After graduating from her German high school in 2022, 18-year-old Katharina decided to embark on a full academic year in America attending community college on the PSE program.  “I wanted to improve my English and get to know the American culture and lifestyle,” she reflects. “I also wanted to find out which courses of study I enjoy and are suitable for me.  In high school, I was mainly interested in chemistry and math, but was open to get to know new subjects and get excited about them!”

Katharina and international Host sister, Sarah

Katharina has enjoyed her school year in Santa Barbara, CA where she enjoys the beaches, sunsets, beautiful city and school campus. 

Katharina has also delighted in going to classes and interacting with the teachers.  “I really like how nice and helpful the instructors are” she shares.  “I expected the college to be more like a university, but the way of teaching reminds me more of a mixture between high school and a university.”

“I like how broad the range of classes are and how freely I can choose them.”

Out of all her classes, Katharina reports that her favorite is swimming class.  “I have always loved to swim and had swim training once a week in Germany.  Here I swim three times a week and have learned a lot.  My teacher is very friendly, helpful, and knows exactly how to explain things so that you learn and improve.”  Katharina finds swimming to be beneficial to her well-being.  “Swimming helps me to turn off my mind and take a break from any stress.  The pool makes me feel peaceful.”

Despite the challenge in the beginning to meet people, Katharina has formed great friendships with some of her classmates and loves exploring Los Angeles with them.  “I really like going to the beach with friends and watching the sunset or going downtown shopping and eating ice cream.  I loved visiting Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign, Chinese Theater, and the big mall!”

Emmy, her Local Coordinator, describes Katharina as wonderful, mature, independent, kind, respectful, and friendly.  “I love chatting with her at the coffee shop.  Also, we have enjoyed going shopping at the outlet mall together.”

Katharina loves spending time and bonding with her host family who are experienced with hosting exchange students. “We love hosting students!  It’s great for our own children, and we have developed life-long friendships with people all over the world,” shares Kristen, her host mother.

Katharina has integrated into her host family, and they treat her as one of their own.

The host family lovingly calls Katherina “Kit-Kat” for her love of candy.  Kristen describes her as kind, warm, sweet, smart, and thoughtful.  “Like a daughter, Kat hangs on the couch watching family-approved movies and eating American-style pizza on Friday nights.  She sleeps late on Saturdays and walks to the beach with us in the afternoons.”

“Kat occasionally joins us for church on Sundays and brunch at a restaurant with our kids.  She goes with us on family vacations and spends all holidays with us, just as our children do,” says Kristen.

Kristen shares a memory of Katharina that she will never forget:

“While boarding a roller coaster on the pier of Santa Monica over the ocean on a sunny day, Kat looks at us with a bright, anxious smile to announce, ‘This is my first roller coaster EVER!’  We were shocked and laughed as the roller coaster blasted us over the cold ocean water, and the beautiful California coast screamed past our watery eyes.  When the ride was (quickly) over, Kat looked back at us to say, ‘Loved it!  Let’s go again!”

Katharina appreciates how her host family lets her participate in their family life, but also gives her the freedom to experience a lot with her friends as well.  What she loves most about her host family is that they are friendly and warm.  “I took my host family to my heart.  If I have questions, or I’m not feeling so well, I can always turn to them.  We have experienced so much together and created memories that I will never forget.”

“One of my favorite memories is going on a whale watching tour with Sarah (international host sister) in Santa Barbara.  I saw a few whales and thousands of dolphins!  It was so fun.”

Katharina shares that her exchange experience has made her much more self-confident and independent.  “I dare to try new things more often.  Also, I don’t care as much about what others think.  Instead, I focus more on doing what I enjoy.”

As for the future, Katharina is unsure what she really wants to do.  She has learned that her interest in the sciences is still intact.  “I would like to study something scientific in Germany, but I don’t know what exactly that will be yet.”  Regardless, she shares that whatever she decides, she wants to enjoy what she is doing.

“I hope that I will stay in contact with all my new friends and my host family and that I will always have a second home here!” says Katharina.

Kristen closes with this message for Katharina:

“Like a daughter, we love you, Kat.  We are grateful for the sweet joy you brought to our home.  You’ll always have a place in our home.  Come back often!”

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

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