Spanish students stay in Suffolk

Published 10:43 pm Friday, June 29, 2012

Submitted photo Exchange: Spanish exchange student Jamie Malo Alvarez is staying with Christopher Fegley and his family for about a month. David and Crystal Gibson also are hosting a student.

It isn’t quite Don Quixote meets John Wayne, but 15 exchange students from Spain are experiencing a culture shock after arriving at Norfolk International Airport Thursday.

Jaime Malo Alvarez, a 16-year-old from Santander, a city on Spain’s north coast, is lodging with the family of Cindy Fegley, cubmaster at Suffolk’s Boy Scout Troop 1929.

He is one of two of the Spanish students living with Suffolk families during their American visit.

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Amid his first trip to America, Alvarez said, “I think it’s a different culture, and things here are quite different … things are bigger.

“The cars are so big here. In my opinion, it looks like they have the biggest wheels I have ever seen. You go to Europe, all the cars are quite small.”

It’s the Fegley family’s first time hosting an international exchange student. “We were trying to find a way of broadening our horizons,” Cindy Fegley said.

Fegley was inspired to take in a student by a friend she met through Scouting who had hosted before, she said.

The experience gives Fegley’s son Christopher, a rising freshman at Nansemond River High School, an opportunity to have another kid in the house his own age, she added.

The 15 exchange students staying with host families across the Tidewater area will be kept busy, with scheduled visits to Ocean View beach, Colonial Williamsburg, Ocean Breeze Waterpark and Greenbrier Mall.

As part of his American experience, Alvarez — and perhaps some of the others as well — will attend a Boy Scout summer camp in Mt. Airy, N.C., from Sunday to Saturday.

Tubing is just one of the activities they will enjoy, Fegley said.

Before their July 26 departure, the exchange students and their American host families will attend a Troop 1929-hosted farewell party at Murphy’s Mill Cabin in Suffolk, on July 24.

Fegley said the troop is coordinating with the exchange program to bestow summer camp awards to the international students.

“They will be working on badges and things with the troop, so it’s a good idea to recognize him (Alvarez) in front of his peers, too,” she explained.

The troop’s involvement in the exchange student program “give(s) an opportunity for the boys to broaden their horizons a little, and to have a cultural experience they wouldn’t otherwise be offered,” Fegley continued.

Fegley described Alvarez’s excited first reaction to America, saying he looked around and said, “It’s just like it is in the movies.”

David and Crystal Gibson are the other Suffolk hosts.