A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Showcase, Student Life

A life in a year

This year Shawano Community High School is hosting three foreign exchange students so far: Karoline Tietge, from Germany, Anika Boye from Denmark, and I am from Italy. I’ve been enjoying everything about the States and Shawano and hope to survive the winter. I’m living with the Buermans, Boye is with the Ganzels and Tietge is with the Trinkos.

We agree the weirdest thing about Wisconsin is the food, and the best is also the food.

We play tennis at the moment, and we are trying to get into as many clubs as possible. We are trying not to make our schedule too full to stay mentally healthy. The hardest challenge will be during winter. In Italy and Germany the temperature never goes below zero.

Boye started school a month late, but she’s handling everything very well. She’s very positive and she thinks that all the students are so nice.

The exchange program is one of the best choices a student can make. For Tietge, is a bit more challenging than it is for me. We’re going through situations that are definitely harder than we expected, especially when we receive bad news from our family or friends.

Apart from this aspect, there are thousands of amazing experiences we will encounter. We’re growing as human beings, we’re meeting a lot of beautiful new people and we’re having so much fun all at the same time. Our best advice is to take the most from every situation and destroy the comfort zone. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

For a family, hosting someone is a big responsibility and a change of habits and schedule. Both the Buermans and the Trinkos said that the best part is being able to show someone from a different country how Americans live and at the same time learning another culture.

“It’s not that hard,” Tietge’s host mom, Liz Trinko, said, “all the family is welcoming. It’s not awkward at all for us.”

The Buermans agreed with that. They also added they were very nervous before the arrival, but then everything about joining the family felt normal.

My host father, Rick Raatz, gave advice to other possible host families: “Be welcoming, involve them with family projects, treat them no different than you’d do with your children.”

Karoline Tietge and Sara Podavini


“It was hard to consider how much stuff I would have to be including them in my daily, personal and social life,” my host sister Peyton Buerman said.  “It was really challenging to understand that I would be having someone driving with me for the next nine months and not having as much alone time as usual.”

Even though it is a change, the memories will last a lifetime.

“Now I really know what is like to have sister and have someone that is always there for me and will always support me even when she’ll go back to Japan… or wherever she’s from,” Peyton added.

I know there will be lots of ups and downs, but I know my Italian family and friends are with me, even if not in person, and I’m very lucky and grateful to have such a great host family. I’m sure Shawano will always be my second home.