Wendy, a 15-year-old girl from China who attends high school in Tennessee, is described by her host mother, Jennifer, as a “smart, strong, and fearless Freshman student.”
Jennifer has been surprised by Wendy’s strength and independent nature while transitioning and adjusting to American culture and to their family.
“Wendy is a great addition to our family. We already have two teen daughters and a son who is a college sophomore. She fits right in and has quickly learned about the fun (or misery depending on the day) sibling relationships may have” (laughs).
The main thing that Wendy has learned about America since arriving in August is that there is not an American culture, per se. She explains, “America is a melting pot where all cultures blend together. People do things very differently, and I just have to learn to keep an open mind and have the courage to be who I am.”
Jennifer shares, “Wendy had a lot of questions upon her arrival to the United States and many that we couldn’t answer. She has challenged us to learn more about our culture, even things we thought we knew.”
Jody, Wendy’s Local Coordinator, has appreciated her curiosity and thirst for learning. She describes her as an “impressive young woman who is very curious and observant about American culture.”
“Early on, we walked for nearly an hour while she asked questions about how to handle typical teen issues that she was experiencing at school and at home,” she shares. “She is a dynamic young woman who cares about those around her and is not afraid to try something new.”
One of her greatest accomplishments thus far is being voted Freshman Class Vice President.
“To be honest, Freshman class officers don’t have the opportunity to do much compared to other class officers in the school since we are new. However, I always try to find something to do and help,” says Wendy.
It turns out, she and the other members of the Freshman class have found ways to help and to celebrate their accomplishments. “One thing I was super proud of is on Christmas movie night. The Freshman class raised the most money during the baked goods sale – more than eighty dollars!” recalls Wendy.
Wendy has a vibrant social schedule and is involved in just about everything. Among the clubs she is a member of include Art, Chess, Latin and Chinese. She is also involved in creative writing, music ministry, theater, speech acting, debate team and student council. As if that were not enough, she is collaborating with her friends to create a Ping Pong Club.
Recently, Wendy participated in her first Speech and Debate tournament. Performing in the category of informative speech, she received a 4 out of 5 ranking for all three rounds.
“I have made so many friends, had so much fun, and learned so much,” she shares. “It is always interesting for me to discover hidden talents that people I know have discovered through clubs.”
Another of Wendy’s many newly discovered talents is acting. Being a member of the theater club has been rewarding for her in many ways. She recalls how, just prior to the final performance of “The Purple Masque Theater”, she and her classmates performed a unique tradition that involves four people lifting another person with only four fingers, and she was the one being lifted. “It was so much fun!” she exclaims.
“Theater is like a big family full of love. Since lots of people feel sick, we encourage and help each other go through it. Performing week was hard, but it was full of love,” she says.
Wendy describes her school as having a family-like atmosphere. “It’s a great community where I get to interact with upper classmen and learn from their experiences. They taught me not to be shy and instead to be welcoming to others.”
Wendy has learned not only how to be open and welcoming to others, but also how to effectively manage her time and balance her busy schedule. Jennifer is astonished by Wendy’s focus on routine and time-management with regards to when she eats, how much time she studies, how much time she dedicates to fun (including social media), and getting enough sleep.
“She is extremely mature for her age, and her dedication and self-discipline have been beneficial for all of us,” Jennifer shares.
Wendy and her host family have been fortunate enough to share in many memorable experiences together. They traveled to Florida during Fall Break, where Wendy enjoyed the beach and swimming in the ocean.
She also enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving dinner with her host family, and was amazed at the selection of food items!
During Christmas, her parents visited from China. She joined them and her host family to midnight mass, spent Christmas day together, and went to see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” together. “It was so much fun!” she exclaims.
“We went to see the Nutcracker ballet, and Wendy was mesmerized by that experience,” Jennifer says. She and her family enjoyed Wendy’s natural parents’ visit and is grateful that they were able to celebrate the holiday together. She has enjoyed seeing Wendy light up with each new experience.
Wendy is grateful for her PSE experience and has enjoyed discussing cultural differences with her friends. She shares:
“PSE gave me an awesome stage to interact with all kinds of people. I didn’t realize before that the world is so big and full of variety. I realize that there is a large part of it waiting for me, and I see many more possibilities in my future!”
Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen