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Only child leaves Spain behind to attend BEA

By Staff | Nov 8, 2010

Above: Sixteen-year-old exchange student Ezma Blok (Center) is living with Perry and Peggy Olson while she completes 11th grade at Blue Earth Area High School.

It’s 11 p.m., and rather than dozing off in the recliner after the nightly news, people in Spain are serving up plates and sitting down for supper.

The meals are just one of the big differences Ezma Blok recognized as she left her home in Spain to come to Blue Earth as a foreign exchange student at Blue Earth Area High School.

While Americans often have light breakfasts and lunches, and go heavy on the supper, Spaniards eat their largest meal at lunch and generally don’t settle down for supper until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.­­

In fact, at Ezma’s school, students aren’t usually fed lunch until 3 p.m., right before being sent home. Classes begin at 8:20 a.m., and, depending on the day, finish at either 2:10 p.m. or 3 p.m. On days that class lets out earlier, lunch isn’t served at school.

That schedule is very different than the one Ezma will live during her stay with her host parents, Perry and Peggy Olson of Blue Earth.

Ezma is the Olsons’ fourth foreign exchange student, and according to Peggy, speaks the best English of all of them. Past students who have stayed with them were from France, Ecuador and the Czech Republic.

Since the Olsons’ only two children are grown (ages 30 and 27) and out of the house, they knew hosting students would be a good fit for them.

“We’re too young to be empty-nesters,”?Peggy says.

Not only does Ezma find school to be much easier in the United States, but the 11th-grader also enjoys the atmosphere more at BEAHS than back home.

“My school is just we go, we open the books, we eat, we go home,” Ezma says. “Here, it’s like, they make you love your school.”

While some U.S. high-schoolers roll out of bed and arrive at school in sweatpants and T-shirts, Ezma says that a lot of her friends in Spain will wake up a full two hours before school in order to get ready. She preferred to sleep in a little longer than them, but when Ezma was finally awake and ready to go, casual clothes were nowhere in sight.

“Everybody dresses up,” she says of her school in Spain.?“They wear nice things always.”

Ezma comes to the U.S. from Alcossebre, Spain, a town of about 5,000 people situated on the Costa del Azahar, or Orange Blossom Coast.

The half-Italian, half-Dutch 16-year-old was born in Holland, but has lived in Spain since she was just a toddler.

Although they may be similar in population, Alcossebre and Blue Earth’s landscape varies greatly.

“She looks out her door and she’s looking at the Mediterranean Sea,” Peggy says, comparing Ezma’s home life with the corn fields she has for a view while she’s in Blue Earth.

Now Ezma’s parents will have to admire the sea without her for a while.

“They were nervous about letting me go for a year, but they knew it was very good for me and for my future,” says the only child, who is interested in someday developing a career working with different languages.

If she’s got the skills, why not? Ezma can speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Valencian.

She may know such a large number of languages because she’s no stranger to traveling, having visited Thailand, Holland, Italy, South Africa and New York City all before turning 16.

And she’s even been able to find a lot to enjoy about being in Minnesota.

“I like to see the animals always,” she says, talking about the deer that are commonly found running through ditches and across country roads.

As far as new activities go, Ezma has been able to experience plenty of those as well. She may not be old enough to drive a car, but that can’t stop her from getting behind the wheel of other vehicles.

“Perry has already nicknamed her Speedy,” Peggy says, explaining that since being here, Ezma has ridden a Jet Ski, boat and four-wheeler, and will get to go on a snowmobile as soon as the white stuff starts falling.

Not everything Ezma and the Olsons do involves outdoor sports, however. Breaking out the popcorn and finding a good movie is typically on the agenda for quiet weeknights in, and Sundays are filled with family guests at breakfast and the can’t-miss Vikings game later in the day.

Ezma will also be seeing more than Minnesota before her stay in the U.S. is up. This winter, the Olsons are going to bring her to San Diego where Peggy’s brother lives.

And, if plans fall into place, the Olsons hope to be taking another vacation in the near future — a trip to visit Ezma at home in Spain as soon as next year.