Hailing from Germany, junior Lena Einhorn first heard of the ASSIST Scholars Program through her older brother, when he was chosen to spend a year in Delaware in 2015. “He did the program and was amazed,” she said. “He thought it was the best experience he’d ever had.”
During her brother’s year abroad, Lena’s family was able to visit—sparking a love of travel and a fascination with all things American. “I fell in love with the country and lifestyle. Americans are so proud to be American—you see American flags everywhere!” Lena said. “I started reading books in English in my free time, and studying abroad became a goal of mine.”
Lena’s dreams became a reality last year when she learned she had been accepted into the prestigious program and granted a full scholarship. “My interview was in December, so I was nervous all Christmas waiting to hear if I’d been accepted,” she said. “In January, I finally got my email!” Lena found out she would be attending GPS in March and admits she “stalked” the Instagram page almost daily. “I was so excited!”
Family for Life
The majority of Lena’s time this year has been spent with the Barnes family, who answered the call to host an international student. “The reason I was so interested in hosting Lena was, of course, to be helpful, but also because I spent two years in high school in Seoul, Korea, with my family, and it was an incredible experience,” said Elizabeth Barnes. “There are so many differences you take for granted, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to expose my children to a different culture.”
Barnes’s daughter, Caroline, is a freshman at GPS, and she and Lena have grown close. “They’re like siblings,” says Barnes. “It’s fun to hear them talk about things at GPS, and they both joined Model UN, which has been great.”
Barnes says Lena’s time with the family has provided a great sense of joy. “It has opened my children’s eyes to the wider world that just reading about things can’t.” A trip to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving was influential for the whole family. “You appreciate things when you have a guest—you look at them with new eyes,” Barnes said. “We’ve been to D.C. many times to visit my parents, but this time was different.”
The Barnes family took it upon themselves to make sure Lena got to see as much of the U.S. as she could during her time. In addition to Thanksgiving in D.C., they traveled to Utah for a ski trip and St. George Island for spring break.
“My host family has been great,” Lena said. “They want to show me everything, and things that are normal for them are really special for me. We’ve had so many great conversations at the dinner table and over the weekends. They’ve been a really big influence on how I see America.”
The GPS Experience
Lena was a bit nervous about her transition to GPS, but her fears were assuaged on day one. “I sort of thought when I got here I would have to make a bigger effort to meet people, but it’s been super easy. The first day people came up to me to introduce themselves, and the first or second weekend I was invited to a birthday party and to spend the night with a friend!” she said.
She also had an easier-than-expected transition with teachers and coaches. “I’m way more comfortable here than at home talking to teachers and coaches and asking for help if I’m having trouble with an assignment. They’re very understanding and encouraging.”
GPS has benefited from Lena’s presence as well. Allison Davis, Associate Director of Admission for Upper School, explains, “The diverse backgrounds and cultures of the ASSIST students who join us from countries all over the world is such a value add to our GPS community. I love seeing how the GPS girls embrace their new classmate and sister and encourage her to get involved with different aspects and offerings at GPS. While ASSIST students are with us for only one year, they remain a part of our GPS sisterhood forever.”
Making the Most of the Opportunity
While COVID-19 had the potential to cause hiccups, Lena believes she got the full experience. “I came here with the idea that I wanted to make this the best possible experience I could,” she said. “I knew there would be some things that wouldn’t go as planned because of COVID, but I knew I had one chance and really wanted to use it and get involved.”
Get involved, she did, joining the rowing team, Mock Trial, Model UN, Junior State of America, and Honors Orchestra. “It’s great that GPS offers so much—it was a really nice way to get to know people and connect.”
A Call to Future ASSIST Host Families
As the end of Lena’s time in the U.S. and with her host family nears, she remains thankful for the opportunity and encourages families who are able to consider hosting a future ASSIST student. “I think all of the students who apply for ASSIST are super eager to be involved and to make the best of their year—it’s a dream for us to get to do this. Host families make it possible for us to have these incredible experiences. I’m grateful to my host family and to GPS for getting me here.”
ASSIST is a nonprofit, international educational and cultural exchange organization based in the United States and active in more than 20 countries around the globe. Its core work is to identify, place, and support outstanding international students on one-year scholarships at leading American independent secondary schools.
One of ASSIST’s goals is to create a worldwide circle of future leaders—friends who have come to know and respect one another, and one another’s cultures, by sharing a year of study and living together. International outreach begins with individual relationships; it fosters these relationships through a year of academic and cultural immersion designed to affect peers, teachers, friends, family members, and business associates for a lifetime. ASSIST believes that bringing together future American leaders and future leaders of other nations makes a substantial contribution toward promoting understanding and tolerance of cultures, racial designations, and religious beliefs. To learn more, visit ASSISTscholars.org.