A group of Spanish students and their host families toured the Missouri Capitol Building on Thursday as they toured the Senate Chamber, the Dome, and the Whispering Gallery, among other places.
The students are here for a month-long stay as part of the Jefferson City Cultural Experiences program. Coordinated by Spanish teachers from Jefferson City and Capital City high schools, the program places students ages 14-16 with local families to learn about Midwestern culture and American family life, as well as practice their English. . The program has been active for a decade, but took a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
The program came back strong this year, with 17 Spanish students making the trip – more than ever.
Layne Fatherley, from Jefferson City, was there with Luz Delgado, from Madrid, who stayed with his family this summer.
Luz said she’s enjoyed her time in Jefferson City so far and it’s been filled with activity. She noted that the culture and food in particular is different from Spain. Luz said she found several surprising things about the United States.
She said she was surprised to find that taxes are not included on the price tags like they are in Spain, so the total at checkout is always a shock. The driving is also very different, and Luz was surprised to find that local teenagers can drive at 16 instead of 18.
Layne has been on several trips with Luz and said she enjoyed Six Flags the most. They are both looking forward to visiting Chicago next week.
Those students, along with a handful of foster parents and siblings, toured the quiet, empty Missouri Capitol on Thursday. They started in the Senate chamber, where they were greeted by local Senator Mike Bernskoetter, who explained the “old-fashioned” processes in the Senate that use paper and voice votes, rather than technology.
He also explained how senators are seated by seniority and how a bill becomes law.
After hearing Bernskoetter, the students eagerly lined up to bang the gavel on the Senate Speaker’s dais.
Linda Parks, who lives near Eldon, is the foster mum of Diego Varo, from Madrid.
“It’s like being in a movie,” Diego said of his time in America. Although he has seen many movies and TV shows in the United States, he said it was surreal to actually be here.
He noticed that everything is bigger in America, from cars to buildings and roads to portions.
A difficult adjustment was the meal times. In Spain, lunch is at 2 p.m. and a large dinner is served around 9 p.m. On the first day, he said, his stomach was rumbling all day.
Parks said the hosting experience was “wonderful” and kept Diego busy with many local events, from the county fair to vacation Bible school to lakeside tubing and family trips.
Diego brought Spanish games with him which he taught to members of the Parks family, and they also taught him games.
Parks said she was inspired to host because she went to Colombia as an exchange student in high school.
Diego loved visiting the lake the most, and ever since watching a Cardinals game, he has fallen in love with baseball – and is a good batsman himself.
Later this month, the students will visit Chicago and take a chariot trip before returning home.