October 2018, Vol. XXIV, No. 2

Article Index


Hawk Watch in Utah

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Salem! My name is Aidana, and I am an exchange student from Kazakhstan. I am one of the luckiest students, living in a great state of great mountains—Utah. My school is Salt Lake Center for Science Education, which is very unique from other high schools. It is a place with funny teachers, a friendly community, and a good educational system.

For many years our school has cooperated with an international organization called HawkWatch. Every year a group of students has a chance to experience their work... 

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Falling in Love with New York

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Since I arrived in the U.S., I have discovered a lot of new things. Everything is new for me and completely different. But even after a short amount of time, I realized that I love this life. When I arrived here, I immediately realized that Americans are very kind people. Even if you do not know each other, they will still say "hello" to you or "good morning."

I also fell in love with these lovely houses. And the squirrels—they're everywhere! I was shocked...

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Little Dreamer in Washington

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I am just a simple child that has a big dream. I expected to go to school, go home, do my assignments, and repeat until the school year ends. I did not expect this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be an exchange student to come my way. This exchange year will help me to mold my own personality.

I will learn about the cultures of other people by making friends with them. I will learn different things from them as well as sharing my own culture...

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2) On the Home Front

Insight directly from host families about growing with their new son or daughter and expanding the concept of family



 3) Get Involved!

Sports, the arts, school activities, and learning through teamwork


  • Baktygul - Tennis

    FLEX student Baktygul (left, Kyrgyzstan) is really enjoying her time on her Wisconsin high school tennis team!

  • Freya - Homecoming Court

    Freya from Germany had the time of her life as a member of homecoming court at her Illinois high school!

  • Koki - Japan

    Koki (left, Japan) jokes around with Indiana bandmates ahead of their big performance on Wish TV 8.

  • Retrisyia - Indonesia

    YES student Retrisyia from Indonesia (hijab) poses with friends at El Paso High's homecoming dance.

  • Ereza - Serbia

    Ereza (FLEX, Serbia) and her host sister are proud members of the cross country team in Georgia!

  • Yuliya - Ukraine

    "One of my school friends, Allyson, invited me to the scout meeting, and I was very glad to go. Now, I am a member of American girl scouts!" —Yuliya (FLEX, Ukraine)


4) The Adjustment Cycle

Student reflections on culture shock, homesickness, and settling into their new life



  • Neha - Pakistan

    "My first day of school was really exciting and fun. It’s really different from our school in Pakistan. The teachers are really helpful and supportive." —Neha (YES, Pakistan)

  • Margot - France - Bus

    The Westmillers insist on an obligatory first-day-of-school photo for Margot (France)—and nail it!

  • Anastasiya - Ukraine

    Anastasiya (FLEX, Ukraine) already feels like she has matured through this experience, having overcome a variety of obstacles.

  • Enea - Spain

    Enea (Spain) is floating right along with her Michigan host family: “Every day, we have dinner together, talk about our day, tell some funny stories, and have a good time!”

  • Miya - Japan

    Moving from class to class was a new experience for Miya (Japan). And with just five minutes, it was hard for her to get to her next one on time, but now, she's got it down!

  • Farduus - Somaliland

    "Life at school can sometimes be challenging, but it’s good and I’m ready for it. I’m thankful to my parents, teachers, PAX, and everyone who helps me." —Farduus (PAX Means Peace Scholar, Somaliland)


5) Exchange Living

Learning, growing, cultural differences, and all those fun facets of everyday exchange life



  • Pablo - Pumpkins

    Pablo (Spain), Amaia (Spain), and Jasmine (FLEX, Kazakhstan) show off their handywork before heading to the high school football game in West Virginia.

  • Margot - France

    Margot (France) and her Upstate New York host family get in the Halloween spirit while at the campground!

  • Brijesh - India

    "I made some famous Indian dishes for my family and other exchange students. They really enjoyed the food and praised me." -Brijesh (YES, India)  

  • Neiva - Indonesia

    Ahead of their hike outside of Olympia, Washington, Neiva (YES, Indonesia) poses with host parents Lisa and Angelo.

  • Anisa - Thailand

    "I had a great opportunity to watch a University of Wisconsin Badger’s game in Madison!" —Anisa (YES, Thailand)  

  • Angela - Germany

    New England charm: Angela from Germany strikes a pose in brick-paved Burlington, Vermont.

  • Aylara - Turkmenistan

    Aylara (FLEX, Turkmenistan), her host mom, and especially her little brother are getting excited for Halloween in New York!


6) Students of the Month

Each month, PAX's Sponsored Programs Department identifies one extraordinary Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program student respectively. These standout students become PAX's official nominations for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' "Student of the Month" award.


FLEX October Nominee

FLEX SQUARE October Student of the Month Sofiya Ukraine Indiana 2 425x425

There's no "I" in "FLEX."


It is with great pleasure that PAX nominates Sofiya (FLEX, Ukraine)—who is spending her exchange year in Camby, Indiana—to be the October FLEX Student of the Month.

Sofiya made a positive impression on her community coordinator and host family from the get-go, as she reached out to them before her arrival in the U.S. to ask questions and better prepare herself for the experience. Since her arrival, her host family says she has fit in perfectly and enjoys sharing her culture with them. Sofiya has really hit it off with her host sister, Trinity, and her exchange sister, Miya from Japan. She is a bubbly, excited girl who takes the initiative to learn and improve herself at every opportunity.    

As a Language Program student, Sofiya gets extra tutoring in English, and she is happy for the opportunity to further improve her English language skills while in America. Despite her English barrier, Sofiya's academic achievements are already evident. She currently has all A’s and B’s and is even hoping to take on more challenging courses. With a goal of becoming an ambassador in the future, her enthusiasm to learn as much as she can is admirable.

Sofiya is always ready to try anything! She joined the softball team and the show choir (where she won a solo audition). She has made many friends at school already, thanks to her positive and bubbly personality. Sofiya has also started volunteering with her host mother (doing renovations on a property) and plans to start volunteering at the local animal shelter next month. She hasn't shied away from anything and is certainly making the most of her time here on exchange!

Sofiya is off to a stellar start to the program year, and we are certain she will achieve tremendous things in the coming months! Her community coordinator says, “Sofiya is a great asset to PAX and the FLEX program, and I look forward to the rest of the year with her!”

—The PAX Sponsored Team

YES October Nominee

YES SQUARE October Student of the Month Amal West Bank Washington 1 425x425

On her throne—even shopping runs are fun with Amal!


PAX is excited to nominate Amal (YES, West Bank), who is spending her exchange year in Toutle, Washington to be the October YES Student of the Month.

Amal is described as a brave, kind, and friendly person who is truly embracing her exchange year so far! She is having a unique experience in the U.S., attending a boarding school (Washington State School for the Blind) during the week and staying with her host family on the weekends. Amal does not let her visual impairment stand in her way, and she is very active and adventurous both at school and with her host family.

At school, Amal has joined the goalball team, takes swimming lessons, goes tandem bike riding, and is looking forward to learning how to ski as soon as the season opens. She is also receiving training to "work" as a barista in a volunteer capacity. She has made many friends already, and her teachers are delighted to have her in class. She also doesn’t avoid the difficult subjects and is enrolled in a math class that she was apprehensive about at first.

With her host family, Amal has also enjoyed trying new things—life in rural America is quite different from the big city life to which Amal is accustomed. She has now had the experience of camping, attending softball tournaments, feeding horses, and harvesting lavender. She enjoys playing and baking with her three younger host sisters. Amal and her host family, following Amal’s directions, tried making a traditional Arabic breakfast and enjoyed it so much that they have made it often since! Amal’s host family adores her and says that Amal is the daughter they didn’t know they were missing!

Amal has already shown her willingness to adapt, discover new things, and overcome barriers during her time in the U.S. We are sure that this is just the beginning of an amazing program year for her!

—The PAX Sponsored Team


7) PAX Abroad & Alumni News

PAX's current American high school exchange students who are abroad ("PAX Abroad") send word back to the States as do alumni from around the world who once-upon-a-time spent their exchange year in the U.S.


  • Stephanie - Netherlands

    PAX Abroad student Stephanie poses with the Zoetemeers—her host family.

  • Oestreich - Volcano

    Host mom Sharon Oestreich and son Ian pose with former student Bayu and his parents at Mount Bromo.

  • Kieran - Spain

    Kieran (Utah) posed for a quick photo with her brothers before it was off to the airport.

  • Damir - Montenegro

    PAX/FLEX alumnus Damir (2016/17, Montenegro) received a visit from three of his Minnesota friends!

  • Nora - Germany

    Nora, PAX Abroad student and Michigander (far left), kicks off her PAX Abroad program in Germany.

  • Anna - Ukraine
    ANNA (FLEX 2016/17) & THE WESTFALLS (WA)

    "My host family came over to visit me in Ukraine—it was so exciting to see them again!"