Elisa, a senior from Italy attending school in Ohio, has experienced at least a full year of adventures in the three short months she has been on the PSE Trimester program.

She has made friends at school, participated in theater and orchestra, attended football games, and has gone on countless excursions with her host family, including to a zoo, animal safari, pumpkin patch, corn maze, and museums, to name a few.

Still, her favorite memory on the Trimester program has been seeing her host family for the first time at the airport upon her arrival to the U.S. Elisa explains that she has loved her host family from this very first moment she met them.

“When we got home, it was the first time that I felt someone really loved me in another state,” Elisa shares.

Her host family and local coordinator were quite smitten with her from the start as well.

“Elisa is the sweetest young lady, and we are so grateful to have had her in our home,” says Dawn, her host mother, who describes Elisa as a very kind, considerate, helpful, and super intelligent young lady.  

“Elisa is absolutely lovely, kind, friendly, easy to talk to, and so beautiful inside and out,” says Angie, her local coordinator.

Elisa’s host sister, Chelsea, has enjoyed sharing experiences with her new host sister. Together they have gone on adventures, made matching Minions at Build-a-Bear workshop, and enjoyed dressing in prom dresses and being photographed to promote a friend’s photography studio.

“I love visiting new places and meeting new people because I’m interested in different cultures,” shares Elisa. “I’ve met a lot of new people in school, and we hang out and enjoy getting something to eat together. We have great fun, and I think I will keep in contact with them even after I go back to Italy!”

Dawn says that Elisa enjoys spending time with friends from her school, especially going for coffee and engaging in conversation with each other. She acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created some obstacles for Elisa, though she has managed to overcome them.

“The hardest part is making friends, as we all have masks on, and we are distanced at lunch with assigned seats, so that has been a bit of a challenge at times. It is hard with friends, as sometimes people do not always want to get together for safety reasons. We are still working on that one. However, Elisa has met people in her classes and has made friends with Chelsea’s friends,” Angie shares.

She remembers how excited Elisa was on her first day of school, “She was so happy!”

Elisa agrees that though her experience has overall been wonderful, participating on the program during a pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges.

“Going to sports (events) has been hard although we went to a football match. The school is very different with everyone wearing masks, and sometimes it is hard for me to understand what people are saying. Despite the social distancing, however, I’ve managed to make new friends,” reflects Elisa.

Dawn says that also despite the pandemic, their family has been able to embark on many fun excursions together. They visited the Toledo Zoo several times and plan on going back. Elisa enjoyed going on an African Safari in Sandusky and especially feeding the animals.

“We took Elisa to Sauder Village, pumpkin patches, the Air Force Museum in Dayton, and to Cincinnati for shopping and sight-seeing. We still plan on visiting Frankenmuth in two weeks, where we will stay at a Bavarian Inn, eat a chicken dinner at Zehenders, and visit Bronners, which is a famous Christmas store for more shopping,” shares Dawn.

Elisa has enjoyed experiencing many “firsts” during her time in Ohio. Though visiting the U.S. is not one of them (she visited Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California on a family vacation last year), visiting a corn maze, imbibing in her first fried Oreo in Cincinnati, and building her first-ever Smores over a firepit were among some of them.

She especially enjoyed an outing to Cedar Point for “Halloweekend,” which is a tradition in their area. She was impressed with the apple orchard and pumpkin patch they visited. “We don’t have such things in Italy!” she exclaims. 

Other highlights that Elisa shared were carving pumpkins for Halloween and a trip to Chicago, where they visited Shedd Aquarium, The Friends Experience, and the Hard Rock Café.

Angie explains that the entire school community has benefited from Elisa’s participation on the Trimester program.

“We have truly enjoyed you being part of the NDA family,” she says to Elisa. “The invitation stands for you to come back any time and we would love to have you and wish you could stay longer. You have done so well and adjusted in ways I didn’t think were possible. You are an amazing and talented young lady!”

Angie invites other students to follow in Elisa’s footsteps.

“We love to host international students at NDA. We learn so much about the world around us making it smaller with each student that comes. All of our international students have many things they can experience here, as there is something for everyone! We are open to all faiths and countries and encourage you to come and experience a true American high school experience.”

Elisa would encourage others to do the same as well. She explains how she has experienced positive growth during her exchange experience, having had both the opportunity to share her culture with others as well as learn more about the American way of life.

“I found myself in a completely different country without my family and friends. I have started to understand what I really like, and I also experienced having my own mind,” she shares. “I love bringing my culture here, so I enjoy cooking for my host family and telling them about my life in Italy. It’s something that I will keep doing as long as I’m here, and it’s something I just love doing! I really hope to keep in touch with the people I met here because we’re pretty close,” says Elisa.

Dawn concurs and says that Elisa has made a positive impact on their family. They will miss Elisa very much and look forward to staying in touch.

“Having Elisa in our home has been amazing and educational, as she has taught us all about her Italian culture. As you can tell, we have had fun and look forward to many more fun times. We all have enjoyed this experience and plan on continuing our friendship for a lifetime. We also are planning to visit Italy in a few years so Elisa can share her beautiful country with us.”  

It seems that the immediate bond formed between Elisa and her host family will continue to evolve into one that lasts a lifetime. We wish Elisa and her host family many more shared adventures together.

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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