RANGELEY — Fernando Ranz, with his cutoff jeans, Quiksilver T-shirt and boy-band haircut, looks like a typical American high school student.
He and seven of his classmates from Madrid, Spain, are getting over a little culture shock as they come to the end of their three-week exchange session at Rangeley Lakes Regional School.
The five girls and three boys attend Colegio Virgen de Europa, a Madrid Catholic school of more than 1,000 students from prekindergarten to 12th grade. The students have been in Maine on an educational exchange that will see 12 Rangeley students, many of whom are members of the visitors’ host families, traveling to the Iberian Peninsula for two weeks next April.
The visitors have been going to classes at Rangeley Lakes Regional School, but their hosts have organized many extracurricular activities to make sure they get a well-rounded view of life in Western Maine. They include hikes on Bald Mountain, a visit to the Anti-Gravity Complex at Sugarloaf, soccer games, and bowling at Moose Alley. They also took part in the Change for Spain fundraiser, which tallied more than $1,200 for the April trip.
On Sunday morning, along with several hosts and Spanish instructor Kate Philbrick, the students gathered at the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, where Stephanie Palmer led them on a tour. She shared construction details of the Rangeley camp, stories of the narrow-gauge railway and the lake steamers, the histories of Carrie Stevens and Fly-Rod Crosby, and some of the finer points of Ashley Gray’s award-winning sculpture, Timeless Pursuit.
Palmer gave each student the Historical Society’s Sesquicentennial volume of the history of Rangeley.
Late for the tour, Fernando Ranz rumbled into the museum’s parking lot in his host’s customized Mitsubishi Eclipse with scissor doors that rotate upward from the front. He stuck around to answer a few questions.
Students at his school use computers, he said, though at some other schools in Spain they are not so prevalent. Predictably, iPhone use and texting are widespread among Spanish young people, as is the popularity of some familiar books, such as “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Twilight” series, as well as American movies.
Ranz said he enjoyed his time in Maine, as did his host, Tyler Castle. “We’ve had a great time,” Tyler said . “It makes me really look forward to going to Spain in the spring.”