'Great adventure' finds senior in Spain

Solanco senior David Rodriguez will immerse himself in Spanish culture as an AFS student for the year. (Marty Heisey / Staff)

When David Rodriguez headed off to his senior year at Solanco High School, he went a little farther away than usual.

All the way to Tarrega in the Catalonia province of Spain, not far from Barcelona.

For the 17-year-old student from Christiana, his senior year will be a new adventure with a host family and new friends and activities.

"I applied to be an (American Field Service) exchange student, and I was thrilled to be chosen," said Rodriguez shortly before he left the United States. "I have never been to Spain before."

Lucky for Rodriguez, he shouldn't have too much trouble with the language. As the son of Eva Oporta from Nicaragua and David Rodriguez from Honduras, he grew up speaking Spanish and English.

"It may be a little different, because in Spain, they speak Castilian Spanish or European Spanish. I learned the Spanish spoken in South and Central America," Rodriguez said.

The honor student at Solanco is a member of the Link-Crew team, reaching out to freshmen, and the Society of Architecture Engineering.

Being an exchange student was a perfect opportunity for the teen to expand his horizons. He already had completed every Advanced Placement course and needs just 1 1/2 credits to graduate from Solanco. Because his unfinished credits are in advanced English and U.S. history, he will be complete those through Virtual School at Solanco.

"I can't exactly take English in Spain," he said with a smile.

His mother is very proud of her son for winning the scholarship to be an AFS student, and so is his younger brother, Angel, 15, also a student at Solanco. The family lives near a horse farm, where his stepfather, Jesus Sandoval, takes care of the horses. His mother is a massage therapist.

"I am excited for David, but I will miss him very, very much," Oporta said. "We will Skype."

Rodriguez will spend 10 months with his host family, which includes a girl and two boys, ages 13, 9 and 7. He looks forward to learning Castilian, playing soccer and maybe even taking up Spanish guitar. He has been a member of a soccer team since he was in first grade. He played as a midfielder since 2003.

His AFS advisers have warned him about not taking on too much at once, but Rodriguez wants to immerse himself in the Spanish culture, learning all about the country and attending festivals.

"I want to taste Spanish food, like paella," Rodriguez said. "But I will miss my mother's wonderful food, like gallopinto (rice and beans) and quesadillas."

An avid reader, Rodriguez also excels in math and science. He hopes to study civil engineering in college. He had to apply early because he is away during his senior year.

Among the schools he is interested in attending are Columbia University, Drexel University and Lehigh University. He also is looking at colleges in Florida, because his father lives in Miami and the teen spends summers there, where he works at a Mexican restaurant.

"This will be a great adventure for me," Rodriguez said.