Congratulations to Paula Martinez Martinez for being chosen as the ICES April Student of the Month! Paula is from Madrid, Spain and is living with the Thomas family in Grace, Idaho. She was nominated by her host mom, K’Lyn.
A big reason for Paula’s success as an exchange student has to do with her complete integration into her host family. Her host Mom, K’Lyn Thomas, says “Paula is so positive and cheerful. She loves to talk and we love that. She looks for ways she can help beyond just her normal responsibilities. If someone is making a meal and she is around, she jumps in and makes meal prep even more enjoyable. She loves to turn on music to dance to and joins in our dance parties, girls' nights out, family activities, and even home and family projects with enthusiasm and a great attitude - such a blessing and great example for all the people in our home.”
By nature, Paula is an outgoing, bubbly extrovert. However, being extrovert in the home country doesn’t always translate to being an extrovert in the U.S. When Paula arrived in Idaho to live in a home with 11 people, her “life of the party” demeanor moved to a whole new level.
Paula explains, “I always have been [an extrovert], but now, it’s like even more… I’m like, Let’s go! I have people to be with for the whole day. I have siblings from 11 to 2 years old to play with, and they have a lot of energy, so that is awesome! I have 4 other siblings that are close to my age, and it is so cool. We are able to talk more about deep conversations. I’m super grateful for having this amazing family… they are wonderful. I love them!”
Paula says she has learned a lot during her time in the US. “I feel like I have become more independent… I feel older, more independent and able to make my own decisions. My mind about how I handle problems has totally changed in this past year.”
She has also learned how to handle the challenges of embarrassing language-based mistakes. “Well, obviously we speak another language in Spain, so I learned the difference between the pronunciation of a “B” and a “V”, which I pronounce one as the other. So when I say “verb” it sounded like “burp” and my host family was like. . . . ‘Whaat?’ They all got a good laugh, which is a common thing in the Thomas household.”
When asked about school, Paula says her experiences in show and concert choir have played a big part in her exchange. A third of the students in her school are in choir, which has provided the opportunity to travel to places such as Disneyland, as well to build some great friendships. Business Essentials has been her favorite class recently, because she loves learning about how business works outside of her home country. She even loves learning about how insurance works.
Paula hasn’t been the only one learning during her exchange. She’s enjoyed teaching her host family about Spanish culture. Such as the Spanish New Year’s tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight to ring in the new year. Not only did Paula’s host family participate in this tradition, but they called her family in Spain and all participated together! Paula’s desire to share Spanish culture in a fun, integrated way with her host family has created a true bond between her families on both sides of the world.
But she isn’t quite ready to head back to Spain just yet. One of the first things she explained to me when we stated this interview was why she wanted to stay with her host family as long as she could. “I was asking everyone to please let me stay here longer, so I can stay in Idaho with my host family for the 4th of July.”
Paula’s joy of learning, of integrating into her host family, and of getting the most out of her school and community experiences are just a few of the reasons Paula was chosen as the ICES Student of the Month for April. Her host mom says she deserves to be chosen every month.
As the Student of the Month, Paula will receive a $100 Visa gift card, an ICES t-shirt, and a letter of commendation from ICES President, John Crist.