Beth and Jessica Brotherton went to the mall one day and came home with an exchange student.
Well, sort of.
As the story goes, the two happened upon a kiosk during one of their mother-daughter excursions to WestShore Plaza and discovered that the Tilesa foreign student exchange program needed host homes in a hurry for a few of its high school charges.
Just a few days later, the two were at Tampa International Airport welcoming their new guest, Patty Orejas, 16, who came from the region of Asturias, Spain, to attend classes at the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Hillsborough County.
The fact that Patty has a soft spot for animals and the Brothertons have a menagerie — four dogs, three cats, a bird and some fish — helped break the ice for the four-week stay in July. And while there was a language barrier, the three made do with charades-style communication.
"She really loved the animals," said Jessica, 16, who spent time sitting in on some of Patty's classes at the charter school and tagged along on excursions to MOSI and the University of South Florida.
The Brothertons are old hands with the exchange program, having hosted students from Germany twice before. Jessica has also spent a couple of weeks abroad as part of an exchange program.
"It seemed like the perfect situation," said Beth Brotherton, 46, who teaches second grade at Sanders Memorial Elementary School. "We were able to provide a home for someone, and Jessica had a new friend to do things with."
And perhaps learn something, too.
Patty brought a book on Asturias, a region in northern Spain that is surrounded by the Cantabrian Sea and the Cantabrian mountain range. She was proud of her culture.
"It's so beautiful there," Jessica said. "I felt bad because there's nothing like that around Land O'Lakes."
But there is the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which topped the "must see" list for Patty.
"We had to take at least five pictures of her there," Jessica said. "She loved it, and she loved the beach, too."
"It was a very good experience," said Mrs. Brotherton, "so much so that we're awaiting a second exchange student."
Their latest guest, a student from Germany, was scheduled to arrive this past Sunday, just hours before Mrs. Brotherton was to greet a new batch of second-graders and Jessica was to start her senior year at Land O'Lakes High.