Ela is a 16 year old girl from a small town in northwest Germany, where she lives with her parents, three dogs, two horses and cat. In March, she arrived to Rockford, IL, the second largest city in Illinois outside of Chicago, to a host family in which she gained three younger host siblings instantaneously.
Transitioning from being an only child to a big sister to three siblings was challenging for Ela. She was not used to being in a lively household with other children and in which something was always going on. She admits at first it was quite challenging to adapt to her new environment, but she soon came to love being a big sister.
“I learned a lot about American history, English, and also to adapt to a family with three siblings! This was amazing!” she exclaims.
Ela participated on the Trimester program, which entails living with a host family and attending a private school for 12 weeks. She was motivated to apply for the program because she loved visiting the United States (which she had done twice before) and wanted an opportunity to improve her English skills and learn more about American culture.
“My school was very nice and I loved my teachers. Also, my host family was fantastic; I really enjoyed being with them.”
The feeling was mutual, as Ela’s host family embraced her as a member of their family. Ewa, her host mother, explained that they had hosted three students before Ela, and shared that her family had come to adore Ela and were sad to see her go.
“Exchange students change our kids and our lives. As we connect with them, we bring so much to our family. Ela is very happy, polite, kind, funny, generous and compassionate. She worked so hard to adapt to our large family – we have three kids from 8 to 15 years old. Ela was able to be a friend and big sister to them. I am so sad that she is leaving, I would have loved to have her for life!” Ewa shared.
Jamie, Ela’s local coordinator, also enjoyed getting to know her. “Ela loves life and is so much fun. She never complained and really wanted to be here,” she adds.
Ela formed many wonderful memories in the 12 weeks she was on the program, including cooking with her host family, going to Chicago, running a race, and visiting the House on the Rock. She even experienced a tornado warning, which she admits was a bit frightening.
Ela shared that she has become more independent as a result of her experience on the program, and has made many new American friends.
“This experience has helped me with my English and has proven that I can go to a (different) country alone and adapt. Anything can happen in the future!”