Belen is a 15 year-old student from Spain who arrived on the PSE program two months ago, and already, she has made quite a name for herself.

Belen, who has been playing tennis since she was six years old, developed a passion for the sport when she realized her talent at age 12. As a way to be involved and meet friends, after arriving to her new community and school in PA this Fall, Belen joined the school tennis team. This past month, Belen and her teammates achieved first place in the state tournament. They were even featured in the local newspaper!

“The people are very nice, and I enjoy the teamwork.  You play on your own, but then the team supports you.  We are an amazing team!” shares Belen.

Participating on the school tennis team has also allowed Belen to learn lessons that can be applied to other aspects of life. She shares that recently, during a tennis match, she was losing 7-3, but was able to focus, stay positive, and eventually came back to win the match 10-7.

“I learned that it doesn’t matter if you are losing or winning the game.  It is possible to win even if you are losing,” she shares.

Deana, Belen’s host mother, acknowledges that Belen is a very serious tennis player and is amazing on the court.  “Belen is a force to be reckoned with.  I don’t know very much about tennis, but I can recognize an awesome player!” she says.

Deana reports that their family has adjusted very well since welcoming Belen into their home and lives.  Their daughter, Fran, is around the same age as Belen, and they walk to the bus stop together in the morning and enjoy each other’s company during meals. Also, Belen enjoys taking nature walks around the neighborhood with her youngest host sister, six-year old Elaina.  Deana says that Belen is very gracious in helping Elaina choose pine cones for her collection.

“Belen is very easy-going, sweet, and hasn’t complained at all…even about my cooking!” Deana jokes.  The family  has enjoyed learning about Belen, her family, and her life in Spain. Deana, herself, was an international student in Spain when she was 14 years-old, so she especially enjoys sharing the experience with Belen and reminiscing on her own experience as a teenager.

Deana reports that their family enjoys playing games with Belen and traveling together to see nearby sites. Trivial Pursuit is a favorite, and is a great learning experience for everyone, especially Belen. They recently took a trip to New York City to go sight-seeing together, and had a great time. They look forward to the many more experiences their family will be able to share with Belen throughout the year.

“We have a lot of events to look forward to with Belen, including Thanksgiving and sharing family Christmas traditions with her,” says Deana.

Kathleen, Belen’s Local Coordinator, has also enjoyed getting to know her. She describes her as a “beautiful person inside and out, very mature for her age, very easy to get along with, super positive, fits in perfectly with the kids at school, and very academically driven.”

“Belen always has a smile on her face. You just want to squeeze her!” shares Kathleen.

We look forward to learning about all of the other accomplishments Belen achieves throughout the coming year!

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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