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R-JENERATION: Foreign exchange student from Mexico hopes to continue education in United States

The instantaneous culture shock of going to a different country can be exhilarating. For most people, change can be overwhelming. However, for Mario Gamboa, it’s totally worth it.

In a recent interview in the courtyard at The Meadows School, the foreign exchange student from Mexico talked about his life over a lunch of chicken tenders.

Gamboa, who is from Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula, aspires to go to college in the United States. He hopes that spending a year in Las Vegas will help him fulfill his dream.

“My whole dream is to study at the college level in America, and I mainly play tennis because I want a sports scholarship,” Gamboa said. “I was told that Meadows is like a college prep school and I was like, ‘Damn yeah!’ It’s going to help me get into an American college.”

Gamboa has played tennis for the past seven years, and he feels that it’s becoming more popular in Mexico.

“I chose to play tennis because it is a sport where it is all about how you do; if you are good, you do well,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa, who will be here for one year, came to the United States through the American Field Service. According to the program’s website, AFS is a nonprofit intercultural program that has been involved in student exchanges for the past 60 years.

When asked about his previous travel experiences, Gamboa smiled and with a slight laugh he replied, “Yeah, Disneyland, but other than that not really.”

For Gamboa, this is a life-changing experience.

He explained the difficulties in adjusting to the program’s requirements.

“You sign up for one year, no parents,” he said. “I miss them a lot. I talk to them once every two weeks.”

Gamboa said that his sister had enrolled in the same program but she went to Canada.

“I miss her the most,” he said. “She’s my best friend and I do everything with her.”

Another major adjustment Gamboa has encountered while living in Las Vegas is the school system.

“In Mexico, school is more chill, but here, it’s way harder,” he said. “The expectations are greater, like you have to pay attention to do well and there is more work that comes with it.”

On the first day of school, Gamboa was unsure about what to expect, and he was nervous about being the new guy.

One of his concerns was social adjustment.

“I think being new is rough and the first day is always rough,” he said. “I thought that nobody really cares about the new kid, but I noticed during the day things got better and now I have friends.”

Gamboa is staying with the Reiter family in Las Vegas. Nicholas Reiter is a senior at Meadows and his sister Erika is a sophomore at the Summerlin school.

Gamboa described his relationship with Nick and Erika as being very close.

“Nick is a really funny guy and he’s fun to be around, but Erika is a bit more quiet,” he said. “I totally love her and she’s also a lot of fun.”

Nick said he has enjoyed being around Gamboa.

“We’re pretty good friends,” he said. “On the first day, he was pretty loud and talkative, and he’s just generally really loud. He’s pretty funny and it’s pretty difficult to joke in another language. His jokes have been getting better while he’s been here.”

Nick talked about the cultural differences between North American and Latin American families.

“Before we got Mario, they gave us this rating score, which is how different cultures are,” Nick said. “For Mexico and Latin American culture, family is the largest part of everyday social interactions. This translates into how much time we spend alone as opposed to family time. In Mexico, out of 100 times they spend alone, it’s about 30 and here in the U.S., it’s about 90. It’s a culture shock; he’ll have to get used to the independence. But he’s a pretty social guy.”

Nick said this isn’t the first time his family has been involved with the AFS program.

“My dad is from Germany and when he came to the U.S., he did AFS for a year and he lived in New Jersey and he really liked the program,” he said. “That’s what influenced him to come back after serving in the military and pursue his education in America.

“We applied to have a student earlier in the summer. (Program officials) had to come to our house and check and see if everything is safe. When they feel everything is fine, then you are qualified to house a student.”

Nick found out that Gamboa was moving in with his family about a week before he arrived.

“I was pretty excited, especially because I’m pretty fluent in Spanish,” Nick said. “It’s been a good cultural mix.”

Gamboa is excited to spend the rest of the school year in Las Vegas.

“Signing up for an exchange program is a life-changing experience,” he said. “I’ve been here for a month and it’s a change of perspective and life.”

Gamboa has high hopes for the rest of his year at Meadows: “I want to do everything I can this year.”

After completing his program in Las Vegas, Gamboa plans to return to Mexico and complete his high school education. Though undecided about his major, Gamboa plans to apply to an American college.

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