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Local teens venture abroad

JULIE SUTOR
Special to the Daily
ALL |

SUMMIT COUNTY – Silverthorne teen Emily Adams likes a good paella. And she figured a month in Spain living with a Madrid-area family this summer would be the perfect opportunity to sample some of the finest batches of the traditional Spanish dish.However, when Adams dug into her first steaming bowl of saffron-flavored rice, loaded with shrimp, sausage and mussels, she was in for a surprise.”I picked up a shrimp and looked at it, and I just dropped it,” she said. “(My host family) asked what was wrong, and I said, ‘I can’t eat this. It has eyes.’ Everyone started laughing, and I ate around the shrimp.”Dealing with food that looks back at its diners was just one of many cultural lessons Adams learned during her one-month stint in Spain on a Rotary youth exchange trip in July.

She adjusted to Spaniards’ night-owl schedules, steeped herself in history in the museums and cathedrals of Avila, Segovia and Madrid and “made a lot of really good friends I can send letters to and improve my Spanish.”Each summer, Rotary facilitates the exchanges between teens of different cultures. The organization pairs students who take turns living with each other’s families for a month. “They’ve been doing it for 100 years,” said Summit County Rotary’s youth exchange officer, Eric Fisher. “I know when I was growing up, my father was a Rotarian, and we had international students staying in our house.”You get a much better immersion into the culture when you live with a family. You get a sense of the people and realize they’re not so different from us. Every American kid should spend some time overseas,” Fisher added.Frisco 17-year-old Alex Evans spent a month this summer in Sardinia, learning the laid-back, friendly lifestyle of the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

“They’re more affectionate and forward,” Evans said of the Sardinians. “And it’s a lot slower than American life. They seem to place more importance on enjoying themselves and just living rather than working themselves to the bone.”Evans stayed with a Sardinian family in a flat in the island’s capital city of Cagliari, a short distance from white, sandy beaches. He also made side trips to Naples, Rome and the ruins of Pompeii.”I liked seeing the history there,” Evans said. “A lot of people go to Europe for a short time. But I got to live a very day-to-day lifestyle – nothing glamorous.”For Adams, the exchange trip offered an opportunity to make a stronger connection to her Spanish roots. Her great grandmother was born in Spain, and she has cousins in Seville.

“I didn’t get to go to Seville, but talking on the phone with (a relative) and knowing I was in the same country with family was cool. It was important for me to see where my great grandmother came from,” Adams said.Adams interacted with only a handful of English-speakers during her trip, and her Spanish skills improved dramatically.Both teens felt the experience was invaluable.”It’s something I would encourage anyone else to do,” Evans said. “It was definitely one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in my life.”-Julie Sutor


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