Oh Susana

From August 2013 to February 2014 we had an intern (foreign exchange student) from Spain live with us. Susana came from a small village in Spain (but most recently lives in Soria) and worked in our children’s Spanish immersion school full-time as an intern helping teachers in the classrooms.

It’s no secret that I love to create lists. That’s how I think. Here are items from a list I created before we decided to have someone come live with us. I’ve included all of the original items and then after each item I added my updated thoughts after having had an amazing time having Susana live with us for six months.


Kids will improve their Spanish. I’ll give us a B+. I think an A would have required focused study time – none of us would have enjoyed getting that ‘A’ 🙂 Yes, this happened, the kids got to practice Spanish in the house. Wow do they talk crazy fast! Susana was great about talking to the kids in Spanish. And of course we spoke all of the time in English to Susana to help her improve and learn English even more. I learned some new Spanish words too. I was also amazed at how many words I remembered from 20 years ago. Maybe someday I’ll even be able to put two words together (me talk like cave man in Spanish – ugh).

It’s the right thing to do. A+. Absolutely – this is true. I live my life by action and setting a good example. We owe it to ourselves, children, school and community to support the Spanish Immersion program, and this was a huge step for us. We’re helping another human who wants to be a teacher and devote her life to helping kids learn. It set a great example to our kids about giving back. And made us feel great. And there were so many other benefits that I’ll continue to list in this post.

We’ll get more involved with school & meet other parents. I’ll rate this a C+. We met a few more parents – not a ton, and we do know a few of those parents a lot better (which is great), but we’re not great at this in general and not something we ever focus on. Hopefully others know us better now and will maybe reach out to us. We know some more faces to wave at but I’m not sure that I’ll remember names that go with those faces. As an added benefit it was great meeting more interns – a truly great group! All of the interns are so appreciative and kind so it is great to continually run into them and say hello.

Having another adult in the house could help with the kids. I’ll give this another A+. It was intentionally never our goal to have Susana babysit or take on more than her share of chores, but the chores that she did take on were incredibly helpful. I would tell her all the time that she didn’t have to do the dishes right after the meal and clean up as much as she did. But she never listened to me (why should she treat me any different from anyone else in the house – ha!) and would always say of course she would do them. What a HUGE help to have small chores like that consistently done so that we would all be prepared for the next adventure or craziness hitting the household. She also become our default door opener for the dog (her seat was closest to the door). Orca has never been so happy having someone open the door all the time for her 🙂 We also really tried hard not to put her in the role of being a babysitter but the few times that we asked if she could help out she was there for us – again, a HUGE help. And it was reassuring to have her around in the mornings every so often when we would both have to go into work early.

It would be cool and help us learn more about other cultures. Yes, A+ again. The day Susana arrived she brought some gifts from her home town along with a video of that region. So cool – and beautiful. Throughout the six months we asked lots of questions and constantly talked about how our cultures were different. I think at times Susana couldn’t believe how many activities we could jam into one evening (all three kids going to different spots at different times and we still managed somehow to eat while rushing out the door some nights). She said life back home was at a much slower pace. And we ate at different times, and we fed her strange food (corn is only for the pigs in Spain – that was fun for us!). It helped that we LOVE Spanish food so making paella and eating Manchego cheese frequently was perfect.

Someone to help the kids with homework if we ever didn’t understand the Spanish instructions. I’ll give this a B because I don’t think we really needed much homework. Susana would have absolutely helped if this was ever the case but most of our kid’s homework is done on the bus before it even gets home (bus work, not home work!).

Other pros that we didn’t anticipate and didn’t make it on my original list:

We experienced Minnesota more, and we lived life more fully every day. We were always looking for things to do with Susana or things to share with her or talk about. We’d look for different foods to try or find activities to do on the weekends. Some of these were things I’ve been saying we should do for 10 years and we finally made them happen. This was fun for all of us. Life is short – live in the now!

We were better behaved in our own house. We tried to always be on our best behavior. It is easier not to get frustrated over small things and show it when someone else is in your house. It was a great daily reminder of not sweating the small stuff and treating each other with respect. We smiled more often and went out of our way to say “good morning” and “good night” and ask “how was your day?” These are things we should be doing every day. And we are continuing to do. Thank you Susana for these daily reminders and always positive attitude and genuine curiosity and always having energy to play endlessly with the kids!

Add someone else to your family. You don’t get many chances in life to connect with another person like this and treat them like a family member. We have hopefully created some lifelong bonds for all of us. It will be fun for all of us to see where Susana’s life leads and also for her to watch our kids grow and navigate through life. It was great to get to know another person who is in a very exciting period of their life. The daily conversations were always great and uplifting.


We’ll have less privacy. This was never an issue. Susana was in the basement with her own bedroom and bathroom and we all could find our own space whenever we needed it. If anything, I was worried if the kids would invade her privacy but somehow Susana and her boyfriend managed to let Megan sit in on many of their Skype sessions too 

Family visits will be harder due to the intern staying in our guest bedroom. Neither of our parents visit that frequently since they are out of state so this was never an issue. My parents visited and we very easily setup a bedroom in the office which I think worked out fine. Maybe not ideal but I don’t think it was ever a hardship and hopefully wasn’t the reason we didn’t get more visitors. Likewise, it was fun to bring Susana on a trip to St. Louis to visit Beth’s family and to experience a road trip through Iowa with us (woohoo – Iowa). Did I ever mention how much I detest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Booo Cedar Rapids. Spread the word. Avoid it. They’ll be happy and so will you. Oh, wait, back to my post…

Risk of having a “bad intern experience” – don’t get along; feel awkward in our own home; someone who makes messes & doesn’t do their share. Nope. None of this EVER happened. Never. We have no idea what a “bad intern experience” is. Susana was awesome. We all always felt at home. And hopefully she also always felt at home. Not an issue ever.

Emotional/time commitment of having someone else in your home for so long. This one is tough to answer but I think Susana helped make this great for us too. As much as we wanted to spend all of our time with Susana and continue to show her American experiences it made for great breaks when she took a few extended trips outside of Minnesota. She traveled to New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco while she was here. Her San Francisco trip was for 10-days over Christmas and New Years. When we first heard about the timing of that trip my personal reaction was a bit of sadness that we wouldn’t get to be with her over those holidays. And we would have loved spending those holidays with her but it ended up being great having “alone time” with just our family and getting to recharge a bit. It would have worked out fine either way but I think there was something helpful in having Susana take some vacations on her own. And of course those experiences were so great for her to take while she was here. She definitely planned and made the most of her U.S. trip.

Basement is cramped (e.g., weights in guest bedroom & closets full). This probably ended up being more of a positive than a negative. This forced me to clean up the basement. This forced me to make our guest bedroom into a real bedroom. We moved dressers. We bought Christopher his own non-yellow dresser. We moved nightstands and cleaned out a closet. I moved my weights. We added drapes and a hanging shelf in the bathroom. It was all good and necessary. I just hope we didn’t make that bedroom too good so that Colleen will want to move down there now (it’s been almost a week and she hasn’t asked yet) 

Increased spending – utility, food, gas. We ended up spending money on food primarily – but that’s because I love going out to eat so we probably went out more than we typically do as a family. I look at that as a good thing that we all enjoyed. Not an issue ever – we enjoyed the experiences and never kept track of money at all. The school has a great, well-planned internship program so most transportation was taken care of along with additional intern activities.

Colleen will dance less in basement. The kids still managed to play and dance in the basement. Maybe not as much as before at first but towards the end they were almost too comfortable about going down there – but Susana never complained at all – believe me, I would ask a lot to make sure all was good. I don’t think this ever really became an issue at all.

I asked the kids what their favorite things were to do with Susana, words to describe her, and funniest memory – here’s what I heard from them: playing with her; wrestling (2x); sledding; going to the Mall of America a lot; awesome (2x); cool; fun (2x); amazing; friendly; funny; nice; tackling Susana and Irene in the snow; watching Christopher tackle Susana in the basement; when Megan told her to say “poop” but she didn’t know what it was so she kept saying it. I also remember how funny it was when we learned that Susan’s friend’s name pronounced “E-wren-E” was actually “Irene” in English, and continually giving her a hard time about mixing up “he” and “she” (sorry I kept picking on you for that Susana – I’ll be in LOTS of trouble whenever we make it over to Spain in the future – you owe me!).

In summary, this was absolutely a positive experience that we will cherish forever. It was fantastic getting to know Susana and showing off our family, and our city & state. The kids had a great time and loved being able to play and wrestle (yes, wrestle) with Susana quite a bit (Christopher’s highlight was wrestling two interns to the ground at the same time in the snow – too funny!). She was always a great sport and put up with my sense of humor too on a daily basis (I know some of you can relate to that – no easy feat) – it was fun for all of us to laugh at lots of stuff all the time. Beth and Susana had fun cooking and sharing some recipes (we worked on perfecting paella and tortillas, while Susana learned how to make rice-crispy-treats which don’t exist in Spain and tasting Spam (yuck!!!)). It was tough saying good-bye but that is a sign of how great it was having her here. Best of luck with everything in your future Susana!

2 Responses to “Oh Susana”

  1. Brooks Thompson (mom, grandma) says:

    Wow, what a beautifully written synopsis of your time with Susana. I’m sure it brought tears to her eyes when she read it. And, I’m sure she had just as good of a time with her new Thompson family. We really enjoyed our visit and being able to spend some time with Susana, also. She’s a really wonderful young adult and I’m sure will make an amazing teacher some day.

  2. Susana says:

    I am the luckiest person on earth for having met you and having shared such an amazing time with you as my second family. I think of you every day and remember all the good times we had.
    I miss you a lot ❤️
    THANK YOU SO MUCH for the synopsis (your mom was right, I am with tears on my eyes)

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