A Spaniard in Decatur

Llarina Cibeira stands with her friends at a glow in the dark 5k.

Maddie Hamalian

Llarina Cibeira is one of the three exchange students at Decatur high school in the 2014-2015 school year.

Cibeira came August fifth from Spain to spend an exchange year in the United States. Cibeira decided she wanted to see more in life.

“It was an adventure, something new, a chance to be independent and grow and of course to meet new people,” Cibeira said.

Cibeira sensed her experience in the U.S. differs from many other exchange students. She feels many either missed their homes and families at the beginning of the year or even throughout their entire exchange year.

“I never had that problem,” Cibeira said. “I’ve always been ok. I don’t miss [my family] too much. I text them and stuff and sometimes I skype with them, and I’m good.”

Although she never missed home much, she experienced some difficulty finding friends because she felt shy.

“A couple of people started talking to me, but if I wanted to make friends, I was the one that had to go introduce myself and start talking,” Cibeira said. “I’ve become more extroverted.”

Becoming accustomed to the U.S. also meant a learning process for people Cibeira encountered. Sometimes, Cibeira interacted with folks who would call her “Mexican” or “Hispanic,” but people from Spain are neither. They are Spaniards, and they are European.

“I mean there are always a couple of people who might say something, not discriminatory, but inappropriate, but it is just because either they are not educated or they just have no idea about what they are talking about,” Cibeira said. “It’s not hurtful…You just explain it to them.”

Despite encountering these responses numerous times, Cibeira remained gracious toward those who continue to repeat these misconceptions to her.

“I make a lot of mistakes and people help me, so it’s worth it,” Cibeira said.

As she continued to experience the American culture, she struggled to conform to the way some American’s around her expected her to act.

“[Spaniards] were more loud,” Cibeira said. “Here everybody is like ‘stop yelling,’ and I’m like ‘I’m not yelling.’”

Even though she felt suppressed in this manner, she experienced one of her fondest memories of the U.S. in her first month at her host family’s church youth retreat.

“It was the first time I actually had fun,” Cibeira said. “I could be myself because I knew everybody there.”

Cibeira found another one of her most vivid memories to be her time playing on the Decatur’s girls lacrosse team.

She wishes she could continue playing when she returns to Spain, but they don’t offer the sport there.

“I don’t like how if you want to play a sport [in the U.S.] it’s only for a short period of time,” Cibeira said. “In Spain, when you play a sport you play it the whole school year.”

So instead of returning to Spain to play lacrosse year round, she will start what she calls her “crazy” junior and senior years of high school.

Cibeira feels anxious returning to her education in Spain because she feels school in the U.S. is easier than her school in Spain.

“[In Spain] we don’t have many projects and essays and that stuff, but it is still really hard,” Cibeira said.

In Spain, the junior and senior years of education are focused on a career pathway, and Cibeira choose the language pathway. Her classes will revolve around languages, including Greek, Latin, English, French, Spanish, and Galician, spoken in the Spanish state, Galicia.

Despite her forthcoming challenge, she is excited to continue improving on the languages she knows and learn new languages in the future.