HUDSON -- The halls of Hudson High School recently took on a bit of international flavor as 12 exchange students from Costa Rica were able to experience a small piece of American academia and the culture of Hudson during their two-week stay.

"The first exchange took place about seven or eight years ago and we did it to help another school who could not place some of their students," according to Maria Sramek, Spanish teacher at the middle and high school. "We had a small number that first time. Since then we did it again in 2012 with around 10 students at Hudson and again this year with 12 students."

The goal of the World Language Department is to provide students with authentic resources to help them understand and speak other languages.

"I feel this exchange gives the students the opportunity to not only speak with native speakers, but also to learn first-hand about their culture," Smarek said. "As an added bonus, I enjoy the fact that the students come from my homeland."

Sramek, who is also the Spanish Honorary Society Advisor, and originally from Costa Rica, began the program. This is the third year students from her homeland have been hosted, she said.

Sramek enjoys bringing students of different cultures together as well as sharing hers.

"As my students know I love to share stories about life and culture there [in Costa Rica]," Sramek said. "It is an incredible opportunity for both our students and the Costa Rican students to experience a different culture first hand, and put to use the language they are studying, Spanish for ours and English for the Costa Ricans."

Sramek said she gets a sense of fulfillment that she is opening students' eyes to the world and the satisfaction that they are more willing to accept differences in cultures and understand that after all, everyone is the same, with the same hopes and dreams.

The exchange students called orchestra, American history, anatomy, science and American Sign Language some of their favorite subjects while at Hudson High School.

The choice of curriculum and the dedication of Hudson teachers were part of their positive experiences, according to the district.

"Compared to school in Costa Rica, Hudson High School students have much busier, everyday lives say their counterparts," according to a district press release. "It is amazing how much Hudson students practice their sports, and how much homework they must complete in a short amount of time."

The Hudson and Costa Rican students were allowed to text each other before the visit, according to the district.

Hudson High School student Kayla Alexander was still a bit nervous to meet her partner, Sofia Araya, she said.

"I learned how to cook empanadas, dance Salsa and Bachata, and many other things about a culture different than my own," Kayla said. "I never thought it would possible to make a best friend in two weeks, but I can say with certainty I have. My only regret is that I didn't have more time."

Lena Schwarz was teamed up with Jason Courrau.

"This program has given me the chance to be submerged in the Costa Rican culture, while also learning and developing my skills in the language," Lena said.

Nicole Hatchet said she learned a lot about what it was like to live in a Latin American country from the student her family hosted, Tatiana Angulo.

"It is also very cool to see your country through a foreigner's eyes," Nicole said.

Anna Baldwin was partnered with Marilin Varela.

"About a year ago, I traveled to a country known for beautiful beaches and stunning rainforests. Now, I can say that I only knew a small amount about the amazing country of Costa Rica," Anna said. "Over the past two weeks, I have had the privilege of hosting Marilin, a student from Costa Rica at my home. She has taught me more about her world than anyone could ever read in a book or on a website."

Not a moment passed without learning from each other, Anna said.

"I am in awe of how these students have come to a new country with limited knowledge of our language and made relationships that will last a lifetime," Anna added.

Sramek said the district plans on taking a group of students to Costa Rica in 2017.

"Again, as much as we as teachers of a foreign language strive to give our students an authentic experience in the language, an exchange program definitely provides the opportunity to practice and share the cultures first hand," Sramek said. "This is a great program for our Hudson students and I am very thankful to the administration and the district to open the doors to our Costa Rican students."

Sramek was also grateful for the families who hosted the students.

"To the families that hosted I also want to extend my sincere gratitude in their willingness to open their homes and hearts to these young people," ramek said.

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