The Aquinas American School in Madrid, Spain (PAW photo credit: Google images)

As the new school year begins and students and teachers alike attempt to regain a sense of normalcy, several changes and new faces dot the PA campus. The recent reinstatement of the foreign exchange program contributes to both of these, as PA welcomes Nacho Rodriguez Sarasola into 10th grade for the fall semester. 

Host brother Ronan Donohue ’24 and foreign exchange student Nacho Rodriguez Sarasola ’24 pose on pattern day of homecoming week.

This isn’t Rodriguez’s first time abroad, as he lived in Denmark for a year with his family. He chose to participate in this particular foreign exchange program because he “found it interesting and thought that it is a good experience for the future in terms of independence.” Eager to learn new things, make new friends, play lots of soccer, and experience Thanksgiving, he is quickly settling in and finding a routine among his peers. 

Ronan Donohue ’24 and Nachol Rodriguez Sarasola ’24 enjoy their time at the Minnesota State Fair. (PAW Photo Credit: Ronan Donohue)

However, the uncertainty of these times and the precautionary measures travelers must take didn’t affect Rodriguez’s decision to apply. Unfortunately, the pandemic did add difficulty for him when acquiring a visa. According to Heitzmann, “the visa process must be done at the consulate, and the appointments were extremely hard to get this year.” 

The exchange program started when a former Providence Academy Upper School director was contacted by the Aquinas American School (AAS) in Madrid. AAS wanted to use an American college preparatory school as its model. This formed a friendship between the schools and now, Madame Ann Heitzmann, World Language Department Chair and French instructor, is thrilled to resume the program for a 10th year. Heitzmann stated, “some students are wary of traveling because of the fluctuating Covid rules, but we still gained interest in the program.” 

Since his arrival in early September, Rodriguez has visited the Mall of America and attended the Minnesota State Fair with his host family, the Donohues. Ronan Donohue ‘24 is planning on going to AAS next semester. 

Rodriguez will continue here at Providence until after Christmas, when he and Donohue will set off for Spain. Donohue believes studying at Aquinas American School “is not only a rare experience I can’t pass up, but also an opportunity to enhance my Spanish, French, and Soccer abilities.” 

Former foreign exchange student, Stephanie Momanyi ‘21 enthusiastically agreed, “It’s a special kind of experience.” Momanyi emphasized, “Not only do you learn the language by immersion…but you also get to learn the culture behind the language by living it, and that is undeniably beneficial to anyone willing to expand their mind.”