Jorge Santamaria has spent a month in SE experiencing the American culture and enjoying a Minnesota summer

Most foreign exchange students in Sleepy Eye spend a nine-month stint in the local schools to become absorbed in the American culture for nearly a year.

Recently, Jorge Santamaria spent a month with Bruce and Janet Lokensgard to experience American culture in the summer months.

From Santander, Spain, 16-year-old Jorge said his expectations of America were what he has seen in movies and from his own experiences of being in a metropolitan area with a population of 200,000 or more.

"I've really enjoyed my family (the Lokensgards) and the experience in a little village," Jorge said about the month he has been here. He added aspects that have been a pleasant surprise to him are how friendly people are in Sleepy Eye, the amount of mosquitoes and the green grass.

Jorge explained that in his city, he lives by the sea and in the home he shares with his parents and an older brother, they do not have lawns like they do in Minnesota.

Jorge said he began studying English in school at the age of five but has mainly been learning British English so the dialect has been slightly different from what he has been studying.

"The first few days here the language was hard to understand," Jorge said. "Everyone in Minnesota pronounces their 'O's very long." 

Janet said that in their past experiences of hosting seven foreign exchange students, the students sometimes don't give themselves the credit they deserve when learning the language and a new culture.

"The students believe their English isn't very good at first, but it is," Janet said. "They are coming over here because they are smart kids and they catch on fast, otherwise they wouldn't be here." 

Jorge traveled to the United States through the Compass USA foreign exchange program. He arrived June 29 and will travel back to Spain on July 29.

The Lokensgards said they are thrilled to be able to host a student during the summer months to share the culture of a southern Minnesota summer. Jorge is the first student they have hosted in the summer, something they said, they haven't had the opportunity to do when they've hosted students who stay through the school year and leave shortly after school ends.

In the short month that Jorge has been here, he has experienced the Fourth of July at Allison Park and been to Valley Fair and Wisconsin Dells Resort and attended an American wedding.

"American weddings are different than Spanish weddings in that in Spain we don't have bridesmaids or groomsmen," Jorge explained.

He also said he would like to see the Mall of America before he leaves