Star Student of the Month, April 2013
Last month Annika from Germany nominated her host family, the Janickis, for Host Family of the Month. Annika's host family are equally fond of her, which is why they nominated her for this month's Star Student!
Annika arrived last August, enthusiastic and willing to try anything and everything that America had to offer her. She jumped through all of the hoops required to play high school sports (on her first day with us), even though she didn't understand why it was such a big deal. She has participated on the gymnastics and swim teams, and was even willing to try her hand at diving during one of the meets, even though she had never been a diver! When asking her what kind of German food she missed (thinking I would make her something from home), she promptly answered that she wanted to try all different kinds of American foods, and she has. Every time we have something she's never tried before, she is always willing to see if she likes it. She willingly attended dances and football games and other school activities, including joining in the multicultural show and performing in front of the school and experiencing her first "Black Friday Shopping Extravaganza!" She has participated in many hours of community service from collecting canned food for the local food bank to volunteering at the Chicago Marathon to packing meals for children at Feed My Starving Children.
She has opened our family's eyes in many ways - from having to learn to adjust and share our space with another person, to giving my 17 year old daughter a same-aged sister and roommate for a year (which will be good preparation for college). She has become another older sister to my younger two children, frequently willing to play with them and include them in her plans. They have enjoyed learning about German holidays, trying German food, hearing about what school is like and what life is like there. I have learned about some differences in parenting between the two countries as well as differences in education and how schools are run, what's allowed, etc. We've also enjoyed discussing U.S. history from the perspective of a European.
I have been very impressed with Anni's courage, friendliness and sense of humor - her willingness to put herself out there and try new things, meet new people, and make new friends, and laugh at herself and along with us as we all have made cultural fumbles. Although she and my daughter, Erica, share many of the same friends, I was clear in the beginning of the experience that they shouldn't expect or feel obligated to do everything together and to invite each other to everything. As a result, they have formed a wonderful, sibling-like relationship with each other, but Annika has also developed deep friendships with others outside of Erica's circle so she can join in other activities when she wants. She has also taken in an interest in our extended family, becoming good friends with my nieces and has willingly joined in with family dinners, birthdays and other holidays with our family where she had to listen to family stories the way you do at those gatherings.
As we begin to feel the end of her time with us approaching, we are so grateful for her presence and couldn't imagine a better host family experience. We are excited to meet her family when they come to meet her in June, but we also talk about how we can no longer imagine the house without her in it. It will be a bittersweet ending for all of us, I'm afraid.
For these reasons, and so many others, I believe Anni epitomizes the type of exchange student experience that Ayusa hopes to create, and for that, I believe she deserves Star Student Status!