PRHS Goes International

PRHS+Goes+International

Photo by Tanja

For over one year, our world has been turned upside down. Everyday life has changed and nothing is as it was before. Even though every single one of us has to face those changes, PRHS has stuck to at least some traditions. For the school year of 2020-21, PRHS decided to host four international exchange students in their junior year of high school, all of whom can be happy to call themselves a Bear: Beatriz Enériz from Spain, Martina Grattapaglia from Italy, as well as Joy Becher and Tanja Pohl from Germany!

This decision was not only to the advantage of our four international Bears. A survey among students at PRHS shows that the clear majority really like having exchange students at their school. The students enjoy getting to know more people and learning about other peoples’ cultures as well as their experiences in other countries.

From left to right: Tanja from Germany and Beatriz from Spain.

“I really like PR. In my country, we don’t have such a big high school spirit. For example, the sports here are way bigger than in Spain. I also like the values instilled in PR, and I really like the teachers and all the staff,” said Beatriz, when asked about her time at PR. She had her first school day at PR one month after school started since she could not fly earlier due to COVID. She said that she is really grateful to be here even with the delay, since things in August did not look good for exchange students. She continued, “I think that COVID has played an important role in how I’m living this experience. It’s true that without the pandemic things might be different in a positive way, and for example, we could have been from the beginning all 5 [school] days in person and I could have been able to see more things, but we are all living this and I think it is something not bad at all.”

From left to right: Marti from Italy and Tanja from Germany.

Different from Beatriz, Joy and Tanja from Germany were able to arrive on time for the first day of school in August of 2020. “Actually, I was quite lucky! Usually, you have to get your visa three months before you fly, but all embassies were closed since March last year. Exactly 3 weeks before I should fly, they opened again for only a few exceptions, such as exchange students and I got my visa one week before my departure. It was like a wonder happened!” Tanja continued, “As Bea said, we can be really lucky that we were able to travel to the US last year. Of course, some things that we were excited about in our exchange year are different, but all in all, I can say that we are definitely able to enjoy our time here anyway and PR is a big part of it! The students and the staff are so nice and really trying their best all the time! Also, the [school] clubs make my experience here worth it every day!”

Joy said, “I think the biggest difference between my exchange year and the exchange years two years ago is that I cannot go to school sports games and that I am just two days in-person in school per week. But I really like my year here. I just made it to the best year of my life with fun activities after school and hanging out with my lovely friends! I love playing sports after school,  like I played on the basketball girls team and I really enjoyed the workout after school and playing games. But I also believe that the people here are making this school so nice. All the students are so open minded and friendly to me. They are interested in my home country and it is so easy to start conversations and build up friendships.”

Joy from Germany

Marti from Italy agrees on this fact, saying, “… I really love living here! People are amazing, my host family is the best I could have asked for and my teachers are really nice to me and always ready to help if I need it. I am on the basketball team and I love having practice and playing with the girls that are part of it too; they are really good people and look like a really good group.” Unfortunately, Marti’s exchange year was influenced quite a lot by the current circumstances: “COVID affected my exchange year since the beginning: I was supposed to stay in the US for the whole year, but I wasn’t able to leave Italy for the first semester; I was really sad when I found out that I was going to be in the US for just six months… Going to school with masks and social distancing is a little bit weird… Social distancing, I think, is the most difficult thing to get used to. Being at school with new people that talk a different language and that already know each other is not that easy.” Through all of the craziness, Marti is staying positive, saying that she is happy about everything happening.

Things may be different to foreign exchange students’ expectations, but this make their exchange year abroad quite unique. Not bad in any way, just different!