Coming to America: Basketball is just one lesson Navarro learned while visiting the United States
Published in 2022 Wednesday, November 23, 20:53
By Jim Walker
SOUTH POINT. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in America, play basketball.
Such is the case for foreign exchange student Araceli Navarro, who traveled from Spain to South Point to experience American culture, Appalachian style.
Navarro stays with Caleb Copley’s family and tries to learn new things about people, education and sports. While it was a great learning experience, there was quite an adjustment period.
“I wanted to learn more about American culture and have a different experience, so that’s why I switched,” Navarro said.
“Obviously it’s kind of weird in the first few weeks because I don’t know how different people’s lifestyles are. It’s not bad, it’s just different. But you can learn to live with different people, so it’s a good experience.
Navarro has a brother, Roman, who is 6-foot-1 and plays college basketball and semi-pro in his native Spain, where players can do both.
“He’s good,” Navarro said of his brother.
Araceli said she has played a little basketball, “but not like here.”
“I’ve been watching my brother since I was little, I really like basketball and the games and I watch it. I didn’t know I was going to play, but I just got an offer and decided I wanted to give it a try.
But Navarro quickly realized that there are quite a few differences between watching and playing.
“I had a hard time understanding everything the first week, and I still have a hard time understanding the plays. But I’m really trying and pushing, so it’s hard, but not that much,” Navarro said.
Navarro may have been uncomfortable at first when she arrived in the Copley household, but Caleb Copley said there was also an adjustment period for his family as well.
When Navarro arrived, there was a bit of a problem with the language – or rather the accent. Copley said Navarro speaks good English and can understand her accent fairly easily, but the Southeast Ohio accent was difficult for her at first.
“She’s been learning English since she was little,” Copley said. “But she said our accents scared her when she first got here. She could understand the words if she understood what we were saying. It would be the same if someone came here from New York. They wouldn’t have a clue. They don’t understand the subtleties of our accent.
“She met girls better than I did. I have a slightly stronger accent and she had a little more trouble with me. She said sometimes I would talk and she would just smile and nod trying to understand what I was saying. But she said she had it now. I told her all she had to do was tell me, and she said, “I know, but I don’t know everyone yet.” I was still trying to figure it out.”
Navarro, who is originally from Spain and speaks Spanish, said she is not tempted to say something nasty to an official or an opposing player in her foreign language if she is upset.
“It would be funny, but I haven’t tried it,” Navarro said with a laugh.
Head coach Dave Adams and assistant coaches Todd Pennington, Kayla Fletcher and Wes Hall made it easy for her to learn to understand the game from a positional perspective.
“(Coach Adams) was really good. All the coaches were nice. They help me a lot, so I’m very grateful for that,” she said.
While everyone was helpful, Navarro said she learned a lot, but one lesson stands out for her.
“I think the most important thing I learned from this experience is to be independent and you have to learn to be on your own, not always with your parents or everyone’s help.” Just try to figure things out for yourself,” Navarro said.
Copley said he is impressed with how well Navarro has learned to navigate the area on his own.
“She travels alone. She is doing very well. She does run into cultural barriers from time to time, but we want to explain things to her that she doesn’t understand. For the most part, she loves America,” Copley said.
“It opened my eyes to how the rest of the world sees America. When she saw the school bus for the first time, she wanted to take a picture with it. She said we only see it in movies. American culture is so global with movies. She sees things that she always thought were only American things. They all watch American movies and TV shows. They have TV shows but they are not that good quality. American singers and actors are more of a global superstar.
“She’s 16 years old and she gave up a year of her life to come here and become a part of American culture.” That’s how important it is to her. She makes TicToc videos. She did one with an Italian foreign exchange student and one of the American students teaching each other languages as if trying to say the same thing in different languages. It spread in Spain. It got about 100,000 views overnight. She has a lot of followers because they want to see what American culture looks like to a Hispanic girl.
Navarro has learned one thing that has surprised her the most since her arrival.
“I really like high school,” she said. “I really like my lessons. I just love going to school and I didn’t expect this at all.
Navarro said everything about the education system is very different from what she experienced in Spain.
“The teachers, the way they teach you, all the things we have here are different,” Navarro said, adding, “It’s better. I have no doubt about it.”
Copley said Navarro ignored his teachers in Spain.
“I think the biggest thing she felt is that it’s not that the teachers didn’t care about her in Spain, she said that the teachers here are more interested in what they’re teaching their students than what their opinion how students feel about things. It’s more of a real relationship than just teaching and learning. And she likes that aspect of it,” Copley said.
One area Copley said Navarro got extra points was the time she spends in the bathroom getting ready.
“It’s not too bad compared to American women,” Copley said with a laugh.
The Copleys have five children, four girls and a boy. The eldest daughter, Addison, is 14, and Navarro, 16.
“This is the first time we’ve had an exchange student and we couldn’t have gotten a better one than us.” She is perfect for us and gets along well with the kids. She and Addison are like best friends,” Copley said.
“We were doing Christmas things the other night and they were all in tears thinking about it being half way through the year and she’s coming back. She is now one of our family. We took our family Christmas picture and she was in it. It will be hard for us to see her return. I’m sure we’ll go there and visit. Her grandmother has already said she wants us to come.
And since Navarro had to learn to live like Americans while she was in America, it seems the Copleys have a lesson to learn. When in Spain, act like a Spaniard.
Ensename a vivir español. (Translated: Teach me to live in Spanish.)