MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — An student exchange trip 40 years ago to the gulf coast turns into a life-long friendship with a Mobile woman and a family across the sea. Dolores Harvey shows me around her home. It sits off Dauphin Island Parkway and it’s a place she’s opened a lot for exchange students and others. Jose Ortega came to study at McGill 40 years ago from Spain and stayed with Dolores and her family.

“They were not, you know, host parents. They were parents to me,” said Jose Ortega. That parental bond grew into a lifelong friendship. Now Ortega’s daughter Macarena is staying in the same home with the same woman her dad did four decades ago.

“[Jose] said that she didn’t want to go. No others in cold weather or whatever and take a chance to be being putting on a pig farm in Iowa. He said, you know, could you hold up Macarena and be with someone we know?” said host mom Dolores Harvey. 16-year-old Macarena Harvey says it’s kind of surreal to be repeating history in the same way her father did.

“That he would do it all over again. I mean, he says he’s really jealous of me right now,” said Macarena Ortega. Jose Ortega and his daughter both say that it’s the warmth of the people around Mobile that have kept their family coming back. Dolores Harvey also opened her home to other Ortega family members and that’s built a bond that’s lasted decades.

“That’s how I felt when I was in Mobile. You know, so many years ago that I felt that candor and that friendship and that love from people that I hardly knew,” said Jose Ortega. Macarena says it’s been an easier transition this school year than she expected.

“[Students] were really like patient with me and nice, and they helped me with my classes and everything. So yeah, that really helped,” said Macarena. From seeing Lionel Richie to playing soccer at McGill–the exchange grew with Jose’s brother, cousin, and neighbors staying at the Harvey house over the years.

“Well, it’s rewarding to see that they can blend in and learn our culture and we learn so much from them and what they do and how they do things in their country,” said Dolores Harvey.