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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Diego Astrain, left, shares a laugh with Ella Kruczynska and his host Jordan Whitman as exchange students from Spain tour Nashua High School North on their first full day in the country on Friday.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Exchange students from Spain mingle with American students as they tour Nashua High School North on Friday.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Spanish teachers Imanol Ibarrola, left, and Nati Gracia, right, talk with music teacher Julie Oliver, center as exchange students and chapperones from Spain tour Nashua High School North on their first full day in the country Friday, March 23, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Diego Astrain, left, shares a laugh with Ella Kruczynska and his host Jordan Whitman as exchange students from Spain tour Nashua High School North on their first full day in the country on Friday.
Saturday, March 24, 2012

“Bienvenidos a Nashua!” North welcomes 17 students from Spain

NASHUA – Seventeen students and two teachers from Spain gazed up and down the long hallways of Nashua High School North on Friday morning, shocked to begin their two-week experience in the United States at such a large school.

And they come from Pamplona, a city of nearly 200,000 – more than twice the size of Nashua – that’s famous for its annual running of the bulls.

Talk about a culture shock.

“It’s like a big American movie,” said Nacho Medina, 15.

Medina and his classmates arrived Thursday night at Boston’s Logan International Airport and spent Friday touring the school and attending classes with their host students.

Each student from Spain will live with a family in Nashua until April 4, when the group will return to Pamplona.

Over the next two weeks, the group will also spend several days in Boston to see sights such as the Bunker Hill Monument, Faneuil Hall and the Freedom Trail, as well as Harvard University in Cambridge.

The students will take classes at North to improve their English and experience what it’s like to be a student in the United States.

“I would like to see Boston,” said Diego Astrain, 16. “Also, to learn to speak better English.”

Nicole Beckner, of Amherst, will lead the students around Boston as part of Carousel Student Tours. She said it has been an eye-opening experience already for the Spaniards, since only two of the 17 students have been to the United States previously.

“Everything was so big to them,” she said of the students’ arrival in Boston. “They’re pretty tired, but they’re very excited. Their eyes were so big, taking everything in.”

Brenda Silvi, head of North’s world language department, was excited to introduce the students and give them some instructions Friday morning.

“Bienvenidos a Nashua!” read one sign at the school Friday morning, which translates to “Welcome to Nashua!”

Superintendent Mark Conrad – or “El Jefe,” as he was introduced – talked to the students briefly on Friday.

“I wish I could speak to you in Spanish, but unfortunately, like too many Americans, I’m not bilingual,” he said, smiling. “It’s an honor to have you here with us. We’re very proud of our city and our two high schools.”

Two Spanish students have been studying at North all year, and the two girls talked to the larger group Friday morning about their experience.

Irene Arevalo, a senior from Madrid, said she has been involved in lots of clubs at North and learned to speak better English.

“When I first came here, I didn’t know how to explain myself,” she said.

Silvia Juste, a senior from Pamplona, said she has learned how to ski and found out that weekends are different in New Hampshire than in Spain. American students don’t hang out quite as late as Spanish students – only until midnight or 1 a.m., she said.

“If you’re expecting a great party until 3, it’s not going to happen,” she said, drawing some laughs from the crowd.

The teachers from Pamplona were amazed by the school and its facilities, as well.

Imanol Ibarrola, who teaches sports and physical education in Pamplona, toured the gym with Jason Robie, who teaches phys-ed and coaches the football team.

Nati Gracia, who teaches many subjects in Pamplona but specializes in music, talked with North music teachers Friday and sat in on a class. It’s her first time visiting the country, and she’s staying in the city with English teacher Sarah Bucken.

Bucken said it will be fun to spend some time with a teacher from another culture.

“It’s the whole immersion,” she said. “It’s a different experience for everyone.”

North students hope to travel to Pamplona for their own foreign experience next year, but the trip hasn’t yet been finalized.

Sophomore Elisabeth Prolman is hosting a Spanish student with her family, and she plans to invite the whole group to her birthday party next weekend. It will make for a fun mix of cultures, she said.

“They’re the same age as we are,” she said. “We can all connect in some way.”

For more information about the trip or about hosting future students, contact director Sue Boswell at Carousel Tours at 1-978-835-0133 or hostandgo@charter.net.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).