A German Student’s “Too Many Trees” Story

Cultural exchange experiences can be life-changing and inspiring. Our Regional Manager Faith Morse recently shared a beautiful story about one of her exchange students, Jana, from Germany and it goes like this…

When our first year-long exchange student arrived from Germany, my family and I were beyond excited! Our family hadn’t hosted before and my imagination was running wild as we picked her up from the airport. I thought of how she would love our rural community in Maine like we do. I have to admit that later, I eagerly asked her how she liked our stunning state and I expected her to rave about how beautiful it is here. I was a bit alarmed when she tilted her head to the side and told me frankly, “You have too many trees”. Through-out her stay with us Jana mentioned this flaw more than once. I learned that she missed the open groomed spaces of her home city in Germany which is admittedly adorable and significantly less rustic than our small town in the “Pinetree” state. We had a wonderful, unforgettable year in spite of this noted “defect”.

Jana went home and we visited her 3 years later, which is how I know how charming her city is! We loved being with her in her home almost as much as we loved hosting her. Fast forward another two years and Jana came back to Maine to surprise my daughter for her high school graduation. When we crossed the bridge from NH into Maine we pulled over for a quick rest stop break. Jana got out of the car and let out a loud sigh as she stretched. I asked her, “Jana, is everything okay?” She smiled, broadly, turned to me and said, “I missed the trees, I’m so happy to be home!”

All these years (and many students) later I realize that international exchange offers so many opportunities just like this. For something that we (or our students) first perceive as a shortcoming to become beloved. It’s the real gift of exchange… appreciation of something new and different!

If you are interested in hosting an international student like Jana, please visit HostwithGreenheart.org to meet students who look forward to being here the next academic year.