CLARKS SUMMIT — Bristol Grenfell called participating in the Rotary Youth Exchange program in Spain, sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Abingtons, a “once in a lifetime” experience.
Grenfell, a junior at Abington Heights High School, lived in the country from July 22 to Aug. 12, visiting areas such as Barcelona, Girona and Llagostera, including a stop at Platja d’Aro, a popular beach destination.
“The area is very beautiful and the natives value their families and friends a lot,” Grenfell said. “I enjoyed Girona, there are a lot of old buildings and churches. It’s also known for the River Onyar, which separates the city in two. There are houses on each side and it lines the whole city. It’s very pretty.”
Estel Comas, 16, Bristol’s host sister came to stay with the Grenfell family in Clarks Green from July 1-22. During her stay in the United States, she enjoyed meeting new people and visiting new places, especially New York City. She also toured landmarks in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. during her time with the Grenfells.
Comas met many of Grenfell’s friends while attending to Rotary Club of the Abingtons fireworks display.
The two girls then travelled to Spain and Grenfell lived with the Comas family in Catalonia.
According to Grenfell, the majority of the trip was spent with Comas’ family and friends.
“We went out to dinner at least three times a week,” she said. “We ate around 10 or 11 p.m. and sometimes we didn’t come home until 2 a.m., but that’s normal there.”
Other highlights of her trip included swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, shopping in various markets and attending some of Comas’ brother’s soccer matches.
“It was a great opportunity to make a lot of friends,” Grenfell said. “I learned a lot about the country and people there, and even about myself.”
Grenfell developed a deep connection with Comas that she believes will continue for many years.
“I now have a family and home somewhere else,” Grenfell said. “Her family said I’m always welcome there and Estel is always welcome here. She messaged me and we’re talking back and forth.”
Although Grenfell admitted there was a bit of culture shock adjusting to a new country, Comas helped her get acclimated to the area.
“She was always asking if I was OK,” Grenfell said. “Her family speaks Catalan, a mixture of French and Spanish. I didn’t understand it, so she translated everything to English which was very helpful.”
Grenfell learned of the exchange program when Mario Macicak, a student from Slovakia attended Abington Heights High School.
“He talked about his experience and it sounded like such a great opportunity,” she said.
This year, according to Grenfell, the local Rotary District 7410 sponsored about 20 long-term trips, a one-year visit, and six short-term trips, a three-week visit, which she chose.
For more information on the Rotary Youth Exchange program, visit the Eastern States Student Exchange website at www.exchangestudent.org.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.