Soccer: The best decision of my exchange

There are so many ways host families and schools welcome and lift up the thousands of exchange students each year. Simply by welcoming into their homes and hallways, they give students the gift of learning about a new culture and a new way of life. For Nayara from Spain, one of the ways she was made to feel welcome and loved was through soccer! She shares her experiences from joining the team, making new friends, and celebrating the people she met.

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“Hello, my name is Nayara, or Nay Nay, which is what they called me on my soccer team. I did an exchange year in Louisiana and I wanted to share one of the nicest things that has happened to me since I’ve been here.

On my second day in the USA, we went to my high school to talk to the guidance counselor to choose my subjects and create my schedule. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do a team sport since that is a big thing here, plus I could learn something new, make friends, and enjoy the experience more. My counselor told me that she could sign me up for soccer. So I said, why not? I can say that it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

In order to get on the team I had to pass the tryouts. When I passed those tests, the coaches and the team were excited to have a Spanish girl on the team because they thought she would know a lot about soccer, although that was not the case. But from the first moment, they treated me like one of the team and they taught me everything from the beginning. I was even given the opportunity to have my own banner hanging at the entrance to the soccer field. 

To tell you about the entire season, I would have to make a movie, but since I can’t, I’m going to try to summarize it as best as possible. Surprisingly, I did quite well the first 3 months of training, and in the first game I played as a starter. The following week, they gave me the “match ball” to recognize my effort, I couldn’t believe it.

This season was the hardest according to my coaches. Normally, we had games 4 days a week, some of which were even two hours away, But after a few injuries, some games lost, and a few others won, I can say that soccer has been one of the things that has kept me excited and thankful for my exchange.

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One of the best days of my exchange was Senior Night. This is a celebration that is held in all sports on the last home game. It consisted of all the seniors standing in a line with a teacher they chose to accompany them along a catwalk formed by other members of the team. My coaches told me not to look for a teacher since they already had it planned, implying that it was going to be a surprise. The day arrived, and I was the last in line. I was still alone, and for a moment, I thought they had forgotten about me and that I was going to have to walk alone.

But suddenly, they called my name over the loudspeakers and all the seniors who had already walked came towards me to act as my companions. At no time would I have imagined that was what the surprise would be. The moment I saw everyone walking towards me, I collapsed and started crying. I couldn’t even stop when we were walking, which meant in all the photos, you can see me trying to dry my tears, even when I hugged my host family.

It was so important that even my friends came to this game. And even one of the moms of the friends who couldn’t make it came to see me, and she gave me two beautiful collages with lots of photos.

To finish the story, I want to talk about what each team does at the end of the season. A banquet is prepared for the players in which each player’s family and close friends are invited. That afternoon, in addition to eating, prizes are distributed, there are more gifts for the seniors and some people give speeches.

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And of course, my team made me feel at home again. They gave me something that I had wanted since I got here, and that I didn’t expect to receive that afternoon: my letterman jacket. It was the typical jacket you see in movies and had my school colors. It’s a jacket you can only have if you have participated in a major high school sport or club for a certain amount of time. Despite having been here for only a year, my coaches got the jacket and wanted to surprise me.

Finally, I wanted to say that I am very proud of my team and recognize the merit they deserve. We are one of the few teams that played with girls even 4 years younger than the people we played against. Despite this, this year was the first year in my school’s history that the soccer team took second place in the district and even went to the playoffs.

I can’t express how grateful I am for all this support I have had from the beginning and for the feeling of knowing that I am included in everything despite being new. From minute one, they have treated me great, both my host family, my friends, and my team. I am very happy with the relationships I have created here, and I know they will be there whenever I need them. I will never forget it.”

Nayara’s experience would not have been the same without her school and community! Thanks to her teammates and coaches, she was able to make her dreams come true and experience things she never would have otherwise. It just goes to show the amazing impact American schools have on exchange students each year! Learn more about hosting an exchange student today!


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Soccer: The best decision of my exchange

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