Spanish Exchange Student Coasts into Neenah High School

Emlyn Swardenski and Elisa Hein

An hours-long flight over the Atlantic Ocean followed by an exhausting car trip across a new country would be an overwhelming experience for most. Yet, for Marta Jimenez the daunting task of moving to another country for a year was entirely manageable. 

A native of Pozuelo, Spain, Jimenez spent most of her life living outside the capital city of Madrid. Short in stature but large in personality, Jimenez often wears a smile and an infectious sense of joy. 

Accustomed to city life and European customs, Jimenez handled the adjustment to a small Wisconsin town with surprising ease. “There are a few cultural differences, but moving here was easy.”

The few notable differences between each home were minimal for Jimenez. She observed unusually large spaces between Neenah’s neighborhoods and the long car rides between locations. America was like a warped version of Spain, not dramatically different but notably altered from her hometown.  

For Jimenez, school seemed flexibly easy in Neenah compared with the more organized Pozuelo. She has enjoyed the freedom of choosing her classes and pursuing topics she finds interesting rather than following a strict class schedule. 

Welcomed by her host family the Keeslers, Jimenez attempted many new activities and classes at NHS. She learned to love cooking in her new culinary arts class and looks forward to trying powerlifting with her host sister. She also wants to try lacrosse, a sport that does not exist back home in Pozuelo. Jimenez runs track in her hometown and cannot wait to jump into new sports and activities here in America. 

Despite how easily she has handled the transition, obstacles are inevitable when moving to a brand new country and school. Jimenez misses her family and friends at home as well as the food she prefers. In Spain, eating lunch and dinner as a family was common. The relaxed American lunch resulted in less bonding with the household, causing Jimenez to miss that time with her family. 

Though American culture had its ups and downs, Jimenez embraced all the strange parts of her life in Wisconsin. She looks forward to wintertime, experiencing months of snow and a Packer game. As well as the cold, Jimenez would love to see the sunnier areas of the USA by attending powerlifting nationals in South Carolina. Being raised in a worldwide city has made her a flexible and easygoing person willing to take on any challenge presented.

An exchange program that could have terrified her has instead allowed Marta Jimenez an opportunity to enjoy her experience without fear holding her back.