Ecuadorian student: ‘People very friendly, food less spicy’

Stephany Aguirre from Ecuador, at left, and Lea Deutschman of Germany are foreign exchange students attending Mabel-Canton High School this year. They are both staying at the Robert and Lori Schutte home in Mabel. CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER
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Mabel-Canton foreign exchange student Stephany Aguirre has enjoyed her first six weeks of living in the United States. The high school senior from Atuntaqui, Ecuador, said she has found Americans to be very friendly, and the local cuisine less spicy than that in her native Ecuador. She is staying with the Robert and Lori Schutte family of Mabel.

Stephany hails from a city of about 21,000 people, located in the far northwestern part of Ecuador. The city is about 8,000 feet above sea level and the annual average temperature is 64 degrees. Sub-freezing temps and snow are things she is not used to experiencing, but she knows last week’s snow was just a sample of what is to come.

“We do not have winters like you have here,” she said smiling. “We do have changes in our seasons, but not like here.”

She has one brother, who is 22 years old and a younger sister, 15. Her parents own a textile business that manufactures baby clothing. Atuntaqui is noted for its textile and craft industries.

Stephany became interested in the foreign exchange program through a friend who was contemplating studying in the U.S. She did quite a bit of research and decided to apply for the program. Updating her passport and visa were two of many steps she had to take. There were several tests and many documents to fill out before she was accepted.

While in school in South America, Stephany participated in basketball, soccer and was a very avid swimmer. She said not having a swimming pool nearby is one of the things she does miss about living in Mabel.

She is currently a member of the Cougar volleyball team, plans to go out for basketball this winter and softball in the spring and sings in the M-C choir.

When she returns to Ecuador next summer, Stephany will finish her senior year of high school and then plans to attend college, majoring in international business.

She said she has enjoyed traveling with her host family to Decorah, Spring Grove and La Crosse on shopping trips. Having a foreign exchange “sister,” (Lea Deutschman from Germany) also living with the Schuttes this school year, has made things extra special.