Exchanging the world for a small town
Three of four exchange students at Marion High School had never been to the United States — let alone Kansas — before they arrived recently for their year abroad.
Matilde Gaspari, a 16-year-old from Italy, had visited New York.
Dominik-Andra Marcu, 16, Romania; Alvaro Ciudad, 16, Spain; and Carmen Cuevas, 15, Spain, all made their first trips to the United States in August.
“I would say it’s like a dream coming true,” Dominik said about living in Marion.
“People are so nice,” Matilde said. “It’s a little community, so it’s more easy to make friendships.”
Matilde is living with principal Donald Raymer’s family.
“I really like it because I have three little brothers,” she said.
Talking in his office, Matilde said it wasn’t weird staying with the school’s head honcho.
“What else could she say right now?” Dominik asked, laughing.
Dominik and Matilde seem the closest of the four. They traveled together from Munich to Wichita through Denver.
Matilde is playing golf. Carmen is on the volleyball team. Dominik is a wide receiver and second kicker on the football team. Alvaro also is on the football team.
Carmen has been able to visit Colorado and the Kansas City area.
She’s in a different exchange program than the other students.
None of them has been homesick yet, they said.
“If you get homesick really fast, it’s a bad thing while you’re here,” Dominik said.
All of the students speak English — some a little better than others.
Raymer said he and his wife previously sponsored an exchange teacher who lived with them for about six weeks.
Sponsoring a student has been fun so far, he said.
“She hasn’t been too mean to me,” he said, laughing.
His home is always go-go-go-go-go, he said.
Matilde is trying her best to fit into the family, including getting up to speed about a sport Raymer played at Kansas State University.
“I’m trying to learn about football,” she said.
Last modified Sept. 27, 2023