Spanish family lends international flavor to Kids and Teen College

ABINGTON, Pa. -- When the Morena-Lopez family arrived from Spain this summer, they visited popular U.S. tourist destinations: Orlando, New York and... Penn State Abington. So how did a tranquil suburban college campus wind up on an itinerary with Universal Studios and the Statue of Liberty?

The family planned to stay with friends in Bryn Athyn for a few weeks. A little research and much discussion with Penn State Abington’s Deanna Bosley led them to decide that the campus’ Kids and Teen College would help fulfill the underlying goal of their visit: immersing their three children in American language and culture.

“You need to speak English to secure a good job in Europe, and their school is not bilingual,” said their mother, Beyona Mayanto, who works for a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company. “Instead of hiring a tutor, we wanted the children to spend time with Americans their own age.”

Her husband, Luis Alberto Morena-Lopez, praised Bosley, a program manager in Continuing Education, for ensuring that Paula, 10, and twins German and Alberto, 9, had an enjoyable two weeks participating in the Penn State Survivor and Brainiac camps.

“She was really organized and identified camps suited to children who are not fluent in English,” he said. “There was also a camp counselor who spoke Spanish.”

Morena-Lopez, a dentist with the Spanish national health system, fit in a little class time for himself while his children were attending the camps. With the assistance of Dolores Arevalo, the coordinator of International Affairs at Penn State Abington, he visited Tyrone Burkett’s Diversity in Health class.

According to Burkett, a lecturer in biobehavioral health, Morena-Lopez’s presence in the classroom added dimension to their discussion about international health-care systems.

“In Luis’ opinion, we are spoiled,” Burkett said. “The difference between our health-care systems is that in the United States the availability of insurance is based on health and wealth. In Spain, you may be guaranteed services, but you pay much more in taxes.”

The family was intrigued by environmental and cultural differences during their visit. Penn State Abington’s meandering wooded campus was a refreshing change from their urban hometown of Madrid. “Spain is drier and not very green,” Morena-Lopez said. “You have beautiful trees and flowers.”

But he didn’t admire everything about life in suburban American. “In Madrid, I go where I want and don’t depend on a car to get there. Here, you need a car,” he said. “The people are very kind, but there are no pedestrian areas to walk.”

Beyona and Luis would like to arrange a more traditional exchange when Paula, German and Alberto are older. They would like their children to live with an American family for an extended period and, in turn, the Moreno-Lopez’s would host the American children in Madrid.

The Morena-Lopez children weren’t the only additions to the cultural mix at the Kids and Teen camps. Bosley said that children from Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina and Oregon and as far away as United Arab Emirates and South Korea also attended Penn State Abington Kids and Teen College this summer.

For pictures from Penn State Abington Kids and Teen College, visit online. For more information on the Penn State Abington Kids and Teen College, visit online.