In 2017, Jonah from Germany visited New York City and Miami with his family for his dad’s birthday. It was during this visit to the U.S. that he decided he would like to return to experience life in America as an exchange student.

“I was overwhelmed by all the new things I never saw before in my life.  I always wanted to come back here and decided to go to California for the exchange year,” Jonah recalls.

Jonah’s aspirations materialized, and he is currently a Junior in high school in Placentia, CA on the PSE program.

Jonah is amazed how large the schools are in America as compared to Germany and has enjoyed participating in extra-curricular activities and school events, especially Homecoming and Prom.

“In Germany, we go to school just to learn (a standard curriculum). Here, we have classes like Video Production, Photography, etc.  I really like that because it helps me discover what I want to become in the future,” he shares.

In fact, Jonah says that while on the PSE program he has discovered new passions that he didn’t have the opportunity to explore previously – specifically, photography and making videos. He has taken full advantage of learning all he can about these subjects in school.

“My favorite class in school is probably Tiger Tube. It is the video production class for the school’s news channel. I just love to direct little movies or being in front of the camera.  It’s so fun!”

This is one of the videos Jonah directed and wrote the script for:

Veronica, Johah’s Local Coordinator, describes him as an enthusiastic, goal-oriented young man.

“At first glance, he seems to be laid back, but after a few minutes of conversation it is apparent that he has his career goal in life to be a professional videographer in the film industry,” she shares.

Jonah has been doing great in school, receiving good grades and forming wonderful friendships. His newly discovered passions have also enabled him to meet friends who share the same interests. He has formed a group of friends who enjoy hanging out at school during lunch, breaks, and on the weekends sharing quality time and conversations together, exploring new places, and making memories.

“They (my friends) have shown me Downtown Disneyland, Huntington Beach, and we went on a hill to watch the sunset behind the city,” Jonah shares.

He has also enjoyed attending school football games with his friends. Jonah recorded a video of his school’s football team at the final game of the season.

Jonah has a great relationship with his host family and says that he loves spending time with them. He appreciates most their consistent support.

“No matter if it is just a simple vocabulary question or going to a doctor’s appointment – they are there for me. Also, I appreciate that they let me live in their house and they trust me.”

His host parents, Pablo and Paola, who are both teachers, say that hosting Jonah has been rewarding and that they have built a relationship based on trust and respect.

“We do our part to respect his space, time and desire to go out with his friends and experience new places. We appreciate that he checks in with us before making plans on his own,” they share.

Pablo describes Jonah as a focused and determined young man who is personable and easy to get along with. He continues, “He is open to new people and places and has found his niche here in our household as well as in school.”

Pablo recalls one of their first experiences with Jonah which involved Jonah convincing his host parents to watch a Star Wars movie series with him.  “My wife and I had never seen any of them, and he wanted to get us started in understanding it all!” Pablo shares. He continues to share how being a host parent has impacted him and his family:

“As a person and teacher, I see my students a bit differently now.  Jonah is my ‘international’ son who’s going through the motions day-to-day just like my students are, so it makes me wonder what they do when they get home and how their home life is.  It makes me strive to provide Jonah with the best home life possible; I know my wife feels the same way. As a family, my two young sons have enjoyed having an older brother who will talk to them about Star Wars or watch TV with them.  My children respond well to him and have so since the beginning.”

Pablo adds that hosting Jonah has inspired he and Paola to have their children experience a year abroad as well.

Jonah and his host family have shared in many fun and memorable experiences together, including checking out new cafes and restaurants, hiking, going to the beach, and attending a birthday party where they all had fun jumping in a bounce house together. The family would like to take Jonah to Arizona so that he can experience a different state, sights, and scenery. There might be a trip to Puerto Vallarta Mexico this spring as well!

In addition to discovering his passion of photography and videography, Jonah shares that his exchange experience has made him a happier and nicer person. It has also ignited a desire to do exciting things like visit Universal Studios and Disneyland (Star Wars World was his favorite, of course).

Before Jonah goes home to Germany, he would like to visit the Santa Monica Pier. “I would like to see more of Los Angeles and experience more things that make me happy” he says.

Veronica closes with this message for Jonah:

“Jonah, congratulations on your success on the Tiger Tube video that you co-hosted. This is just the beginning for you on your career path. Stay tuned!”

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Ann Steffen

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