San Juan to St. Louis: Exchange student gets involved in American activities

Maren DeMargel
Social Media Manager

Coty Ripoll dances at rehearsal for the fall musical “Grease”. Photo by Lydia Urice

“It’s always been something that I always aspired to do, to visit, and to know,” Argentinian exchange student Coty Ripoll said of the American high school experience.

Coming from San Juan, Argentina where school days are shorter and after-school activities are few and far between, Ripoll has had to adjust to an entirely new schedule and environment.

“In San Juan, it’s really common to take this nap after lunch, so it’s like you wake up, you go to school, then like back to your house because we don’t have lunch in school, and so you go to your house you eat your lunch, and then you take a little nap and then you come back,” Ripoll said. “We have like five hours of school I think, and sometimes [American school] has been really tiring.”

While she does miss the afternoon nap, Ripoll said American school still has its perks.
“You can choose the classes; we can’t do that in Argentina,” Ripoll said, “and I’m really enjoying Spirit Week. I’m loving it. It’s so funny seeing different people with different costumes.”

Spirit Week is just one tradition that Ripoll has enjoyed.
“I really liked Halloween. I think it’s something really fun to do, like go trick-or-treating; I did because it was my first time. It was really fun and I really liked it,” Ripoll said.

Ripoll has mixed feelings about Thanksgiving though.

“Thanksgiving. I’m a little bit scared of Thanksgiving, like, I don’t really know what you do. I don’t know,” Ripoll said.

According to Ripoll, while both Americans and Argentinians celebrate Christmas, the traditions associated with the holiday are different in each country.

“Christmas is different (in Argentina). I know you wake up and then you open the gift; we do not. We have the gifts at night, and so basically, you will distract the kids with the fireworks, and you will put all the gifts under the tree, and then when they come inside, they see all of the gifts, and we open it at night,” Ripoll said.

Ripoll also celebrates Webster’s plethora of clubs and activities, since in her hometown of San Juan, there aren’t many to participate in.

“I’m part of the musical. I’m actually like an extra, and it’s been really fun. I did softball. I am thinking about doing some sport in winter. I am in Spanish Club, SNHS and History in Action,” Ripoll said.

Not only have these activities been entertaining for Ripoll, but they have also helped her find her place.

“I definitely got a lot of friends or people that I know with softball, and that has helped me a lot with just going in the hallways and saying hi to people, and you don’t feel like that alone,” Ripoll said.

Another activity that makes her feel less alone is her involvement with Spanish Club and Spanish National Honor Society.

“I like that contact with Spanish and all that, and people trying to speak the language. I’m always really proud of people that actually try because I know it’s a really difficult language,” Ripoll said.

Ripoll’s host sister, junior Sonora Haake, is a part of these clubs alongside Ripoll.
“It’s really interesting to have her there because we talk about some kinds of cultural things and have done activities like learning to salsa dance, and it’s cool to hear her input on what we’re being taught,” Haake said via email.

The two have become close and have developed a sister-like relationship.
“My favorite part about being her host sister is when neither of us has anything going on we hang out together and she is really fun to be around. She loves cracking jokes and listening to music, and it’s really entertaining. Within the first week of being here, she was teaching us Argentinian insults (cussing) at the dinner table,” Haake said via email.

Even though the two grew up in different countries and have different first languages, that has not stopped them from finding ways to connect and communicate.

“When she doesn’t know if a word is right, it’s usually one where multiple words could fit the sentence but there is one that just makes a little more sense so we’ll help her figure out which one that is. There are also times though when it feels like she knows English better than I do,” Haake said via email.

Featured Graphic by Maren DeMargel


Maren DeMargel – Podcast Editor

This will be Maren DeMargel’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.

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