Everyone Wants to Meet Markel
Spanish exchange student holds welcome sign at airport

Packing a lot in, in New Jersey

Markel arrived on Friday, August 27, just three days before starting school. He came off the plane to a warm welcome, but we could tell he was a bit nervous. What 15-year-old who just left their home country without their parents for the first time wouldn't be nervous! 

The first weekend was a whirlwind of events. Everyone wanted to meet Markel. The weekend was filled with getting to know our family, friends, and other relatives. Friday night, we just stayed home and had, at his request, pizza for dinner, and he met his host siblings.

The next night, we went to an escape room. I have never been to one of these, but Markel had been to one in Spain. Here, he was able to meet more family and my sons’ girlfriends. On Sunday, we went to the zoo where Markel was able to meet more friends. This was nice because they were my daughter's friends who were going to be starting school with Markel the following day. We are a large family with four children. We always have friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and extended family around. Markel fit right in from the first few days.   

The first day of school was very exciting, but a bit overwhelming. Our high school is very large. Markel goes to school with our youngest child, our daughter Christina. Even with her being the fourth of our children to go through the school, I don't remember it being that large! Markel and Christina are just two and a half weeks apart in age so I joke with my daughter, telling her that this is what it would be like if she were a twin. They get along great and have a typical brother-sister relationship.   

The second weekend, we went to a pool party down the shore and Markel met even more family! Once he was cleared to compete here in New Jersey, Markel joined the cross country team. Each day after school, he runs. He has been able to compete in the few meets. During the week with school, cross country, homework, and pizza Tuesday, we certainly look forward to having fun and exciting weekends.  

The following weekend, we went to our lake house in Pennsylvania. Here, we rented a boat on Lake Wallenpaupack. It wasn't the warmest of days, but it was great to get away for the weekend. Markel has made a lot of new friends and was even invited to my daughter's friend’s quinceanera. He has been to New York to see a Mets game as well as a Red Bulls game here in New Jersey.  

Markel has only been here a little over a month, but what an exciting month it has been. He certainly has had a lot of fun, and we love having him. He is such a joy and always happy. We enjoy sharing photos with his family via Instagram and exchanging emails with his parents. Nearly his entire family now follows us on Instagram, so they can see pictures and keep up to date with what Markel is experiencing.   

Markel has adjusted so nicely to his school routine as well as his host family. He already has a huge place in our hearts. We know he is going to have a great year. We’re looking forward to the adventures the next nine months bring. Thank you PAX for creating this bond that will last forever in our lives.   

—Peggy Norton (NJ), host mom of Markel (Spain)