Nothing tops the encouragement and spontaneous attitude of Mexican exchange student, Paulina Baños Villatoro, senior, who enrolled at WLHS through an exchange student program with the U.S. just two months ago. After an eight hour plane ride, Baños Villatoro arrived in Portland, Ore., just days before she began her first day at school. Just as quickly as she came here, she’s made plenty of friends to call her own.
“The school system is very different,” Baños Villatoro said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love all the teachers.”
However, in her opinion, food is the biggest difference between Mexico and the U.S.
“The food was definitely the weirdest, I’m not really used to the food people eat in the U.S.” Baños Villatoro said. “I like hamburgers, a lot though.”
Classes don’t stray much from the average student schedule when it comes to Baños Villtoro’s schedule. Although she prefers second language English with Jonathan Peachey, she couldn’t refuse taking AP Spanish with Mark Zollinger instead of court sports.
“Mr. Cerny probably has to be one of my favorite teachers but I also like Peachy, he’s really funny,” Baños Villatoro said.
With six years of studying English before her trip, Baños Villatoro considers herself fluent, but still has trouble understanding pronunciations within causal conversations. She will continue to make an effort to learn the language before she returns to her hometown, Tuxtla Gutierrez, the following year on July 15, 2016.
Beth Hoots, one of her best friends and fellow exchange student spends her time speaking Spanish with Baños Villatoro when she gets the chance to show off her skills as an AP level Spanish student.
“She’s pretty close to my best friend right now,” Hoots said. “Some of our best memories are when she comes to my house to hang out and talk about her current WLHS crushes.”
The language barrier does not disclude her responsibility for her grades in which will eventually be transferred back to her school in Mexico. When she isn’t working hard towards her classes, Baños Villatoro finds herself hanging with her junior friends on porch D1, sometimes teaching them basic Spanish.
“My favorite thing about my exchange experience is definitely school, there’s so many nice people that have welcomed me to West Linn, it makes my experience that much better,” Baños Villatoro said.
Her stay will definitely be a challenge, but it will not take away from her desire to return the years after her experience in Oregon.
“I’ve only been here for a few weeks but I know I’ll want to come back as soon as I leave, I love West Linn.”Baños Villatoro said. “It’s like my second home.”