Costa Rican and American Students Reunite after Last Summers Exchange Program


The Exchange students pose for a photo at a skating rink.

Michele Lucas

The Exchange students pose for a photo at a skating rink.
The exchange students pose for a photo during their time at a local skating rink.

After arriving on December 26, seventeen Costa Rican exchange students were looking forward to two weeks in Walpole with their host families. The exchange was packed with several trips around New England to places such as such as to Boston and Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker, New Hampshire and an eventful and long day trip to New York.

The day after arriving, December 27, there was a welcome party at the Swan Pond Club house, filled with a potluck style dinner and music from a sound system. The students danced and listened to music while catching up with one another after a long 5 months apart from the friends they had made last summer.

On December 28, all the exchange students went skating at an ice rink in Franklin. Skating was very interesting and fun for the Ticos but proved to also be difficult. On the other hand, many of the American students had some trouble as well.  Costa Rican exchange student Alejandro Pacheco said, “Skating was very fun but it hurt [when I fell]!”

The next day, Saturday December 29, all the students boarded a bus at 6 am to leave for NYC. This trip was anything but uneventful. After getting off the bus at around 10 a.m., the students got on the Staten Island ferry, a free ride that travels directly past the Statue of Liberty. When the students arrived on Staten Island, they immediately turned around to go back but they had to wait for another ferry. Unfortunately, because they had to wait for the ferry, the exchange students had no time to visit the 9/11 memorial which was the thing that many of students wished to see the most. The students and the chaperones, Mr. Sturges, Mrs. Bolino (both Spanish teachers in the Walpole Public Schools), and the two English teachers from Costa Rica then traveled on the subway.

Without having any time to shop, the students left to walk to Rockefeller Center where they were hoping to go to the Top of the Rock, but due to an impending snow storm, this was not possible. Finally the students were returning to Walpole earlier than they were expecting when the bus broke down in Connecticut. Unfortunately, they were stuck for 3 hours unable to fix the problem until another bus arrived to save them. Finally, the students returned to Walpole around 2 a.m.. Junior Abbey Smith said, “This trip was quite an experience but at least we were able to see some of New York City. I think the Ticos will definitely remember it”.

After the trip to New York, the students had several free days in which most of the Costa Ricans shopped. Many of the exchange students spent money like crazy because goods are much cheaper in the U.S. than in Costa Rica. The Ticos bought everything from clothes to MacBook Pros to take back for themselves, their families, and  their friends. On New Year’s Eve, the Ticos experienced somewhat of a different New Year’s party than what they are used to. Vivi Montero Campos said, “I called my parents that afternoon and they were at the beach. I thought it was so weird being here on New Year’s Eve with the snow and the cold.”

On January 2, both the US students and the Costa Ricans returned to school. The Ticos shadowed their American students around for the day attending their classes. Fabian Cordero said, “It is much stricter here and there are no breaks. We have 10 minutes inbetween classes to grab a snack and talk if we need to and the public schools here have more materials and classes to help students. Our public school in Costa Rica don’t have anything, If you want that, you have to go to a private school.”

The day after, the Ticos went to the Museum of Science while the American students were in school. On Friday January 4, the Ticos returned to the Walpole Hish School to give presentations to Spanish classes. While some did traditional Costa Rican dances, others gave presentations on Costa Rican culture, schooling, climate, and tourism.

On Saturday January 5, all the exchange students traveled to New Hampshire to go to Pats Peak Ski Resort. For some, this was the first time skiing or snowboarding, so the Costa Ricans and Americans took lessons for an hour in the morning then were free to ski for the rest of the afternoon. The arrangements for ski instructor bookings were done months in advance to ensure the best experience for our foreign friends. However, Emarila Avila, a Costa Rican student, sprained her knee while getting up after falling off her skis. Emarila spent the rest of the trip on crutches but thankfully was not seriously injured. Vivi said, “My favorite part [of the exchange] was the trip to Pats Peak, except for Emarila’s injury, it was something new for me and I enjoyed it a lot.” Fabian Cordero also said, “My favorite part was snowboarding because it is something I can’t do in Costa Rica.”

But for other people like Paola Acuna Lopez, the best part of the exchange was the trip the next day to Boston to see Blue Man Group at the Charles Playhouse. All the exchange students were laughing as some of their own like Fabian got called up on stage and some got food spit out into their hand like Lidio, the English teacher.

The next two days, January 7 and 8, the Ticos visited JFK Museum and either one of the middle schools giving similar presentations to those they gave at the high school. The final full day together both the Americans and Ticos traveled into Boston to the New England Aquarium and Quincy Market where they did more shopping.

The Costa Ricans were deposited by their host families at 3 a.m. at the high school to travel to the airport for their early flight home on January 10. However,  neither the American students nor the Costa Ricans will forget their experiences together from getting stuck on a bus to learning how to ski and skate. Paola said, “It was a great experience and I met lots of new people.” Fabian also said, “I learned the differences between our cultures and lifestyles like  you have more sports to practice, the food of course we are always eating rice and beans, the way you say hello instead of with a hug and a kiss on the cheek like us but I could get used to it. I would really like to experience a whole year here in Boston.”

Mr. Sturges, the head coordinator for the exchange, also felt that the exchange went well. He said, ” I think the trips were generally successful.  We had a few mishaps on the New York trip, like the bus breakdown, but in general the trips went as planned.” Junior at Walpole High School Mike St. Germain, who enjoyed the whole experience, said, “In the end there were a lot of tears and goodbyes, but the friendships made during this exchange will last much longer. I’m definitely looking to go back down [to Costa Rica] as soon as possible and would recommend an exchange like this one to anyone.”