to get out and do new things, but he cannot. He is stuck doing school from his new home instead of meeting new people and experiencing a different country as he had once hoped. Fortunately for him, Díaz-Alvaro says the people he has had the opportunity to meet have “been very accepting and (he) is grateful for his new friends he has made.”