Coming To America: Basketball just one lesson Navarro is learning on visit to the United States

Published 8:53 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2022

By Jim Walker

SOUTH POINT — When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in America, eh, play basketball.

Email newsletter signup

And so that is the case for foreign exchange student Araceli Navarro who has traveled from Spain to South Point to experience the American culture, Appalachian style.

Araceli Navarro

Navarro is staying with the Caleb Copley family and trying to learn new things from people to education to sports. While it has been a great learning experience, there has been quite an adjustment period.

“I wanted to learn more about the American culture and live a different experience so I did the exchange because of that,” said Navarro.

“Obviously, the first weeks it’s kind of like weird because I don’t know the different lifestyles of everyone. It’s not bad, it’s just different. But you can learn how to live with different people so it’s a good experience.”

Navarro has a brother Roman who is 6-foot-8 and is playing college basketball and semi-pro in her homeland Spain where players can do both.

“He’s good,” said Navarro of her brother.

Araceli said she has played a little basketball “but not like here.”

“I have been watching my brother since I was little and I really like basketball and the games and I’m watching it. I didn’t know I was going to play, but I just got the offer and I decided I wanted to try it.”

But Navarro quickly realized that there was quite a difference from watching and playing.

“The first week it was kind of difficult for me to understand everything and I’m still having a difficult tie trying to understand the plays. But I’m really trying and I’m getting there, so it’s difficult but not that much,” said Navarro.

Things may have been awkward at first for Navarro when she arrived at the Copley household, but Caleb Copley said there was also the adjustment period for his family as well.

There was a little trouble with language — accent to be precise — when Navarro arrived. Copley said Navarro speaks English well and is pretty easy to understand her accent, but the Southeastern Ohio accent was difficult for her at first.

“She’s worked on her English since she was a little kid,” said Copley. “But she said our accents are what threw her off when she first got here. She could understand the words if she could understand what we were saying. It would be the same if someone from New York would come here. They wouldn’t have a clue. They don’t pick up on the subtleties of our accent.

“She picked up on the girls better than me. I have a little bit stronger accent and she had a little more trouble with me. She said sometimes I would be talking and she would just be smiling and nodding her head trying to figure out what I was saying. But she said she has it now. I told her all she had to do was tell me and she said ‘I know but I didn’t know everybody yet. I was still trying to figure it all out.’”

Being from Spain and speaking Spanish, Navarro said there is no temptation to use her foreign language to say something nasty to an official or an opposing player if she was mad.

“It would be funny, but I haven’t tried it,” said Navarro with a laugh.

Learning to understand the game from a playing standpoint has been made easier for her because of head coach Dave Adams and assistant coaches Todd Pennington, Kayla Fletcher and Wes Hall.

“(Coach Adams) has been really nice. All the coaches have been nice. They are helping me a lot, so I’m very grateful because of that,” she said.

Although everyone has been helpful, Navarro said she has learned many things but one lesson stands out for her above everything else.

“I think the most important thing I have learned from this experience is to be independent and you have to learn how to be by yourself, not with your parents or the help of everyone all the time. Just try to figure things out for yourself,” said Navarro.

Copley said he is impressed with how well Navarro has learned to navigate her way around the area by herself.

“She travels around by herself. She does very well. Every once in a while she runs into a snag culturally, but we’re there to explain things to her she doesn’t understand. For the most part, she loves America,” said Copley.

“It’s opened my eyes to how the rest of the world sees America. The first time she saw a school bus she wanted to get her picture with it. She said we only see these in the movies. The American culture is so global with the movies. She sees things that she always thought of as only American things. They all watch American movies and TV shows. They have TV shows, but it’s not as high quality. American singers and actors are more of a global superstar.

“She is 16 and gave up a year of her life to come over here and be a part of the American culture. That’s how important it is to her. She make TicToc videos. She did one with an Italian foreign exchange student and one of the American students were teaching each other language like trying to say the same thing in different languages. It went viral in Spain. It had like 100,000 views overnight. She has a lot of followers because they want to see what the American culture is like for a Spanish girl.”

There is one thing Navarro has learned that has been the most surprising since her arrival.

“I’m really liking high school,” she said. “I really l like my classes. I just like going to school and that I wasn’t expecting at all.”

Navarro said everything about the education system is very different from what she has experienced in Spain.

“The teachers, how they teach you, all the subjects we have here is different,” Navarro said and then added, “It’s better. I have no doubt about that.”

Copley said Navarro wasn’t slighting her teachers in Spain.

“I think the big thing she felt is that it wasn’t that her teachers didn’t care abutter in Spain, she said the teachers here seem to take a bigger interest here not in what they teach their students but what their opinions are and how the students feel about things. It’s more of a real relationship and not just teaching and learning. And she likes that aspect,” said Copley.

One area that Copley said Navarro got bonus points was the amount of time she spends in the bathroom getting ready.

“It’s not too bad compared to the American women,” said Copley with a laugh.

The Copley’s have five children — four girls and a boy. The oldest daughter Addison is 14 and Navarro is 16.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten an exchange student and we couldn’t have gotten a better one than we did. She fits right in with us and she’s great with the kids. Her and Addison are like best friends,” said Copley.

“The other night we were doing some Christmas stuff and they were all tearing up thinking about it’s halfway through the year and her going back. She’s one of our family now. We jut did our family Christmas picture and she was in it. It’ll be hard for us to see her go back. I’m sure we’ll go over there and visit. Her grandma has already said she wants us to come.”

And since Navarro has had to learn to live like Americans while she’s been in America, it looks like the Copleys have a lesson they need to learn. When in Spain, do as the Spaniards.

“Ensename a vivir español.” (Translated: Teach me how to live Spanish.)