"It doesn't matter where you go, it's what you make of it," said Henriette Reinhardt, a foreign exchange student at Paonia High School. She's here because of a student exchange program with the Rotary Club.
Reinhardt's mother is a member of the Rotary Club of Potsdamer Platz in Germany. This was the first time the club had participated in the program. She said a coincidence brought her to Paonia where members of the Rotary Club of Paonia have been her host families. Reinhardt arrived on Aug. 17 and has stayed with the families of Robert Justman and David Marek.
Coming from Berlin to Paonia was quite an adjustment. At first she wondered if it was a good idea. But after a week she loved it. "I really don't want to leave. It's hard for me to think about it," she said. It's become like a second home for her. Reinhardt has made good friends here. She loves the school spirit, the community, and that everyone is so friendly and open. "I feel more relaxed," she said. "In the city it is so busy and more stressful. Here it is laid back."
Reinhardt has played basketball and tennis. She and a fellow exchange student, Gabrielle Moet, were in the school play, "They Came From Somewhere."
If 16-year old Reinhardt had not come to Paonia, next year she would be a senior in Germany. But when she returns, she will still be a junior because of studying a year in the United States. "But its worth it. I knew it from the beginning," she said.
She finds studies here "so much easier." In Germany 50 percent of the grade is participation. There are multiple choice tests back home. "It's just harder in Germany."
"There's so many religious people here," Reinhardt said. "I'm not religious. . . That was really new to me." Even though she didn't expect that, she's "totally fine" with it. She sometimes attends a youth group in Crawford.
Her time in Paonia has given her more self-confidence. She has felt so comfortable here, she hasn't been homesick. "I'm a stronger person. Now I know if I would go anywhere in the world alone, I would be totally okay with it. I have more belief in myself," Reinhardt said.
She would like to attend Colorado University in Boulder or study a year abroad through Rotary. She wants to work in renewable energy. Other interests and possible careers are in psychology, journalism or photography.
Gabrielle Moet, 18, comes from Holland. She lives 50 minutes from Amsterdam, in a "pretty big town" known as Zaandam. She arrived in Paonia in August.
Moet came to the United States through the program Education First. She had seen an advertisement at her old high school. She wanted to go to California or Texas. In this program, host families pick exchange students from the EF website. The Lampton Family in Paonia selected Moet.
Movies about life in American high schools influenced her decision to be study abroad. "I always wanted to go to high school in the United States and live the American life," Moet said. "That was my dream."
She has found it is different from what she expected, but still a good experience. "I really recommend for people to do an exchange here." She has enjoyed meeting new people and all different cultures.
Like Reinhardt, she has found high school in Paonia "much easier" than her stricter school. In Holland, if she's late to class she has to come in one-half hour earlier the following day or stay after school. Life here is more relaxed. In Holland, sports are not connected to the schools. She likes that everyone here attends the high school games.
She finds people in Paonia are nice and friendly, but it took a couple of months to fit in and feel at home. "You're still the foreign exchange student," she said. She feels that others don't see her like her fellow students. But, she was voted Paonia High School's Prom Queen this year.
Schools are harder in Holland than here, she believes. Teachers here are less strict and friendlier.
Moet says people have stereotypes of others. For example, people think that everyone in Amsterdam drinks alcohol and smokes marijuana. Not true.
Moet plays softball, basketball and track. Earlier this year she was ranked sixth in the state for long jump.
She plans to attend college in Amsterdam. Moet wants to go into media entertainment management and organize events and festivals.
She has had an awesome experience here and would encourage others to go to a foreign country. "It's an amazing experience [I'll] never forget."
Moet will fly home on July 16.
Sixteen-year old Jiyeon Ahn is a junior. She comes from South Korea. She came to the U.S. through an Exchange, Culture and Travel (ECT) program. Her tutor in Korea told her about the program. Ahn had never thought of being an exchange student before that. She almost went to Seattle with a family with two boys her age. Her dad, however, said, "No."
Her host dad now is Stu Carlson of Paonia. He had applied to work with ECT, and was told Ahn was coming and needed a host family. He agreed. Carlson has two daughters, nine and 12 years old.
Before coming, Ahn saw photographs of the Paonia area including Lamborn Mountain. It reminded her of the mountains in Korea. She lives one hour from Seoul which has about one million people.
"I didn't want to leave my friends," Ahn said. But she wanted to go to the U.S. to experience another world and to learn English.
In Korea, the school year starts in January, so she came to Paonia in January.
Ahn is involved in band, women's choir and tennis. She has played the xylophone for two months. Ahn loves playing piano, and performed in the Dessert Show.
She has used Skype to visit twice with her family in Korea. Ahn is the younger sister at home, but in Paonia she is the bigger sister to Carlson's daughters. The girls are interested in Asian life.
She wishes she could go to college here, but will return to Korea in December. She will have to repeat a year when she goes back home.
This summer, she will go to California as part of the ECT program.blog comments powered by Disqus