Student brings Catalonia culture to BE
An exchange student from Spain was encouraged by her family to experience the world by traveling, which is a dream she also had for herself.
That dream is exactly what brought 18-year-old Cecilia Illa Romani to Blue Earth Area High School, where she makes a point to share her culture and many talents and passions with those she meets.
Illa Romani is from Sant Cugat del Valls, a town located in Catalonia just 20 minutes north of Barcelona.
She lives there with her parents Augusto and Helena and her 17-year-old brother, Adri.
“My parents own a restaurant there,”?Illa Romani says. “So, we don’t spend a lot of time together, but I?help out there quite a bit.”
She is very close to her brother so much so that it has been touching for her host parents, Steve and Kim Jacobson.
“I’m inspired by the love she has for her brother,”?Kim says. “That’s not something you see with people her age.”
So, as a Christmas present this year, Illa Romani will get to travel to see her brother. But, she won’t have to travel as far as one might imagine, because her brother was motivated to travel as well.
“Adri is studying in Illinois this year,”?Illa Romani explains.
She adds that her aunt encouraged them to participate in the exchange program.
Her bedroom back home reflects her dream of studying in America.
“The walls are covered in American flags,”?Kim says. “It’s been her dream for a long time.”
Since she’s been in Blue Earth, she has already had many fun opportunities and experiences.
One of those experiences includes going to her first baseball game a Twins game.
Steve Jacobson brought Illa Romani to walk around Target Field, and while they were exploring she bumped into someone who shared an interest in her culture.
That someone was a former Twins player, Tony Oliva.
“I got his autograph and we spoke Spanish together,” she says. “He even said he would look me up the next time he’s in Barcelona.”
She didn’t actually suspect Oliva would come visit her but she still had fun meeting the former baseball player.
She has also been to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and has been camping.
“I love everything so far but my favorite thing is to cook while I’m here,”?she says.
The Jacobsons say that she has treated them to a lot of different recipes since she’s been with them.
Some of the most recent favorites include pesto pizza, Spanish omelets and crpes.
“I have always liked to cook,”?Illa Romani adds.
She has noticed a lot of differences in the food people eat in the United States compared to things they eat back home.
And one big difference she notices when preparing food here is that Americans use a lot of butter.
“We use olive oil for a lot of things that we cook,” she says.
In fact, Kim Jacobson says they had to go buy a bigger bottle of oil when Illa Romani arrived.
Another difference for her is meal times. She is used to having lunch around 2 or 3 p.m. and supper isn’t usually eaten until nearly 9 p.m.
“And our meal times are a lot longer in Catalonia,”?she says.
There they take more time to enjoy their meals sometimes they last two hours.
“I rarely finish my lunch at school here because I’m used to having more time to eat,”?she says.
With all the cooking and trying new foods, Illa Romani also likes to make sure she is staying active while living with the Jacobsons.
She participated in volleyball and plans to try track in the spring. But, she is passionate about playing soccer back home.
“When I?played volleyball this fall, I just wanted to kick the ball,”?Illa Romani jokes.
She has played soccer for seven years and was captain of her team last year.
“We get to play all year long because the weather stays nice,”?she says. Since the weather gets much colder in Minnesota, Illa Romani says she will try to go to the gym during the winter in order to stay active.
“I?don’t like basketball or gymnastics so I don’t think I’ll do a sport in the winter,”?she adds.
She does plan to attend some of the wrestling matches, which will be another new experience for her.
“We don’t have sports like baseball, wrestling and track; we have sports that are like clubs and are done separate from school,”?Illa Romani says. “I like the aspect of school spirit.”
Aside from celebrating Buc pride, she is also excited to celebrate some other things.
“She is bursting at the seams to decorate for Christmas,”?Kim Jacobson says.
Illa Romani says they celebrate the holiday twice during the winter. Once for Christmas and they celebrate Da de Reyes or Day of the Kings on Jan. 6.
“Most of the time gifts are exchanged on Jan. 6,” she says. “But I?usually get gifts both times.”
She admits she is excited to celebrate with the Jacobsons and receive that very special Christmas present, to go visit her brother.
In the meantime, she is preparing to deal with the Minnesota winter.
“It’s sunny and warm most of the time, and back home we spend a lot of time at the beach,”?she says, and jokingly adds, “Here I will have to wear lots of sweaters.”