Santamaria: Exchange student from Spain thanks her Queen Creek host family

My name is Paula, I am a 15-year-old exchange student from Madrid, Spain.

Paula Santamaria

Almost seven months ago I was about to start the best experience ever. I was leaving my life back at home and I was heading towards something completely unknown, something hard to do and something that was about to change my whole life, but back then, I had no idea how much this year was actually going to affect me.

I was excited, confused, happy, sad, anxious, afraid, but mostly, I was curious… I couldn’t wait to see this amazing country, to come into this new culture, family, school and to meet lots of new people and learn to be independent and braver than ever.

After being in the states for a while I started to feel free and strong. I felt like after this experience I could do whatever I wanted with my life. For all that and a lot much more I must thank a family in particular, a family that is a little different from all the other ones, that is a special one and will always be — the Hernandez family.

Paula Santamaria, center, with her hosts, the Hernandez family of Queen Creek. (Submitted photo)

They are the most amazing people that I have ever met. They have helped me step by step through my exchange experience and supported me every single day, even if things got tough sometimes. They have laughed with me as if we were best buddies. They have protected me and loved me just like if I was their own daughter.

Words can’t express how grateful I am for all the love that they have given me over these months that I have lived with them. This unique family has managed to make me feel right at home in a foreign land that is thousands of miles away from my own country.

They have always made me feel relaxed and encouraged me to try my best on every new thing that I tried. They have been with me through everything and always truly cared about me since the very first day that we met.

This family has given me an incredible second life and that is what has truly changed me. I will never forget all our laughs, our jokes, our smiles, our endless conversations, our crazy plans, our tears, our trips and our unforgettable experiences together, but the most important of it all for me is simply our relationship.

This is the reason why I have chosen to write this, to attempt say thank you to my incredible mom and dad; Angie and Erick, and my amazing sisters; Isabel and Vanessa. This is just a very simple prove of how in only seven months, someone can get to care for a family, as much as I care for them.

There is just no good enough way to express how much their love and support has meant to me, and that is why this was just a tiny attempt of thanking them from the bottom of my heart.

This has been the best year of my life and I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to meet a family like this one. I think that I could never go back to who I used to be, I am forever changed by this family and all the experiences that we have had together.

Paula Santamaria

Editor’s note: Ayusa is looking for host families for the 2019-20 school year in Queen Creek. Go to

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