From the forested southern Spain city of Vigo to the close-knit Texas town of Graford, one student shares an experience worth the trip. Jose "Pepe" Paz, a junior at Graford High School, came to Texas through a foreign exchange student program and seems to fit right in among his peers. The culture shock of America is not one of his most notable differences. Instead, he spoke of the transition from a large city of over 300,000 people to a tiny lake community. "It is very different," Paz said of Graford. "Because it's so small. At first I didn't like it, everyone knows everyone else, but then it became like family." Paz, like many exchange students, did not have a choice in his location in the United States. He received a scholarship based on academics and testing criteria. "I had to take tests and fill out applications," he said. "But I had no idea I would end up in Texas." Paz was chosen along with 75 other international students to come to the U.S. to study for a school year. His host family, Cole and Shawna Hargrove, welcomed the experience to learn first-hand about another culture. "He is just an amazing young man," said Shawna Hargrove. "It has been a great experience for us." While spending his year in Graford, Paz purchased his first pair of cowboy boots. "I got a pair to show my pigs at the stock show," he said. "It was a great time, I really enjoyed it." Paz participated in the Graford FFA program and, although he may have witnessed his first rodeo in Texas, livestock and farming were not new to him.


"I remember visiting my grandparents, who had a farm. I have been around animals before," he joked. Paz brought with him from France, a love of basketball and talent he shared on the court with the Graford Jackrabbits. "He was a great addition to the school and the team," said Ty Tabor, Graford athletic director. His skill was evident on the court and he expressed a desire to continue on through college. "I know I will go to college," he said. "I would like to play basketball, but I want to do something with science for sure." Although Paz has no specific plans for a career, he has excelled in science. He placed second in the district UIL science competition earlier this year, qualifying him for regionals.