Sofia, a senior from Italy studying in Rochester, NY, had two goals for her PSE program experience: to improve her English skills and live a unique experience.
She has done a great job of achieving both.
One of the first things she did upon arrival was join the volleyball team, which quickly resulted in her making friends with several of her teammates. These friendships have grown and evolved throughout the school year.
“At school I’m happy. The teachers are very nice and always want to help me, my grades are high, and my friends are great. We like spending time together, going to the mall, eating together, having sleepovers, and so many other things,” Sofia shares.
One of Sofia’s several unique experiences was ordering her first “garbage plate” which she will never forget.
“I have learned that Americans are very friendly, they are always ready to help you, and they are used to eating very bad food!” Sofia laughs.
A significant factor in her overall experience has been her connection with her host family, with whom she has shared many valuable, connective, and unique experiences. In fact, Sofia claims that she cannot imagine having a better host family experience. She shares an especially close bond with her host mother, Lacey. They share common interests such as baking cookies, watching movies, and spending time with friends.
“Once a month, we have a girl’s night where we invite Lacey’s girlfriends over to play games and eat. We have so much fun!” explains Sofia. One of her favorite memories with Lacey occurred during Christmas. “We drank hot chocolate and watched romantic movies. It was snowing outside, and we stayed warm inside wearing cozy socks and wrapped ourselves in huge blankets.”
Lacey explains how they have enjoyed sharing many of Sofia’s first-time experiences with her as a family.
“We took Sofia to her first hockey game, went to the New York State Fair, took her to her first drive-in movie theater, went ice skating, shared her first Thanksgiving dinner, experienced Black Friday shopping, carved her first pumpkin for Halloween, went to a Halloween party, went on her first haunted hayride, and she helped me decorate the whole house for Christmas! We also attended a New Year’s Eve party that was Great Gatsby-themed.”
“Our experience has been nothing but great with Sofia. She’s a wonderful girl, and I’m so forever grateful she got placed with us. We have a great relationship. We talk, laugh, bicker, and sometimes even cry together. She is always there if I need to talk and same goes if she wants to talk. I am always there to listen to her. She’s awesome inside and out and has an amazing personality.”
Sofia has also formed a close relationship with her two year-old host brother, Mason.
“Mason loves to lay in bed with Sofia and leave all his toys in her bedroom. Sometimes, Sofia will even give Mason a bath if I’m cooking dinner or busy cleaning. Sofia helps out so much around the house and with Mason, even though she knows she doesn’t have to help with him,” says Lacey, who describes Sofia as being “a blessing” to their family.
“When I was sick and didn’t make dinner one night, since she didn’t have any homework, Sofia decided to cook dinner for the whole family. I appreciate her so much.”
Glori, Sofia’s Local Coordinator, describes her as a very nice young lady who is very sweet and extremely capable. “Sofia is discovering herself and coming into her own. She’s an example of someone who takes advantage of all the program has to offer and has been very successful.”
Sofia shares how this exchange experience has changed her as a person:
“I am more mature and responsible. I have learned that I can be far away from home and live my life without problems. I am learning about another culture and how to communicate with others. It is not easy because you are used to how family and friends act at home, and it is very different here. But it is a wonderful discovery process, and I enjoy interacting with everyone!”
Lacey shares how this exchange experience has changed their family:
“You invite a stranger you know little to nothing about into your home in the beginning of the year, and they end up becoming like a family member you’ve known your entire life. We’re going to be extremely upset when she leaves. It’s not going to be the same without one of our family members, but we’re so proud of all of her accomplishments.”
Lacey shares that with Sofia’s remaining time on the program they hope to visit Buffalo, Syracuse mall, and Niagara Falls. They are also making plans to go visit Sofia and her family in Italy.
As for future plans, Sofia would like to attend college in Rotterdam, Netherlands to study Art History. In May, she will take the exams necessary for her to attend the school. She is excited for whatever lies ahead.
“We cannot know what life has in store for us. Never say never!” she exclaims.
“I wish you the best that life can bring you now and always, Sofia,” says Glori. “I’m sure you will continue on a good path both socially and academically.” We are confident that Sofia will achieve many more future goals no matter what they are.
Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen