(Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

November 16, 1998

New country, new experience

The Tattoo

Imagine this: you have just moved to a new
country. You don't know anybody. And you can
barely speak the language.

Well, this is reality for Thais Carolina Ibarra
Avila -- Caro for short -- a 16-year-old from
Venezuela who's an exchange student at Bristol
Eastern High School.

Ibarra said that teenagers spend their free time
in the "same ways" in Venezuela as they do here.
Just like in the United States, teens in her
country like to hang out with friends, listen to
music, go to movies and shop.

However, unlike young people here, Venezuelans
don't play a lot of sports. They concentrate
more on studying, Ibarra said.

Although school is very different here, Ibarra
said she "likes it very much."

Back in Venezuela, kids go to school from 7 a.m.
to 1 p.m. and then again from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Ibarra, a junior, said she gets more homework
here than she did in her native Merida,
Venezuela. She said it's also harder here.

Still, Ibarra still likes school.

She said she also likes that there are fewer
classes at Eastern than her own school.

Ibarra came to Connecticut three months ago
after signing up for the exchange program at her
school. She'll be here for another seven months.

Ibarra said she likes living here with her
"exchange" family.

She is staying with Craig and Laura Minor and
their daughter, Natalie. It's the second time
the Minor family has hosted a student from

Though she likes her "new" family, Ibarra said
she misses her real family back home.

So even though she may not speak English well
and comes from another country, Ibarra really is
a lot like you and me.

She's making friends fast, her host family says,
and is a member of the Spanish club at school.

Venezuela is a relatively prosperous South
American country where people speak Spanish.

Anyone interested in participating in a foreign
exchange program or hosting a foreign student
can get information from school administrators,
the library or on scores of World Wide Web