When asked about what was different between American and Spain, Emma di Pretoro summed it all up in one wide-eyed response: “Everything.”
Di Pretoro arrived in the United States about two and a half months ago, leaving Castellar del Vallès, a small town about 45 minutes from Barcelona, behind. Despite her initial nervousness for her year in America, she is living out a long-held dream. “Since I was little, I wanted to live abroad for a year,” she explained. “I wanted to leave my comfort zone and live a new life.” She has integrated herself so well into the community that she admits the only thing she misses from Spain is her family and friends.
While not the only participant in her study abroad program, di Pretoro is the only one who was sent to Michigan. Luckily, she has found a second family here in America, both in her host family and at school. “What I like about here are the sports and the school spirit,” she said. “I feel like here, school is your life and you live for school. You have sports, you have clubs, you have subjects. In Spain, everyone hates school. You just go there.” Thus, di Pretoro has taken advantage of FHE’s extracurriculars, not only running with the cross country team but also participating in Eastern’s Model United Nations club.
But school isn’t where the Spanish-American distinctions end. Transportation is another aspect of life in which di Pretoro’s found differences. In contrast to Castellar del Vallès, where “you can walk to everything,” Grand Rapids is much more spread out. She has also noticed how much cars prevail, especially among teenagers. A younger driving age is the one thing she wishes she could bring back to her country. “In Spain you have to be eighteen to drive,” she said, “and I’m sixteen, so I still have two years.”
Di Pretoro will be staying in the US for eight more months. While it may seem daunting, she recommends studying abroad wholeheartedly. “I think we need to get out of our comfort zone and see a new world, culture, language,” she said. “It’s kinda cheesy, but it’s true.”