Mount Pulaski students and families have a blast hosting the Costa Rican students
Part 2: Exchange experience more than just language

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[February 07, 2018] 

Each of the Toppers weighed in about their experiences, too. It is obvious that each student made a wonderful connection with their Tico and again life-long bonds were formed.

Brandon Kretzinger, a sophomore at MPHS said, “It was a great experience and I cannot wait to go to Costa Rica and experience all of their culture and everything they do there.”

Kretzinger’s family hosted Gerardo and Brandon said, “He made it like there was another family member that we had for a week. There was a connection and he was like family.”

Teagan Wyss’ family hosted
Andrés and it was evident the experience changed the sophomore’s life. “Ahh, it was amazing. First of all, getting to encounter with someone who speaks another language as their native language let alone one that I am learning at the moment - it was amazing. It was a great learning experience. I got very close with Andres through texting and calls beforehand and so there was already a great connection there. We were already really close friends and it definitely helped with the awkwardness that usually comes with the exchange, like when you first meet them. I know it was a great experience for him to be able to speak to me, a native English speaker, and it worked both ways. It was great going back and forth with languages.”

 Wyss continued, "I think getting to learn more about him personally was awesome. I love talking to people and getting to broaden my horizons by speaking to people from other countries and getting to know them. It was great. I’m definitely looking forward to Costa Rica. I got my passport picture today.”

Wyss also mentioned how Costa Ricans do not get to drive until they are 18 years old and offered, "Everything is so close they don’t really need personal cars like we do. They mostly use public transportation.”

Mount Pulaski students will get to use that public transportation this summer and they will probably really like it.

Kaylee Wilham, a sophomore at MPHS, was fortunate to host Michelle and continues to FaceTime and text message with her new friend. Of the experience, Wilham was quick to say, “It was amazing. I really enjoyed it. I am excited to go to Costa Rica in June. I miss them so much already even though they just left. I just can’t wait.”

Wilham noted how a connection was made with her Tico.

“It impacted us greatly because not only were we getting friends in the experience but we were getting family. So now I have another family member that’s not biological,” Kaylee said with a big smile.

Skylar Hayes is a veteran of the Spanish and Costa Rican exchanges, however the junior did not travel to Costa Rico the first time back in 2016.

Of this particular experience, Hayes said eagerly, “It was so much fun. What an experience. I’ve been through three of these exchanges and I don’t like to compare but like this was definitely the most fun I’ve ever been in. We had a very small group so we got to know each other. Everyone got to know each other. The other groups were always big groups so we didn’t get to really know each other. We all connected really well. We learned a lot about each others’ cultures and a lot about our language. It was really cool.”

The Hayes family hosted Nathalie, and Hayes believes another long term relationship will develop. She still talks to her exchange student from Spain everyday and she says, “I’m pretty sure me and Nathalie are going to do the same thing. We had a really close bond when she was here and we learned a lot about each other. It was fun.”

Even though Hayes hosted a Tico in the very first exchange, she did not make that trip to Costa Rica due to basketball commitments. This time around Hayes made adjustments and will be joining the group to the island country for two weeks in June.

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Hayes also gave kudos to Grunder for putting in all the hard work to make this happen for the students. "It’s so cool.....they are from a totally different country and not everyone gets to do this, “ said Hayes. "Props to Rachel Grunder. She set this up three years ago."

Abby Howard, a senior at MPHS, hosted a Tico named Angie but she is not going to visit her in Costa Rico this summer. Nonetheless the experience was positive and Howard especially got a kick out of the Ticos having “super English names.” Howard also said Angie liked the restaurant Chi in Lincoln a lot. "She loved Chi and she also loved By the Bean in Lincoln,” said a smiling Howard.

“I think it was very beneficial for my family to have a non-English speaker in our house because it really caused them to try to be more relational with her knowing they couldn’t communicate with words,” said Howard. "I feel like we all made a new friend even though they couldn’t communicate as well.”

Since Howard does not know when she will see Angie again, she said, “That made the goodbyes a lot harder.” When asked if she will visit the country someday she was quick to say, "I hope so. I hope I do. Yes, I think we will. We were really close and she was a really fun person to have around. So I think we will see each other again."

Zac Hinds and his dad, Craig, hosted Vincent while mom Julie, owner of Country Junction in Clinton, was away at Market for much of Vincent’s stay.

“Vincent was also a decent English speaker so he could communicate with my parents better,” said Zac. "He still helped me with some Spanish that I didn’t know yet. Then all together it was just a fun experience to be around everybody in the group and to get closer with everyone.”

Julie noted when she got home from Market how Vincent wanted to go to Ulta and buy makeup to take back home for his mom.

Claire Coogan, a sophomore at MPHS and a first-time host, also enjoyed the Tico experience. “I hosted Pamela and she was really cool. She’s a little bit older than me so she was kind of like a mom to me. She’d look through all my school notebooks and organize them for me. I felt kinda bad but it was really cute. One of my favorite memories was when we went sledding out at the farm. We were sledding around on a car hood and it’s the most redneck Illinois thing that I can think of and I definitely think it was something they took back with them.” Coogan added that the Ticos loved the snow. “They couldn’t get enough of it,” she said, but added, "I am sure when they were ready to leave they were over it.”

The language barrier might have been a bit of a challenge for the Coogan family, but they made adjustments. "She wasn’t really the best English speaker so it really taught my family how to maneuver around just speaking,” said Coogan. "Like my dad learned Google Translate and he loves Google Translate now. There were lots of hand signals. She taught me a lot of Spanish and I taught her a lot of English. We just learned how to get along very well. We connected very well.”

The story goes on this June

The students will get reconnected in June when MPHS students make the journey to Costa Rica and stay for approximately two weeks. Grunder will make the trip, too, and she’s eagerly anticipating another eye-opening experience for her Toppers.

"We are all very much looking forward to meeting up with them again in June...when we will marvel at their volcanoes, jungles, and exhaustive heat!

¡Pura Vida!---hats off to another successful MPHS hosting experience!”

[Teena Lowery]

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