Spotlight on: Marta Lotero: La Reina de España

Student Exchange Program


Photo by: Marisa Ruotolo

Marta Lotero explores Shockoe Bottom.

Junior Marta Lotero Gimenez was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. As part of a student exchange program, she will live in Midlothian for 10 months, experiencing American culture.

Q: How did you learn to speak English fluently?

A: I started learning it in school when I was four. The English that we learn is a basic English, so once a week, I have a personal teacher for one hour.

Q: With whom are you staying while in the United States?

A: The Morris family. Their daughter, Olivia Morris, is a junior in the high school.

Q: What’s it like being in a place where not many people speak your language fluently?

A: When I first came here, I had a lot of issues to understand the people. But now that I have been here for 5 months, I understand more things- not everything, but a lot more than at first.

Q: Have you learned new slang/idioms in America?

A: Yes, I’ve learned some jokes. When I came, I was kind of quiet because I never knew what to say. That still happens, but not that much.

Q: What’s your favorite part about being here?

A: When I was looking [to] come to America, my agency told me that I was going to “find myself”and learn how to be independent. That is true. Being here has show me that I’m “stronger” than I thought. I have to deal with my problems and learn from them alone. I have done things that I thought I would never do.

Q: What’s your least favorite part about being here?

A: I have been going to the same school, the same class, and the same people since I was 4. My friends are like a part of my family,  so being far away from them and from my actual family can be really challenging sometimes.

Q: Are there any major differences between America and Spain?

A: The distances in America are longer. For example, in Spain, me and my friends usually go walking to school, and it takes us around 5-10 minutes. Also, we move a lot using the train; it is a really cheap transportation and really fast. The food is also really different. In Spain, we have a lot of typical food that America doesn’t have, and I really miss it.

Q: What about the schools?

A: At school in Spain, we stay in the same classroom, and the teachers transition to us. We don’t have elective subjects; we have 9 subjects. The classes are one hour, and we have 6 classes for each day. At lunchtime, we eat a snack, and when we go out of school at 2 p.m., we eat lunch. The classes are not divided by even and odd days. We have a schedule system in which the classes are divided by the week. Also, we learn more than one language. We learn English, and you can choose between French and German (I take German.).

Q: Do you participate in any any clubs or after school activities?

A: Yes, I do Crew and Spanish Club.