By CHRISTIE MASTRIC
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula is not Costa Rica, and vice versa, but that’s probably a good thing considering the purpose of a local student exchange program.
Marquette Senior High School’s Spanish program has again organized an exchange program with a bilingual high school in Guapiles, Costa Rica. MSHS is hosting a delegation of students from Liceo Experimental Bilingue de Pococi through Jan. 14 as 18 Costa Rican students and two teachers are spending their time here with families of MSHS Spanish students.
MSHS Spanish teacher Katelynn Jensen, who coordinated the exchange, directed Wednesday’s downtown Marquette scavenger hunt in which students had to take photos of various places, with clues to their whereabouts given to them. The hunt began at the Peter White Public Library.
“They’re about the same age as our students,” Jensen said of the Costa Rican visitors. “We’ve got a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors who are hosting, and the Costa Rican students will be here for three weeks. They’ll be spending time with our hosting families while they’re on vacation, and then also attending classes with their host students for the two weeks that we’re back in school in the new year.”
It wouldn’t be a true exchange, though, if the program is a one-way deal.
MSHS students, Jensen noted, will travel to Guapiles during spring break to tour the country and attend high school classes.
“We’ll get to see what their vacation time is like as well,” she said.
The program could go a long way toward fostering international goodwill.
“It’s one of the best ways to promote this cultural understanding — to have somebody from another culture living with your family for three weeks, and then, especially if you get that experience, to go and live with their family,” Jensen said. “Just the connections that that creates are lifelong.”
She also pointed out that getting family and friends involved in the exchange creates a “ripple effect” throughout the community by giving folks a chance to meet the kids and see the world from a different perspective.
“Just to know there are teenagers just like me in other countries, and different ways of being are not negative,” Jensen said. “They’re just different, and it creates just a positive atmosphere and connection around that.”
The MSHS Spanish Club began to raise money for the exchange in the fall of 2021 with sales of Costa Rican coffee, and met its hosting budget through sales of coffee and fair trade goods from Guatemala at MSHS home basketball games.
The club expressed its gratitude to community organizations such as the Marquette Area Education Association, the MSHS Parent Teacher Student Organization and local businesses such as Jensen Case Management LLC, Third Coast Pizzeria, Marquette Community Federal Credit Union and Super One Foods for their financial support.
Wednesday’s scavenger hunt, Jensen said, was a way to show off the town to their Costa Rican guests, such as having them visit “a cool little cafe” or going to the ore dock.
Planned upcoming activities include a public skate at Lakeview Arena in Marquette, a visit to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee Township and a home Northern Michigan University hockey game — and simply hanging out with friends.
Costa Rican student Selene Rojas took part in the scavenger hunt, as did MSHS student Kate Compton.
You could say Rojas and the other out-of-towners got hit with inclement weather at a very inopportune time, but that hasn’t deterred her from enjoying her stay.
“It’s very amazing, and I like it,” Rojas said of the entire program experience so far. “I love the snow, and the town is small, but has amazing people.”
Compton also called the program “amazing.”
“I was really nervous that it would be awkward, but it’s been a lot of fun, and I love experiencing Marquette though new eyes,” Compton said.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is [email protected].