RAYMOND – For many of us, preparing a Christmas feast is an annual tradition, but for one foreign exchange student, she’s getting to experience American holidays for the very first time.
Carla llompart di Benedetto, 15, is a foreign exchange student from Mallorca, Spain and is a sophomore at Raymond Central High School.
While each holiday brings her many new experiences, there are also similarities she celebrates with her host family.
“Yes, it is my first American Christmas but we celebrate almost the same as here,” Carla said. “Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, the presents, the tree, the lights,” she said. “The only thing that is different is the food and that we have two days of presents.”
According to Carla they celebrate on Dec. 25 and then on Jan. 6 three kings come and at midnight, they give presents.
“The food is different in all the parts of Spain, but on my island we eat a meatball soup, trust me, it is really good,” she added.
Since Carla’s arrival she said she’s experimented with many new things, like living in the countryside.
“Because Spain is in the city, it’s very different,” she said. “The weather is also very different, I live on an island in Spain so I’m not used to the cold, well, now I am.”
Another first for Carla – it’s the first time she has played basketball. In her country she plays volleyball and beach volleyball year around.
“That’s why when volleyball finished I didn’t know what to do so I started basketball and it was my first time, so it has been tough, but more or less I’m starting to understand everything,” she said.
Having been in the United States since August, this is not her first visit to America.
“I went to New York when I was nine in 2013, I traveled with my parents, my sister and some friends,” she said. “I fell in love with America. It was summer so we didn’t see the Christmas lights, but I knew I would go back in the future.”
Carla said she loves learning new cultures and that she finds the American culture fascinating.
“Everything is so different, the people, the school, the food,” she said. “Since I came to New York I knew that I wanted to live here, and when I discovered this opportunity I didn’t hesitate. But this is all thanks to my parents, it’s the best present they could have ever given me.”
Carla said when she goes home to Spain she will take every memory with her.
“My host family, I love them, they are like my second family,” she said. “I will also remember my friends that I have made here, all the exchanges students that I met here, all the American traditions, basically my entire school year.”
Carla’s host family is Tim and Jessica Cronin and their two daughters Riley, 4, and Reagan, 20 months.
Carla’s host mom said there wasn’t much of an adjustment period when the Spanish teenager moved in.
“Carla arrived in Nebraska on August 18th and started classes on August 20th. Talk about a whirlwind, but she adjusted very quickly,” Jessica said.
Jessica also said Carla stays busy with school and sports, but when she is home she fits right in as a member of the family.
“One of our favorite things to do as a family is watch Husker volleyball, and she has even gotten to attend a couple of games,” she said.
Day-to-day activities aside, Jessica said she hope they can all continue to learn from each other.
“It was fun to introduce Carla to her first Thanksgiving, since that is not something they celebrate in Spain,” Jessica said. “But I am more excited for Christmas. I am hopeful that she will want to incorporate some of her family’s traditions from Spain in to ours.”