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Pal-Mac welcomed its first two Foreign Exchange Students since the COVID pandemic. Check this article to hear from them as they share their experience coming to a new country!


JUNE 9, 2023—We’re going to start this article off with a brief thought experiment. 


Take a second and think about what types of traditions you or your family have. Think about the traditions you may have experienced or still experience as part of the Pal-Mac family.


Now take all of that, and think about if you were experiencing all of the above for the first time.


That imaginary scenario was a reality for two Pal-Mac High School students over the last several months.


Their names are Emmy and Philip, and by now they’ve been able to share a few stories and laughs, but that wasn’t always the case.


See, both Emmy and Philip aren’t from Pal-Mac, they’re from Europe. Emmy came here from Sweden, while Philip is a German native.


“The only two Europeans in the building,” Philip chuckled.


He and Emmy gave each other a fist bump right after.


The students are Pal-Mac’s first foreign exchange students since the COVID-19 pandemic, but Emmy said her want and will to visit America started before that.


“I’ve always wanted to come to America and live here,” Emmy said. “I heard from my cousin that she went on an exchange here and so I applied.”


For Philip, the opportunity to visit came almost out of left field.


“One day I just woke up and it was like, alright I want to do an exchange here,” Philip said. “It was obviously late, so it was difficult finding a host family.”


Regardless, both students matched with their host families.


Philip’s pairing carried a special meaning, as his father was an exchange student with the same family that Philip is staying with. We spoke to Philip and his host student for a separate story back in March.


Both students arrived in the U.S. in August of 2022. 


After brushing off some jet lag, Emmy and Philip hit the ground running so to speak, as they both jumped into several sports teams or clubs.


For Emmy, she joined the varsity cheerleading team and the Yearbook Club. Being a part of the cheer team was a completely new experience for her, but she says it's something she always wanted to do.


“I can’t think of a more American experience than being a cheerleader,” Emmy said.


Philip filled up his plate with appearances on both the varsity golf and soccer teams. But he also added some rhythm to the High School Jazz and Marching Bands, as he was the drummer for both ensembles.



“I also played [Palmyra Community Center] basketball, I was really bad,” Philip said. “But it was a lot of fun.”


When asked, both Emmy and Philip said one of their favorite memories was Homecoming Week. They said the opportunity to dress up for the theme days and take part in the pep rallies helped make the week special.


Through their various activities, the two said they made many friends. 


Emmy mentioned she and Philip became closer through the last few months, hence the fist bump from earlier.


While they may have made the most of the opportunity early on, both students noted the overall experience was a roller coaster at times.


“It’s so overwhelming but it’s exciting, and everything is new,” Emmy said. “But sometimes it was hard because you’re so far away from your family and friends and culture, it could sometimes be like culture shock.”


Of note, the students said they had to adjust to American school lunches, and then of course, there was the classroom. Philip mentioned a learning curve when it came to classes like American history, or understanding different math terminologies.


With that in mind, Philp echoed Emmy’s “rollercoaster” statement, but said over time, the duo adapted to their surroundings.


“Especially now after being here for eight months, it feels normal going into the school,” Philip said. “It feels normal going to every class, normal to speak English. It feels like it’s just everyday life.”


From here, both Philip and Emmy will walk the stage at Pal-Mac’s Graduation ceremony on June 15, but they still technically have a couple more years of school left when they return home.


They both plan to come back to the U.S. down the road.


“It’s been an amazing experience and something we are very privileged to experience because there’s not a lot of people that get to do it,” Emmy said.


As for how Pal-Mac students go about visiting another country, there is a roughly two-step process:


  1. A student expresses interest and then gets involved with an organization. 
  2. The organization places the student and supports the exchange.


We heard from Youth Exchange Officer for the Pal-Mac Rotary Club Michele Waeghe. The club sponsored Emmy’s visit.


Waeghe says an outbound student going to a foreign country comes from their Rotary District, and in most cases, not from Pal-Mac. So if the entire District receives 10 exchange students, then Rotary will send 10 exchange students abroad.


“It is such a rewarding and enriching opportunity that we want more families to experience by participating in hosting future inbound exchange students!” Waghe said. 


Philp came by way of Cultural Homestay International. This was the first time Pal-Mac has worked with the organization. 


So, if you’re a student and you find yourself wanting to take an opportunity to learn about another culture and its traditions, look no further than Emmy and Philip’s story.


Maybe you’ll make memories and friendships that bridge the gap between international waters.

  • Palmyra-Macedon CSD
  • Palmyra-Macedon High School

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