‘I really like the people,’ Valentina Gutierrez says
GRANVILLE —áPutnam County High School is hosting an exchange student from Colombia this school year.
Valentina Daza Gutierrez, 17, is staying at the home of Ryan and Brandy Sandberg in McNabb and studying her senior year at Putnam County High School.
She said so far, all the new experiences have been fun, and she has really enjoyed getting to know the culture and customs.
“It’s cold. It’s really different, but I really like it,” she said in a recent interview.
Gutierrez is here through the Putnam County Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program.
Debbie Buffington, exchange counselor, said while Putnam County Rotary has hosted many short-term exchange students over the years, they are excited to be able to host the club’s first long-term student in 17 years, which is where the student stays here the entire school year.
“(Valentina) came and really fit in from the beginning,” Buffington said, adding she has been very involved in school programs and with the community.
Buffington added that Rotary members are always asking what Gutierrez has been up to or what she has planned next.
One of the biggest adjustments when Gutierrez first arrived in August was getting settled in a small town of 300 people. Where she comes from in Colombia, the average population is 200,000.
Learning that she would be staying in a town the size of her school back home was a shock. However, she’s gotten accustomed to the quiet life McNabb has to offer.
Gutierrez said she especially has enjoyed getting to know her host family, who has kids almost the same ages as her siblings back home.
At school, Gutierrez enjoys the classes she’s taking. One thing that surprised her when signing up for classes was all the options she had to choose from. Back at school in Colombia, she explained how students take only the basic academic classes offered in the U.S. There are no vocational studies, or courses such as art, music or physical education.
Gutierrez said it was difficult choosing which classes to take, because she would have loved to try them all. She said she is especially enjoying her ceramics, chorus and physical education courses.
Aside from studies, Gutierrez is getting involved in extracurricular activities. She signed up to be a Pantera, because of her love for dancing. She’s looking forward to performing at her first high school basketball game, which will be a first for her. Back home, they don’t have high school basketball.
“I really like Putnam County. It really was the best choice for a place to go. I really like the people, and I’m really happy here,” she said.
Gutierrez is looking forward to getting to know more about high school in the U.S. and is hoping to be able to teach her fellow classmates about the customs and cultures from the place she calls home.