Nina, a 15 year-old from France, arrived to Rochester, NY on the PSE Trimester program with a strong desire to live as an American and improve her English skills.

“I had visited other countries, but this is my first time in the U.S. The PSE program corresponded with my desires of becoming comfortable with the English language and also discovering another country,” she shares.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Nina decided to stay for the duration of the program after discussing the situation at length with her parents and host family. She explains:

“Indeed, the situation in France at that time was critical. I preferred to be quarantined in the U.S. Staying in the U.S. has allowed me to learn more about the country, to follow the courses in English, and to improve my English skills.”

Nina’s Local Coordinator, Glori, describes her as a very inquisitive young lady with a bubbling personality. She says that Nina has kept a great attitude and makes the most of her time despite not being able to attend school due to COVID-19.

Nina’s host mother, Sue, describes Nina as a wonderful, very conscientious and aware teenager who is very helpful. She says that Nina is like a daughter to them and is now part of the family.

“My daughter, Deanna, is 28 years old. Nina loves hanging out with her and gets along with everyone, even our older friends. She is terrific!”

Although she only spent four days in her high school due to COVID-19, Nina noticed many differences from her school in France. She explains that the school days are shorter (including the lunch period) so that students can focus on extracurricular activities.

“High schools here are much larger than in France. They have a whole sports complex with tennis courts, a weight room, and more. I find that high school in the U.S. leaves more room for activities, and therefore strengthens the links between students,” she shares.

In her short time at school, Nina made a lot of friends especially on the first day. She speaks with them almost every day on social media.

“We set up online activities including calling often and playing online games together. We share moments virtually, and everyone is so nice to me!”

Nina has learned about cultural differences between the United States and her home country, especially as it relates to holidays.

“Here in America, holidays such as Easter are very important. Americans also celebrate holidays that we don’t have in France like St. Patrick’s Day. I have learned that each state has its own culture and that there is a lot to discover in the U.S.”

Nina enjoyed celebrating both Easter and St. Patrick’s Day with her host family. Celebrating these holidays “American style” was a new experience for her and she enjoyed sharing a nice meal and time with her friends and host family.

In fact, Nina’s favorite memory on the PSE program has been her host family’s Easter party, where her host family gifted her a ukulele that she has been enjoying ever since.

Despite restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nina has stayed busy engaging in activities such as kayaking, walking, and exploring the city. In addition, she enjoys watching movies with her host family and cooking with her host Dad, Ken.

Sue has enjoyed the experiences she has been able to share with Nina as well. She shares that soon after Nina arrived in the U.S., they went to the freestyle national championships at a ski resort. They love going for walks today and family game nights.

Sue shares that she loves hosting exchange students because she finds having young people around to be fun and engaging. She volunteers at the high school, knows all of the teachers, and they know her well. It is important to her to stay involved, and being a host family and participating in the student exchange experience helps her accomplish this goal.

Nina explains how the Trimester program experience changed her as a person:

“This experience changed me a lot. I learned to open up to the world. I have evolved a lot, and I am more mature and extroverted. I realize that I can adapt to a new way of life and speak another language without being embarrassed. I think that this experience prepared me for my future because I learned far more than I would in three months living as an adult.”

Before she leaves the U.S., Nina would like to spend more time with her friends and host family. She would also like to ride in her family’s boat and go kayaking again.

“My dream for the future would be to come and study in the U.S., to have a different experience, and take the SAT so as to maybe go to an American university.”

Glori sends the following heartfelt message to Nina:

“Nina, I am so proud of how you are conducting yourself throughout your time here in the U.S., and I am so happy that you came!”

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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