By Sarah Tolman, F-1 High School Academic Program Coordinator

Margarita Garach noticed a big change in herself and her perspective after participating in CCI Greenheart’s F-1 High School Academic Program and attending Seton Catholic Preparatory. She started her year in Vancouver, Washington, full of nerves and lacking confidence in her English level. Though she admits there were moments of awkwardness at first, Marga came to appreciate her host family immensely, got involved in a number of extra-curricular activities, and made friendships and memories that she will retain for the rest of her life.

Margarita (Marga for short), from Grenada, Spain, reflected on the change in her perspective towards American culture. Before studying here, she had heard many stereotypes about Americans being unhealthy, and was surprised to see that so many Americans participated in sports. She followed suit by joining the cross-country, track, and basketball teams at her American high school: a great strategy to stay in shape and to make new friends.

According to Marga, the activity of “hanging out” is an example of a cultural difference between the U.S. and Spain. “In Spain, I hang out during the weekends. But school days, never. Here it’s like after school sometimes, with a car you go and walk around the mall, go to a friend’s house, have a sleepover…” Marga said she’d miss this aspect of American teenage life a lot. And though she was excited to get back to eating Spanish food, she admitted that she’d definitely miss eating Chipotle!

Some of Marga’s stand-out memories from her year in the U.S. included traveling to Hawaii with her host family, spending a weekend in Seattle with a close friend, and attending prom. She also volunteered as an interpreter at a doctor’s office for Mexican immigrants who could not speak English. She explained, “It was fun, you feel good because you help others, but also you have fun. It was interesting, they talked so much, they were telling me about their lives, it was kind of cool and I liked it.”

All of these great experiences and memories led to some tough goodbyes at the end of the year. But Marga smiled as she recounted that a couple of her friends have already started planning their trips to visit her in Grenada next summer!

Marga plans to transfer to a new high school in Spain this year, one with stronger academics that will better help her achieve her goal of studying medicine in college.

Though she’s nervous about the new school, her year in the U.S. helped her become more mature, confident, and ready to take on new challenges.

“There’s new people and everything, I’m kinda scared. But I think…it’s not a big problem for me. I think I can do it.”

Gain confidence and new friendships just like Marga, and apply for CCI Greenheart’s F-1 High School Academic Program today!