Enoch studying in Spain
Iola student participates in Rotary exchange program
By Holly Neumann
Elizabeth Enoch has been enjoying her time in Pozuelo de Alarcón, a suburb of Madrid, Spain, where the 17-year-old Iola-Scandinavia High School student is an exchange student.
Pozuelo de Alarcón has a population of approximately 82,800 people.
“I live a 15-minute train ride from Madrid Center,” Enoch said. “Madrid is not only the capital of Spain, but also the biggest city.”
Learning how to use public transportation was a challenge for Enoch in the beginning.
“Once I got the hang of it, it became extremely easy to travel throughout the city, although sometimes I miss being able to drive,” she said. “With my transportation card, I am able to use the bus, train and metro to get around Madrid for just 10 euro a month. It’s really convenient to be able to have access to so many museums, cuisines and shopping centers so close to home.”
Family life is different for Enoch as well.
With her host family, she has five host brothers ranging in age from 8 to 25 and host parents.
“It is a little difficult adjusting to living with seven other people under one roof opposed to my family of four back in Iola,” Enoch said. “However, I’ve now grown accustomed to the lifestyle and really enjoy when the whole family can get together for meals and spend quality time together.”
The host parents are very active in their community as well as their church.
“It has been really cool to be able to attend Catholic mass with them and see the differences between Catholic practices and Lutheran practices,” Enoch said.
She finds school life and being a teenager different as well.
“School here begins at 8:30 and ends at 2:15,” she said. “It consists of six classes as well as a 20-minute break around 11.”
Teachers switch classrooms and students stay in the same room with the same classmates all day.
“We do not eat lunch during school,” Enoch said. “Some kids bring snacks/sandwiches or walk to the supermarket during our break to buy coffee or snacks. In Spain, the typical lunch time is around 2 to 4, so everyone just eats after school.”
Enoch misses being able to eat lunch in a cafeteria setting back home, where it makes it a lot easier to be able to connect and chat with friends outside of school-related topics.
“On Fridays, the girls in my class usually go out to eat after school, but it’s not the same as eating all together every day in the lunchroom,” she said.
Not all schools are set up this way, however. Her little brother has a multiple-hour break in the afternoon. His mom picks him up and makes lunch for him at home before he returns to school until 5 p.m.
Enoch is in her last year of high school in Spain.
“Here, there is a really big exam at the end of your senior year that determines which university you can go to,” she said. “Your exam results, along with your grades from the last two years of high school, are what decide where you will study.”
High school stresses
This makes many 16- to 18-year-olds very stressed with studying and schoolwork.
There are no school sanctioned sports teams or clubs, Enoch said.
“Many of my classmates have told me that they had to stop doing club sports because they needed more time to study,” she said. “In Iola, I feel like it is very normal to hang out with friends after school, whether it’s grabbing a coffee or driving to a basketball game together. Here, it’s not really a thing to hang out with friends during the school week.”
On Fridays or the weekends, it’s popular to go to Madrid with friends and get something to eat.
Some of the things Enoch has shared with her host family included giving each of her brothers a model car from the Iola Car Show for Christmas.
“I recently gifted them each an Iola Car Show T-shirt,” she said. “My family frequently makes jokes about how the cheese they have from France and Italy is almost as good as the cheese in Wisconsin.”
She is looking forward to making lefse with her host family.
Enoch finds it funny that her host family cannot believe how she can function to be outside in only a sweatshirt.
“Everybody else is bundled up in heavy jackets and scarves when it is about 55 degrees here,” she said.
Enoch has enjoyed spending time with other exchange students and is looking forward to touring Europe with other Rotary International exchange students.
“I have met so many other exchange students who are also studying in Spain through Rotary International and it has been so cool to learn about other cultures from places such as India, Taiwan, Austria and the Philippines,” she said. “There is a girl named Chen Shi who is from Taiwan who also lives in Pozuelo. It has been so neat to share this experience with her since we are from such different cultures. It’s comforting to have a friend who is also going through the same emotions and who has the same thoughts as me.”