Discovering the Many Layers of American Diversity

August 14, 2012

Norina at the Polynesian Culture Museum in Hawaii Norina at the Polynesian Culture Museum in Hawaii Ask Norina Poetter how her exchange experience in America is going and stand by to be "wowed," as her journey unfolds in a whirlwind of enthusiasm and humor that is simply Norina.

Norina was thrilled to learn she had won the 2011-12 CBYX scholarship and eagerly awaited news of the American family she would live with during her academic year. "I was checking for information on my host family every day," says Norina. "When I received my host family's bio my parents and I were super-excited to learn that I was going to live with a Black family. Only about 2% of Germany's population is Black. So I was ecstatic at the opportunity to experience this aspect of American diversity. I also felt special because I was the only student out of my group of 57 to get such an opportunity."

Norina lives in Madison, Alabama with her host mom (retired military), her host dad (active military) and her 17-year-old host sister.

Through specialized program opportunities and numerous trips with her host family, Norina has tapped into the geographic as well as cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States. Her visits to Washington, DC; Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama; Orlando, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; and Hawaii, have led to encounters with people from more than 55 countries including individuals from Thailand and Italy whom she now counts as friends and plans to visit after she completes her exchange program. With less than ten weeks of her program remaining, Norina says her host family and her academic and cultural exchange have surpassed every expectation she had prior to leaving Germany.

Through tours of several Civil Rights museums, Pearl Harbor and other visits to historic places, Norina has learned a great deal about the history of America and the tragedies of its past.

Through her own initiative, natural curiosity and enthusiasm, Norina actively participates in a wide range of social and school-related activities. Norina is on the A-B Honor Roll at New Century Technical High School. She participates in Spanish Club activities, writes articles for the school newsletter, manages the soccer club, and sings in the school choir. She also volunteers in a retirement home and has completed about 300 hours of community service.

Norina has fully embraced her program and the many wonderful opportunities it has offered.

"[My host family] showed me everything here," says Norina. I learned that not everything has to be planned but to sometimes just go with the flow. I have observed first-hand that everybody in America has a dream, and that they work hard to achieve it."

"The program has provided opportunities that I never would have had were it not for the CBYX scholarship. "I have made life-long friends, become part of a new family, and learned to appreciate the many wonderful aspects of the United States that had once been completely unknown to me."