Laurenz and Gregorio are PSE students attending high school in Anaheim, CA for an academic semester. Laurenz is from Liechtenstein and Gregorio from Italy, and separately, they had each spent time in America prior to the PSE program. This experience, however, has provided them both with a unique opportunity to become immersed in American culture, obtain invaluable knowledge, and create long-lasting memories.
Laurenz, a Junior, is grateful for this experience, as spending a substantial amount of time in California has been a dream of his. Gregorio, a Senior, was motivated to embark on this experience in order to improve his English, live a totally different life for a while, and meet new people. Both students are placed with the same host family, and therefore, have formed a special bond as host brothers.
Veronica, their Local Coordinator, describes Laurenz as a reserved young man who sees the world through comparative glasses. She describes Gregorio as a personable, energetic, positive, respectful young man looking to have an experience of a lifetime.
Ryan, their host father, has enjoyed learning from both students as well as sharing his culture and lifestyle with them.
“Laurenz is always willing to passionately plead his case when sharing his opinion. His love for his native home of Liechtenstein is clear, to the point where I am now fascinated by it and would one day like to visit.”
“Gregorio’s fascination with and love of animals, especially reptiles, is like no other. As a result, my knowledge of the animal world has also grown immensely thanks to the fun facts he consistently shares.”
“I feel super fortunate because this is my first time hosting international students, and both of mine are awesome!”
Both students are doing great in school. Gregorio’s favorite subjects are AP Environmental Science and AP Government and Politics. According to Laurenz, school is much easier here in America as compared to Liechtenstein. He enjoys studying American History because it is interesting and easy to understand. For both, the school is much larger than the schools they attend in their home countries. Says Laurenz:
“My school back home is a lot smaller and does not have nearly 3,000 students on one campus!”
Gregorio has learned that sports and extracurricular activities are what makes American schools special. He has enjoyed participating in school football games and has also become involved in the soccer team. Both Gregorio and Laurenz enjoy spending time with friends doing activities such as golfing, going to the trampoline park, and going out to eat together.
Being a first-time host parent has been a learning curve for Ryan, albeit a positive one. He shares:
“I have had a great experience hosting both students. Although I have had to adjust things in my personal day-to-day life in order to ensure I was doing parental things, like going to their Back-to-School night, taking them grocery shopping, picking them up at night from the movies and other outings with their friends, etc., everything else has been pretty easy to maintain.”
Gregorio and Laurenz both have a great relationship with their host family. Both really enjoy spending time together as a family, for example, going on trips and hosting family barbeques.
“I appreciate their kindness and openness to new cultures,” Gregorio shares. “The thing I appreciate most is that Ryan takes us to many different places and makes sure that we see a lot of the west coast and other parts of the country,” says Laurenz.
One shared adventure was a long weekend road trip from Anaheim, CA to Tucson, AZ and then to Hatch and Silver City, NM, through the Gila Forest, and then back to Tucson and Anaheim. This has been one of Laurenz’s and Gregorio’s favorite shared activities while on the program. It was very special to Ryan as well.
“What made this experience even more memorable is the fact that Frida, my 18-month-old Boston Terrier, accompanied us on this great road trip of the Southwest,” he shares.
“It was such a great experience, and it was great seeing the beautiful and diverse nature. It was fun traveling on the road and we did a lot of fun activities along the way,” says Laurenz.
Gregorio agrees. “It was super cool! We had a lot of fun and saw beautiful places.”
The boys also enjoyed attending a UCLA football game with Ryan. “Although UCLA lost, we walked away feeling like winners with all the fun we had that night,” Ryan reflects.
Another of Gregorio’s favorite memories was their weekend in Los Angeles where they explored the city, went shopping, and visited Santa Monica. They also visited Big Bear Lake in California for a weekend camping trip and reveled in the beautiful natural surroundings.
Laurenz especially enjoyed visiting Knotts Scary Farm, an amusement park in Anaheim, during the Halloween season. He recollects, “The park is decorated very spooky and there are tons of monsters running around trying to scare people. Also, there are dozens of mazes that you can walk through and are usually pretty scary.”
Both students are looking forward to an upcoming extensive road trip from California to Washington D.C. with their host family.
“I am already so excited because it is going to be so much fun to drive from coast to coast and stop in dozens of awesome places on the way!” Laurenz says.
Ryan shares in their excitement: “I am super excited the boys will get this opportunity and for me personally, an adventure of this type has definitely been on my bucket list for many years now.”
Besides enjoying taking trips together, the students and host family have formed a strong bond built on respect, trust, and communication. Ryan explains:
“Gregorio and Laurenz are two vastly different individuals whose only commonality is the fact that they both come from Europe. However, their willingness to always follow the rules we agreed upon when they first arrived has created an awesome home environment characterized by trust and respect.”
Ryan says that this mutual respect inspires them to have more weekend adventures together which he definitely enjoys sharing with the boys. They also eat together as a family four of the five days of the week where they share about their day, including the highlights.
“Because of these conversations, I have definitely learned so much more about both boys and gained a better perspective about Europeans and the importance of travel,” Ryan shares.
Ryan explains how the hosting experience has impacted both himself and his mother, who lives with him:
“I have definitely become more committed to schedules and my calendar. This is the only way I can successfully balance my job as an Assistant Principal and my role as Trustee for the school district, along with providing a stable home for Gregorio and Laurenz. My respect for parents has grown immensely, especially having this preview of raising high school kids while maintaining a profession. I cannot even imagine the infant and toddler period! Mad props and respect to all the parents out there!” he laughs.
As for his mother, he shares, “She has definitely had to adjust her menus to feed more mouths. She now remembers what it was like to have teenagers!”
Both boys have learned a great deal from this exchange experience. For Gregorio, it has taught him how to adapt to new situations and to really think about his future. Before he returns to Italy, he would like to go to Disneyland, visit the L.A. Zoo, and see a game in the Angels Stadium. Next year, he hopes to obtain his drivers license, travel with his friends, and be accepted into a university.
For Laurenz, he shares, “This experience has helped me develop both English and people skills because I am constantly talking to new people in a foreign language. Also, this exchange is helping me become more independent because I have to figure out many things on my own.” He is looking forward to returning to Germany to see friends, go skiing, mountain biking, and enjoy being home. He will focus on graduating high school, then enrolling in a university or building a career.
Veronica closes with the following messages:
“Gregorio, you are truly an inspiration to other international students. You came on this journey with an expectation to learn, grow, and explore all that would be possible, and you succeeded. I wish you continued success in all of your future endeavors.”
“Laurenz, the cultural differences were very different as compared to what you expected, and you have been able to learn and grow in your new surroundings. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.”
Written by: Flo Ruiz; Edited by: Ann Steffen