Mirtha and fellow PAXer Jana (Germany) at a Tecumseh High School (MI) football game in 2013.

The Impact of 10 Months

In the summer of 2013, I started my journey abroad. My mind was filled with the possibilities of what my life would be like there. What is America like? How will my host family be? What friends will I make? With many hopes and wishes for my new life racing through my mind, I stepped onto the plane.

I never anticipated how that year abroad would change my life back in Germany. To this day, I am still in contact with my organization and the friends I made in that time. Recently, my good friend, Jana, that I met during my exchange year, messaged me that she was back in New York at the same campus I went to with PAX. I started to recall memories of my experience, and what I’ve done since then...

In 2015, my family and I took in an exchange student from Russia. It was my goal to continue learning about other cultures firsthand. After that, I started volunteering at my local exchange organization in Germany. I got involved in interviews and even co-hosted seminars, where I continued sharing the story of my exchange and what a great opportunity it is to take a deep look into a different life.

In 2017, my Michigan host family came to Germany. We did a backpacking tour through Europe, and in less than a month, we saw over eight different beautiful cities. With them, I wanted to share our cuisine, our customs, and our way of life.

In 2019, my best friend from my American high school visited me in the summer and started his exchange year in Freiburg—six years after we met. You never can expect how one plane ride will impact your life and the lives of others.

Today, in my free time, I work with immigrants to help them to adjust to a new country, because I still remember how confusing and overwhelming it can be.

From what I’ve gathered from my experience, you can never know what the world will be like until see it for yourself. In the immortal words of Sir Thomas Frederick Nike III, “Just do it.”

—Mithra Toellner (2013/ 14, Germany), hosted by the Ward family (MI)