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Student from Spain is getting a kick out of American life

Staff writer

Rey Arribas Molezun is matter-of-fact when asked whether he misses his parents back home in Spain.

“Not too much,” the 15-year-old exchange student at Hillsboro Middle/High School says, breaking into a sparkling, white-toothed smile.

A sophomore, Rey is from Zaragoza, capital of northeastern Spain’s Aragon region. He arrived in Kansas on Aug. 13 after a five-hour flight from the coast of Spain to Madrid, a 10-hour flight from Madrid to Dallas, and then a flight from Dallas to Wichita.

His host parents picked him up at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

When he pictured his home in the United States, he wasn’t expecting a menagerie of animals.

But he loves it.

“They have a lot of farm animals — pigs, chickens, cows, dogs, and cats,” he says.

There’s also a horse and a donkey, his host mother Emma Simmons says.

An only child, Rey is adjusting to sharing a home with a larger family. His host parents have three children — a 16-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter, and 10-year-old son.

“Well, it’s different,” he says about his new household. “I usually have less noise.”

The first hour of the morning, when everyone is getting ready, is pretty chaotic.

Rey’s life is different from his life in Spain, but that’s the point of being an exchange student.

“So far, I have a good experience,” he says in near-perfect English.

He began speaking English at age 5. Many North Americans don’t begin studying other languages until junior high, if not high school.

He also speaks French. He was born in the Philippines, and his parents in Spain adopted him when he was 8, Simmons said.

The exchange program he’s part of told him that places such as New York “are not the best option because they’re a more touristic part of the United States.”

Rey is enjoying rural life in Kansas.

The weather is similar to that in his homeland — hot in the summer, cold in the winter.

At Hillsboro High, he’s taking an entrepreneur class, weightlifting, English, engineering essentials, principles of engineering, geometry, and world history.

Engineering is not his career goal.

“I like to build stuff but not for my job,” he says.

His father owns an accounting firm, and his mother works there, too. He plans to be an investment adviser.

Rey talks to his parents about once a week.

“If you’re not good, you’re talking to them every day,” he says.

Does he miss his friends?

“Some of them, yes,” he says.

He’s joined the football team. Back home, he plays soccer and rugby.

“I’m just a kicker,” he says. “I’m trying to be a wide receiver, but I need to study it.”

The team practices every weekday. Its first game was Friday.

Hillsboro principal Tyler Weinbrenner says having exchange students enriches everyone — students, teachers, and staff. Last year’s exchange student in Hillsboro came to Kansas from Germany.

“I think it opens our eyes to the way things are done in other places,” he says. “There’s not one way to do something.”

For example, Weinbrenner says, Rey “shared with me that, at home, teachers go from classroom to classroom, and students stay in the same classroom all day.”

Rey seems to be acclimating well and making friends, Weinbrenner says.

“Of course, being part of the football team, there’s a lot of camaraderie there,” he says. “He’s just an impressive young man. We’re really happy to have him here.”

Rey’s host family made its first Spanish dish recently. It featured crispy bits of bread with peppers, grapes, and fried eggs.

“I was a little leery about the grapes,” Simmons says. “It called for green grapes. But it was really good.”

Rey is the family’s first exchange student, but Louis Simmons’s family played host to an exchange student when he was in high school.

The family worked with a coordinator from Rey’s exchange program. They filled out a survey, and Rey’s profile was the first the coordinator sent.

“He has a lot of the same interests as our oldest, and he’s been a great fit,” she says. “He’s been a good trooper, because my youngest is always calling, ‘Rey! Rey! Rey!’ ”

The Record plans to next interview four exchange students attending Marion-Florence High School.

Last modified Sept. 7, 2023

 

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