"PAX PLUS"—Jana volunteers with other international interns in honor of Exchange Day. The activities were organized by Cultural Vistas, Jana's Exchange Visitor Sponsor.

Returning to NYC

Going back to New York couldn’t have been any more unlike my first time coming here. Six years ago, I arrived at the airport as an excited exchange student. Amazed by the skyscrapers (we don’t have many of them in Europe), speaking English with a "lovely soft" German accent, and never having been away from home on my own for longer than two weeks, I spent three nights in New York. The days went by incredibly quickly, and half of the time my thoughts wandered to the upcoming flight to Michigan and my future host family.

This time around, my experience was a different one. First of all, I had much more time to explore the city on my own and truly take in the atmosphere. Secondly, I was already very familiar with the American culture and didn’t get as excited about trying new food or overwhelmed with "how-are-yous" anywhere I went. Also, I had undergone a little transformation while spending ten months as a foreign exchange student in Michigan, more than a year backpacking through Australia, and two months traveling all over New Zealand. Now, communicating in English and traveling by myself are no longer obstacles to overcome. So, these past two months I got to be the one trying to reassure those students who were in the exact same place as me when I was 15.

Finally, I want to use this last chance to thank everyone I met at PAX. I guess if you work for an organization like this, you become very familiar with welcoming people from all around the world and with making them feel comfortable. So, thank you for showing an Apple-user around the Microsoft world, offering Korean snacks, opening doors for me (literally), and making another German feel comfortable in the office. It was a lot of fun to relive some memories during orientations and to make new ones during the internship with PAX.

—Jana Heineking (2013/14, Germany), hosted by the Ford family (MI)