My foreign friend made me appreciate Wisconsin

Touring for two weeks with my Spanish friend gave me a totally new view of the place I call home

Everyone has an existing opinion on their hometown, whether that opinion may causes a beaming smile or a cringe. Had you asked me at the beginning of the summer, what my opinion of my hometown, Appleton, Wisconsin, was I would’ve said it’s somewhere in between– I wasn’t in love with it by any means, but I wasn’t embarrassed to say I grew up there.

Over the summer, something changed. I had my best friend from Spain stay with me and my family for two weeks in July, and I made it my personal mission to make her first– and foreseeably last– trip to America as amazing as possible while staying in the midwest.

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Raquel hosted me on my trip to Spain during my senior year in high school, it was my turn to return the favor

For the first week of Raquel’s stay we toured around my hometown and took little day trips to neighboring cities.

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I took my Spanish Cheesehead to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers

Our home team playing America's favorite past-time was an absolute must!

Our home team playing America’s favorite past-time was an absolute must!

After we had exhausted everything Appleton had to offer, my whole family (plus Raquel) embarked on a mini-vacation around our state. We started with The World’s Largest Music Festival right in our backyard:

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI was unlike anything she had ever seen

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI was unlike anything she had ever been to.

Then we ventured down to the windy city, which ended up being her favorite part of her whole stay (big surprise). It had never crossed my mind that while Spain has amazing buildings in regards to their age and grandeur, Spain does not have amazing buildings in regard to their height– making Chicago exactly the right place to go.

103 floors up seemed a good place to start

103 floors up seemed a good place to start

She got a kick out of the 9,000 photos we took at the bean (which apparently was in an American movie she had seen)

She got a kick out of the 9,000 photos we took at the bean (which apparently was in an American movie she had seen)

And what's a trip to Chicago without a visit to the field museum...

And what’s a trip to Chicago without a visit to the field museum…

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… and the aquarium (the first Raquel had ever been to).

Then we ventured to the land of Bucky where, I must admit, there was a moment of huge pride when my dearest Spaniard told me “all she wanted was a shirt that says Wisconsin”…

Which she got (along with about 300 blurry, late night Abe pics-- as a right of passage, naturally)

…which she got (along with about 300 blurry, late night Abe pics– as a right of passage, naturally)

After our stay in Madison, we finished our trip in the Wisconsin Dells, where we got entirely too much sun and far too many strange looks in lines while we spoke in our strange Spanglish concoction.

Then, too quickly, Raquel flew home and my summer returned to the usual work, sleep, repeat. To my surprise, she left a huge handprint on my home state. Something about watching Raquel, to whom everything was new and amazing, put a drastic new lens on everything I see every day. The wide expansive countryside I drive through to get to university looks so much wider and more expansive. The skyscraper I live in seems so much taller and more impressive. The state I call home seems so much greater and more worthy of praise.

Hosting my Spanish best friend made my home state seem all the more wonderful and worthy of being visited. I’m forever grateful for the newfound perspective Raquel gave to me, and I highly recommend anyone who is able to takes the opportunity to host an international friend. It will mean so much to them and change your life more than you could imagine.

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