Xenya, or “Maya” as her friends and host family call her, is a PSE student from Germany who attended high school as a Senior near Easton, Pennsylvania and graduated in May 2023.  

Maya enjoyed living in Bethlehem, PA for her exchange year and shares her perception of the town:

“Bethlehem is a little city, but it has a lot of things to offer, like malls, adventure parks, bowling alleys, and much more. It is a quieter place but not too far away from two big cities (NYC and Philly) and has the Poconos mountains right next to it. I like the fact that I am a little bit more suburban but not far away from the big attractions!” 

Kathleen, her Local Coordinator, describes Maya as kind, fun, friendly, sweet, and always loving a new adventure. Her host parents, Diane and Henry, describe her as enthusiastic, generous, and determined. 

Maya loves her host family and enjoyed living with her two international sisters from Spain and Vietnam. 

“It makes the household very loud and joyful! I feel very much at home, and I am glad that I ended up with them. They are the best host family in my eyes,” she shares.

Diane and Henry share her sentiments. “While Maya has been with us, we have been able to build honest and open communication with her. The more time we spend with her, the closer we feel like family.” They say that the family has grown to respect and appreciate other cultures and people who have different views. “This makes our students and our family have very close bonds which will last a lifetime!”

Diane shares, “Maya has a great smile and a wonderful perspective on life. She has a great sense of humor, and we enjoy spending time with her – going to the mountains, carving pumpkins, having an Easter egg hunt.  We have so much fun, especially when all our students are together.”

Maya is passionate about dance, so the decision to join the theatre company at her school was not a difficult one.

Ever since the age of 5, dance has been a part of Maya’s life. She began her experience in a musical company.  “It was then I first learned to dance, sing, and act. Dancing has become a passion of my own, as I also dance ballet, contemporary and a little hip-hop on the side, with jazz from musical added in of course.”

Maya performed in both the Fall play “A Christmas Carol” and the Spring musical “Guys and Dolls”.  

“I enjoyed both but must admit that I enjoyed the musical a little bit more because it involved singing and dancing. I auditioned for the role of a featured dancer, and I was selected as one which made me very happy!”

She continues:

“It was a very fun experience, but I obviously had to put a lot of time into it which involved being at school until 10:00pm on some days, but it was all worth it because my friends and I got to put on a great show. We were also able to participate in the Freddy Award Show, which is a local version of the Tony Awards (like the Oscars for musical theatre), which is very exciting!”

Maya says that she “loved the experience because it made finding friends very easy, and it was basically an excuse to spend time with friends after school to do karaoke and stupid dances.”

Maya enjoyed traveling with the Theatre company on a field trip to Broadway where they saw “Wicked,” the musical.

Kathleen says that her favorite memory of Maya is watching her perform in “Guys and Dolls.”  “She did a wonderful job. She looked like a professional dancer!”

Maya expanded her horizons by joining the Cheer team in the winter season.  

She says that she was happy to be selected for the team and had a great time. “It was a lot of fun to raise the spirit of our student section and to cheer with them as the games became intense. I also loved the pom-poms and the activities we did, such as going to one of our feeder schools to cheer them on.”

During her school year in America, Maya was determined to participate in as many school activities as possible. In addition to Theatre and Cheer, she was also part of the Greenhouse and Key clubs, both providing service to the community. She participated in the Minithon which raised money for childhood cancer. Maya attended the Kairos retreat which was fun and helped her make more friends. She also attended movie nights that the school organized.

Maya encourages all exchange students to become involved in school activities. “I would recommend everyone participate in as many things as possible and they should go to all of the home football games, as they are a great way to integrate to the student body and meet friends.”

“Maya is a very compassionate young woman, and we are proud of all her accomplishments,” shares Diane.  “She is always very helpful to the other students when they need help with schoolwork or when they are feeling sad.  She is always there to give a helping hand or listening ear.”

“I have grown as a person and have learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses.  I am very glad that I got this experience as I have gained confidence in my abilities and have gained more wisdom.” -Maya

Maya is unsure of what she plans to do in the future, but she would love to return to America to attend college and study.  “I would love to stay in touch with my host family and friends and maybe come visit them soon.”

Kathleen sends the following message to Maya:

“Maya, what a pleasure to have you in the program. Your host family adores you, and you brought so much joy to them! We all loved your performance in the school play. You always have a smile on your face, and we will miss you! We know that you will succeed in anything you want in life.”

Diane and Henry close with this message for Maya:

“Maya, may your faith guide you in whatever you do.  Also, may the wind of fortune always show in your favor. Best wishes, and we will miss you dearly!” They continue to share: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” – Proverbs 31:25

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

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