Imagine waking up in a completely new country, in some stranger’s house, and getting ready to go to a brand new school, with brand new people that you know nothing about. This is what German foreign exchange student Merle Reihe experienced when she moved in with her host family, the Meadowcrofts.
“I might sound weird, but it’s actually not scary because AFS has to test the family too and if they’re not appropriate, they wouldn’t choose them. Also, if you don’t get along or it doesn’t work out with your family you can talk to your personal liaison and move to another family,” she said.
Moving across the Atlantic to live with strangers seems scary, but for Reihe, it was an adventure waiting to happen.
“I chose to have this journey, and if I would’ve been scared, I wouldn’t have done it. Sure, you’re always a little bit afraid, but I was more excited than scared,” she said.
The process to become an exchange student is lots of preparation and paperwork. Reihe’s life was drastically changed within a few months of signing up.
“First I chose an organization. Then I had a first meeting with a lot of other people who wanted to become an exchange student-which is a whole weekend. After that, they decided I was appropriate to be an exchange student,” Reihe said.
Her host “sister,” Quinnlyn Meadowcroft, was excited and still loves having Reihe stay with her.
“It is a really great experience for both my family and I. My exchange student is basically my sister and best friend. It will be really hard not having her live with me because she is a part of my daily life. I could have her as a sister forever, and I know I will. She has impacted my life so much. I can’t see my life without her. We are definitely long lost twins,” Meadowcroft said.
With her family being back home in Germany, a seven hour time difference, social media has helped her stay in touch with them.
“Social media makes it possible to talk to them a lot. It can be a good thing but also a negative thing. But if you have a problem and you want to talk to them, you can do it very easily and that’s good,” Reihe said.
As she finished up the school year, she is still nervous and excited to end her year as an exchange student in America with prom.