Advocates of the foreign exchange student program tout it as a great way to learn about other cultures. If an American family opens up their home to a student from another land then they will get to learn all about that student’s homeland, heritage, custom, and culture.

The only problem with this guarantee is that the student is coming to America to teach US about THEIR culture – nope, they are coming to learn about OURS. They signed up for the immersion experience.

We had a foreign exchange student from Spain who I’ll just refer to as “A.” in this post. I was in 7th grade, my brother was in 9th, and A. was in 11th. We lived in a small town where the junior high school was right across the street from the high school so everyone knew about this new “exotic” boy at school. I never saw the appeal, but apparently he was “soooo cute.” I just had another annoying older brother for about 9 months.

One annoying interaction was when I was walking into my room & saw him flexing his abs in the mirror of his room. I poked my head in and he saw me. He then persisted as to how solid they were and invited me to punch him right in his six-pack.

I did! Granted I was a tiny, scrawny pre-teen, so my punch didn’t pack much “punch” but it still made him groan a little bit.

He then turns to me and says, “Okay, my turn.”

He wanted to punch ME in the stomach (insert panic mode here)!

I said, “Okay, let me brace myself,” and turned around to catch my breath. On the bed I saw my reprieve – a large 11th grade sized textbook. Thankfully, it was the mid 90s and oversized sweatshirts were all the rage – I happened to be wearing a rather large one. I grabbed the textbook swiftly, placed it under my sweatshirt to shield my thin waste, casually held my hands by my hips (subtly holding the book in place), and said, “Ok!”

He then swung! His swing was hard enough for him to hurt his hand on the book (but I was thankfully unharmed – thanks to my quick thinking and unusual stealth).

I was also pissed! I couldn’t believe he was going to punch me hard enough that he hurt his hand on the book! I was just a little kid!

Usually I’m pretty empathetic, but I had no sympathy for him and his hurting hand (or ego). He deserved it for thinking it would have been okay to hit me with that much force. Thinking back now I just find it slightly funny – not sure he would though.

A.’s season in our house was short, but not usually sweet. I have many stories to tell regarding this time, but most aren’t this humorous (some are downright tragic). We didn’t learn anything about his culture (other than a few phrases to use when his family would call him on the phone). Hopefully he left with a little more insight into the American culture then thinking punching a pre-teen girl in the stomach (hard) was okay. Who knows…

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