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Spanish students visit Missouri Capitol

by Anna Campbell | July 17, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Students from Spain, 17 in total, and host families visited the Missouri Capitol Thursday, July 14, 2022, for a tour and a brief meeting with state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter in the well of the Missouri Senate, including discussion about how bills are passed, formalities and etiquette while in session. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)

A group of students from Spain and their host families had the run of the Missouri Capitol Building on Thursday as they toured the Senate chamber, the dome and the whispering gallery, among other spots.

The students are here for a month-long stay as part of the Jefferson City Cultural Experiences program. Coordinated by the Spanish teachers at Jefferson City and Capital City high schools, the program places students ages 14-16 in local families to experience Midwestern culture and American family life, as well as practice their English. The program has been active for the last decade, but took a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19.

The program came roaring back this year, with 17 Spanish students making the trip -- more than ever before.

Layne Fatherley, of Jefferson City, was there with Luz Delgado, of Madrid, who has been staying with her family this summer.

Luz said she's enjoyed her time in Jefferson City so far, and it's been jam-packed with activities. She noted the culture and food especially are different from Spain. Luz said she's found several things surprising about the United States.

She said she was surprised to find out taxes are not included on price tags as they are in Spain, so the total at the checkout line always comes as a shock. Driving is also very different, and Luz was surprised to find local teenagers can drive at 16 instead of 18.

Layne's gone along on several of the trips with Luz and said she most enjoyed Six Flags. They're both looking forward to visiting Chicago next week.

Those students, along with a handful of host parents and siblings, took a tour of the quiet, empty Missouri Capitol on Thursday. They began with the Senate chamber, where they were met by local Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, who explained the "old-school" processes in the Senate that use paper and voice votes, rather than technology.

He also explained how senators are seated by seniority and how a bill becomes a law.

After hearing from Bernskoetter, students eagerly lined up to bang the gavel at the Senate president's dais.

Linda Parks, who lives near Eldon, is acting as host mom to Diego Varo, of Madrid.

"It's like being in a movie," Diego said of his stay in America. While he's seen plenty of the United States in movies and TV shows, he said it's surreal to actually be here.

He's noticed everything is bigger in America, from cars to buildings and roads to portion sizes.

One difficult adjustment has been mealtimes. In Spain, lunch is at 2 p.m., and a large dinner is served around 9 p.m. On the first day, he said, his stomach was rumbling all day.

Parks said the hosting experience has been "wonderful," and she's kept Diego busy with plenty of local happenings, from the county fair to vacation Bible school to tubing at the lake to family trips.

Diego brought some Spanish games with him that he's been teaching the Parks family members, and they've been teaching him games as well.

Parks said she was inspired to host because she went to Colombia as an exchange student in high school.

Diego most enjoyed visiting the lake, and since watching a Cardinals game, he has fallen in love with baseball -- and is a fair batter himself.

Later this month, the students will visit Chicago and take a float trip before heading home.

  photo  From left to right, Alex Cuadrado, Diego Oliveros, Diego Varo and Lucas Tsao stand at the dais in the Missouri Senate Thursday, July 14, 2022, during a state Capitol visit. All are students from Spain, four of 17 in total, who are visiting Jefferson City for an extended stay. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)

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