German foreign exchange student shares her story

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Oct. 20, 2012 at 5:20 a.m.

Eva Hustedt, 15, a sophomore at Victoria East High School, shops with her host mom, Diane Dabney.

Eva Hustedt, 15, a sophomore at Victoria East High School, shops with her host mom, Diane Dabney.

Her mind flooded with indecision as she stood before a sea of nail polish bottles brightly beaming from backlit shelves.

Eva Hustedt had already been in the United States for about two months, but the abundance of choices offered at American grocery stores still made shopping a challenge for the German foreign exchange student.

The 15-year-old student found herself in Victoria earlier this August through the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation's Academic Year in America program.

Her host mother and former Victoria school district teacher Diane Dabney applied to be a local coordinator for AYA last December after seeing the job posting online.

"The fact that I would be working with international students was fascinating to me," Dabney said. "It's been great getting to know about the different culture and experiences."

The process of becoming a host requires a background check, online application and home visits by the local coordinator.

Dabney said she's looking for more families interested in hosting.

"There are students through the organization who are wishing to come to the United States," Dabney said. "So we are looking for homes for them."

The exchange student remembers her first day in New York City where she was one of about 1,000 AYA students in attendance for the program's student orientation.

"Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to come to America," Eva said. "When I saw my first yellow New York City cab, I freaked out."

From New York, she made her way to Victoria to live with the Dabneys and another exchange student from Thailand.

Among the first couple of initial culture shocks, Eva said her Algebra class at Victoria East High School has proved to be challenging because of the terms get lost in translation.

"My mom had to send over my old math notebooks," Eva said.

Another package the German requested that her mother make was the delivery of her favorite hazelnut spread - only to realize weeks later that she could have bought it at H-E-B.

"I love Nutella," Eva said. "I put in my hot chocolate and ice cream."

Eva's exchange program started in August and ends at the beginning of summer.

She said she's looking forward to seeing her old friends again.

A silver, heart-shaped locket shone brightly in the H-E-B Plus! parking lot.

It belongs to her best friend Theresa Münzel, who gave Eva the locket before she left Germany for New York.

"I miss going to horror movies with her," Eva said. "She has my locket with her."

With a cartload of hair spray, nail polish and chips, the sophomore and her host mother got into a beige-colored Impala and drove off into the afternoon traffic.



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