With winter break coming up, a beach getaway would probably be on most of our travel bucket lists. Living in Omaha, Nebraska doesn’t exactly offer the most scenic landscapes or warm weather.
However, for sophomore Mateo Rens, the beach was only a 5-minute drive away rather than a 5-hour plane ride away until recently. Rens was born in Connecticut and moved to Lima, Peru when he was six years old. After his father was offered a job in the United States, he relocated to Nebraska in early August.
“I used to live in Lima, which is the capital of Peru,” Rens said. “We moved to Nebraska for my dad’s job when he got hired here.”
Coming to Millard North was a big change from his old school in Peru. Both of his schools are involved in the IB Programme, yet the sizes of each are by no means similar.
“I was kind of nervous and scared because in my old school, there were 1,000 people in total, and it was from kindergarten to 12th grade. My grade had only 120 people,” Rens said. “Starting in a school with so many people in your grade is kind of scary and nerve-wracking.”
However, Rens believes that he has since been able to make a good adjustment to his new school. He finds that the friendly atmosphere at Millard North makes the transition less daunting.
“My experience at Millard North has improved a lot. It’s not that scary anymore. I actually enjoy going to school now since it’s physical school,” Rens said. “In Peru, it was an online school. I prefer going here as I have friends now, it’s easier for me, and it’s not as scary.”
Rens credits his new friends as his biggest supporters since he moved to Omaha. They were able to help him navigate his way throughout the school when he first arrived.
“There were a few friends that helped me a lot, and they explained a bunch of things. I didn’t know where some things– like assemblies–were, so I’d follow my friends, and they’d help me around,” Rens said. “It was like they were the guides, and I was the tourist.”
Furthermore, Rens has been able to provide his own perspective on his Peruvian culture in his first hour Spanish class. Spanish teacher Kayla Pitt believes that his insights allow her class to tie in what she teaches in class to real world experiences.
“Having Mateo in class gives us a more worldly perspective. I appreciate that, as anyone who’s studied a language knows, different countries have different terms that they use. Mateo teaches us what they say in Peru versus what they’ve talked about in textbooks,” Pitt said.
Apart from sharing his culture with his class, Rens is also able to help students who need help with Spanish. His skills and fast progress have allowed him to skip two levels ahead in Spanish next semester.
“The other students love having him in class. He’s very friendly and willing to help his classmates if they have questions about what they’re learning,” Pitt said. “He excels when it comes to language skills, and he will be moving from Honors 2 this semester to Honors 4 next semester.”
Pitt believes that having Rens in her class has given her students a unique opportunity to learn Spanish in a more interactive way. Additionally, she hopes that her class environment has helped Rens transition to his new life in Omaha.
“We are able to talk about customs and traditions more deeply than we would be without him,” Pitt said. “I hope our class has provided him with a strong community and stable transition to his new home, school, and culture.”
Reminiscing about his move, Rens finds it bittersweet to leave his friends and family from Peru. However, the political instability in the area as well as his father’s new job were some of the factors that prompted his family to relocate to the United States.
“It was a really big change because in Peru, I already had friends from when I was really young. I had my family around me, and I could always see my family and my background,” Rens said. “My dad got a job from the US, and they accepted him, so we got to move to Nebraska.”
Ever since his move, however, Rens finds pride in being able to share his culture with other students. Although he misses Peru, he enjoys having the opportunity to share his experiences from when he lived there.
“I’m really prideful of where I come from and where I lived,” Rens said. “Since Peru is not a well-known country, I like to share my point of view and what I’ve experienced while living there and how amazing it was.”