Eagle View Bellbrook High School Bellbrook, OH
Issue Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2013 Issue: Spring 2013 Last Update: Tuesday, May 28, 2013


In preparations for her first school dance, Maria stood in front of the American and Catalonian flag before Homecoming this past fall. -

Foreign exchange student Maria Gallart has been in Bellbrook for over 9 months now.  And as her journey reaches an end, her heart is filled with sorrow, but at the same time joy.  The transformation is unbelievable. The transformation is breathtaking. The transformation is hers, and this is her story.

                  Gallart is native to Valls, Spain, a region that in Spain is referred to as Catalonia. So yes, Ms. Gallart calls herself a Catalonian, not a Spaniard; just the same as someone native to Ohio would refer to themselves as an Ohioan before they did American.  She’s a quadruple threat, speaking Spanish, Catalan, French, and is newly fluent to English. The foreign beauty danced, played basketball, and studied economics back home, but here in the States she is faced with new challenges.  Maria first arrived August 17, 2012 and has been staying with junior Adele Hardwick.  Maria is also a junior at Bellbrook High School.

Being good friends with Maria, I recall when she first arrived in Bellbrook; her English was limited, she seemed terribly confused, and the poor girl was horrifically shy.  But having observed her these past few months, I, along with my other classmates, have watched her blossom into a fluent English speaker and a social butterfly. “I had first impressions [of people] but they weren’t true,” recalls Maria. “I’m going to miss the people here so much!” She is involved in French club and played tennis. Sometimes she even jokes that she has forgotten her native language, Catalan.

                  Upon arriving, Maria quickly commented on American culture, “People said that there were going to be a lot of fast food restaurants, and I thought that there would only be a few, but there was a lot,” she laughed.  She said that surprisingly real live Americans actually fit the stereotype that Americans are fat!

                  Beyond Maria pointing out our country’s battle with obesity, she got serious fast saying that her host family was less intense than her real family, simply because she didn’t receive the pressure that she would have if she were in fact blood-related to the Hardwicks. “I think that Adele and I are pretty much the same people, so we never fight,” beams the optimistic Catalonian.

“In the beginning, school was hard because of the language barrier but now it’s easier,” says Gallart. “In Spain there is so much more pressure.” In Spain students are required to take 13 classes and have a test, similar to our ACT/SAT, to take at the end of their senior year that they can only take once and is over subjects such as Spanish and English. Yes, this test does determine where students will go to college. “I really like the high school. It's like a big family!” says Gallart.

Now the clock is ticking as Maria anxiously awaits her departure in June; there is only one month and ten days till she has to leave the States.  “I think this journey has made me more independent because [before] I had never been away from my family for more than 2 weeks, now its been 9 months.” Stated Gallart, “It was hard in the beginning, but it's made me realize I don’t need them daily and that I can live by myself, and I don’t want to leave, but I have to.”  With the date approaching fast, Gallart says she’s excited to see her friends back home.

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