Sophie has always dreamed of visiting America and experiencing American life. Now, at 16 years old, Sophie’s dream came true in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Before coming to America, she thought an exchange year would be a “perfect opportunity to get to know a new life with a new culture and new friends.”  She shares, “I really looked forward to being able to get to know myself better and become more independent. Overall, I wanted to have an unforgettable year in the USA with beautiful memories, new experiences, and great new friendships that would last a long time.” Her exchange year proved to be very successful, and in fact, met and exceeded her expectations.

Erika, her Local Coordinator, described Sophie as a kind, thoughtful, and smart young woman. “She is brilliant and has made all A’s and even exceeded 100% in most of her classes in school.  She is truly embracing her experience and doing so many exciting things.”  

In her home country of Germany, Sophie had an interest in sewing and used an old sewing machine to gain a basic knowledge of the craft.  When she was choosing her classes in American school, she decided to take a Fashion Design class.  She loved the people in class, including her teacher, and described them as super nice and supportive. She shares, “I enjoy being creative with new projects and working on my skills so I can improve. This class gives me a comprehensive overview of everything I need.”   

Sophie enjoyed participating in a fashion show in April with the theme “Enchanted Garden” where she designed, created, and presented a two-piece outfit which she modeled herself.  She shares, “The show was really cute.  The theme was about nature and fairies.  It was magical!”

Here is Sophie, pictured in her stunning design.

Another favorite experience for Sophie was being on the costume design team for her school’s production of the Spring musical, The Adams Family. The design team looked at every detail of the costume design process.

Sophie said, “It’s cool to be creative and design costumes.  It’s fun to take a twist of the old and traditional style.  For example, changing things up like having background dancers from different time periods while keeping some things consistent, like Wednesday’s two braids.”

Sophie had another opportunity to apply her creative skills by joining the Student Government. She appreciates how Student Government organized every social event for the school. “I joined because it was so neat seeing everything on the school announcements and it looked really fun. Every organized event has a theme and is very well planned,” Sophie explains. 

Participating in her school’s Student Government was reminiscent of her prior experiences in Germany volunteering at church, working with teens, preparing church services, and working with younger children, during which she organized and assisted on trips for the children, enjoyed playing games with them, and organized events for school holidays. Her prior experience proved to be very helpful. Participating in Student Government provided her an opportunity to participate in school activities in a new capacity.

Sophie was part of the group that planned the school prom, “An Evening at the Ranch.”  She was responsible for coordinating with food truck vendors that provided food for the event.  She enjoyed being a part of the decoration committee and helping to adorn the lobby at the entrance of the gymnasium.  Sophie explains, “It was a western theme – we created awesome decorations including WANTED posters of the teachers and a beautiful sunset.”

Sophie’s Host Mom, Tiffany, shares that they are very proud of Sophie’s ability to dive right into school clubs and activities. “The opportunity to join clubs was exciting for her since her school experience in Germany is academically focused and does not provide such opportunities.”

While experiencing success in many areas of the exchange program, one of Sophie’s fondest memories is becoming a member of her host family. Sophie explained, “I feel really good about my host family.  Tiffany and Carlos accepted me into their family from the very first day.”  

Tiffany shared, “Our family has experienced more love and connection with the integration of Sophie into our family.  This is exactly what we needed to start having regular family meetings.  This has allowed us to connect, address challenges, and get on the same page for the week.  We have come to love her as one of our own.”

Left to right: Tiffany (Host Mother), Carlos’ Nephew, Carlos (Host Father), and Sophie

Sophie’s Local Coordinator, Erika, shares that Sophie is interested in learning about the U.S., but has also enjoyed sharing her German culture and traditions with others. “Sophie has taken her host family to a German restaurant and German shops. She has also baked cakes so that they can also learn.  Carlos is from Peru, so she is also learning about that culture.”  Sophie has enjoyed taking part in family dinners, Peruvian breakfast on Sunday mornings, and family celebrations and events.

“Sophie has become our bonus daughter, ” shares Tiffany. “Our parents adopted her and love and care for her as much as we do.”

Sophie celebrated her 16th birthday with her host family including her younger host brother, Valentino and her bonus grandma, Nannie Nell. In Germany, Sophie is an only child and never experienced having a brother or sister.  Valentino has been a light in her life while she was on the program. 

“It has been so awesome having Valentino as my host brother,” shares Sophie. “He is so welcoming, and we play a lot together.  He really likes art and draws me a lot of pictures.  He also loves sharing with me new things that he has learned at school, or in general.  He is very interested in the sea…especially sharks.”

“Before coming to America, I was an extrovert, open-minded, confident, and helpful person with a big heart.  I am still that person, but I have grown more and learned more about myself.  I’ve learned how to deal with situations.  I am more independent, and my English has improved.” 

Regarding the future, Sophie plans on studying Psychology and obtaining her PhD.  “I would like to continue traveling, especially to Asian countries like South Korea or Japan.  Perhaps I will do an exchange year in college!”

Tiffany and Carlos close with this message for Sophie:

“Sophie, we are truly better because you are in our lives.  We appreciate you, and all you had to do was be yourself!”

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

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