Irene Moro opens her eyes to a new life in America


Traveling to a new country completely alone would prove to be a daunting experience for nearly anyone. But this year, junior Irene Moro decided to travel all the way from Zaragoza, Spain to Grand Rapids in order to catch a glimpse of a life across the world. 

As Irene wished to follow in her family’s footsteps, she made the difficult decision to spend a year in America as an exchange student. 

“I wanted to improve my English and have a new experience in my life,” Irene said. “My mom came here when she was my age, so my parents thought that it would be a good thing for me too and a good opportunity.”

Before the school year began, Irene applied to an exchange student company out of Spain. Although she was nervous to enter a world completely unknown to her, Irene made the choice and sent her information to the company who she would soon be traveling with to Michigan. 

“My company chose the family for me to stay with before I came,” Irene said. “I sent a letter with my information, and they chose the James-Heer family for me to live with here.”

Living with junior Kyle James-Heer, his sister Clara, and their mother and father has been an amazing experience for Irene. They have welcomed her with open arms and have proved to be a perfect family for Irene to spend much of her time with. 

“I have a lot of things in common with [my host family],” Irene said. “We all do triathlons, and they are always very nice to me. They all are helping me a lot.”

Not only does Irene participate in triathlons in her home town of Zaragoza, but she is bringing her outstanding athletic skills to the cross country team as well. 

As the James-Heer family are all active runners, running on the cross country team has been an exciting addition to Irene’s time in America. 

“I like the people on cross country because everyone is like a family, and everyone is always together,” Irene said. “Everyone is really funny, and I also love to run.”

I want to get to do all of the typical American things while I am here with all the people I have met.”

Being a member of the cross country team has also provided Irene the opportunity to meet and bond with students from all different grades. Being surrounded by the team has made it much easier for Irene to make new friends and build strong relationships.

“I didn’t know anything or anyone when I first came, so it was difficult to make friends because it is a whole other language for me,” Irene said. “Now, it’s okay because I am good friends with all of the cross country girls. We spend a lot of time together every day.”

As for her new schedule, Irene is still getting used to the changes she has had to make in her day-to-day life.

Whether it be small changes like meal times or the larger changes like her school schedule, Irene is adapting to life in Grand Rapids with a completely open mind. 

“I love the school here and the activities because it is so different from what I have in Spain,” Irene said. “We don’t have football games or Homecoming, so it is a change. The schedule and lunch are also very different. In Spain, we have lunch at two o’clock, and we have dinner at nine or ten.”

As the colder weather is upon us, many activities including dances and holidays are just around the corner. Irene is excited to see what the upcoming months will have in store and what new memories they will produce for her to take home to her family and friends. 

“I hope to have fun at the school dance because we don’t have them in Spain,” Irene said. “I am also really excited for Christmas and Halloween because we don’t have any big parties for it in Spain either.” 

Being a student in America has proved to be a positive, valuable experience for Irenee thus far. The students and staff of the school have given Irene a warm welcome and have helped to make the immense adjustments just a bit easier for her to adapt to. 

Immersing herself in the new culture is what Irene has looked forward to most on her trip around the globe. By packing the days with fun trips and wild journeys, Irene is creating a mound of memories to hold forever. 

“I want to travel a lot more before I leave and go home to Spain,” Irene said. “I want to get to do all of the typical American things while I am here with all the people I have met.”