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Spanish Exchange Student Develops Bonds at East Lansing High Through Cross Country

Jack Diehm

Teo Tibercio, who hails from Barcelona, has found a home with the Trojans and new friends.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Teo Tibercio is not just any 16-year-old student. He was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain and came to the United States by choice, using cross country as a way to integrate himself.

“I have been here for two months now,” said Tibercio, who is a sophomore at East Lansing High School. “I came here because it is a good experience to know new people and a new culture, and I want to boost my English level, so I think it was an interesting thing to do.”

When Tibercio arrived in the U.S. in late August, he spent his first few days spending time with his host family, which selected him through an agency. His host brother is a freshman at East Lansing High School.

“The first few days here, I thought it was a very quiet place compared to Barcelona where there are a lot of people everywhere,” said Tibercio. “In the beginning, I wasn’t doing too much here just meeting my host brother’s friends.”

Within a few days, Tibercio wanted to immerse himself in the culture and decided that cross country would be the best decision. In Spain, he had been a runner for a long time.

“I started track and field in Spain 7 years ago and cross country too,” said Tibercio. “Then two years later I quit cross country and just did track.”

For the East Lansing cross country team, runners must attend a summer camp. Coach Patrick Murray let Tibercio attend the camp, in hopes that it would help him meet his teammates before the season. Tibercio met his best friend on the team, Andrew Lane, during their first practice.

“I felt like it was my responsibility to have people know each other,” said Lane. “We just kind of clicked.”

Lane, a junior, is the best runner on the team and a winner of two meets this season. He never had a foreign exchange student in his life before Tibercio.

There have been three foreign exchange students in the East Lansing High School cross country program since Murray took over. Tibercio has been the most impressive socially.

“He speaks better English,” said Murray. “That makes a difference. He’s really solid and he’s more outgoing and easygoing.”

Tibercio’s English is above average because of the commitment he had to learn the language while in Barcelona.

“In Spain, since elementary school, they start teaching English but they aren’t very good classes,” said Tibercio. “So when I started high school I did private lessons with a friend to improve my language.”

His success in communication did not carry over to the course. Tibercio couldn’t finish his first two races due to fatigue. Now with the same committed attitude, and with the help from his coach and teammates, Tibercio sets a personal record each race he runs.

Credit Jack Diehm

“I’m really impressed with his progress as a runner,” said Murray. “I’m even more impressed with how quick he got close with his teammates. That was really neat. And that’s going to be a challenge coming in as an outsider. It’s not always easy and he talks to everybody. He’s been real positive. All that stuff you hope to build with somebody that’s in your program over the years he’s had instantly here.”

Continuous growth seems to be the theme with Tibercio. He came to the U.S. wanting a unique experience that he couldn’t get in Spain. It hasn’t been easy.

“The hardest part is being separated from your friends and family,” said Tibercio. “And not seeing them on important days like birthdays.”

His family was supportive of his decision to come to the U.S. for a year. Tibercio knows a few of his classmates in Spain that are doing the same thing in Chicago and Des Moines, and other countries. He will be in Michigan until June 30, 2019. When he leaves he hopes to have gained something bigger than himself.

“Friendships, good English and a good experience in my life,” said Tibercio.

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