Sara Romeo fell in love with the United States after her first visit as a young girl. \u201cI was very fascinated by the country and the culture,\u201d she said. The food, the cars, the entertainment, the activities \u2014 everything held an allure that was magnetic. She ached for a chance to return. \u201cThen, I was in middle school and my English teacher told us a story about her daughter who was studying abroad for her senior year of high school,\u201d she said. \u201cI went home and said, \u2018Mom, when I\u2019m a senior, I\u2019m going to be an exchange student and go study in the United States.\u2019\u201d Sara followed through on that promise. In 2008, she arrived in Wisconsin \u2014\u00a0a state about which she knew next to nothing. There, she became involved in a community work group, which took the long trip to Texas to assist those affected by Hurricane Ike. They prepared food, assisted with disaster relief, cleaned up, and provided any help they could. \u201cIt was a very interesting experience,\u201d Sara said. \u201cAnd I\u2019m so glad we did it. This country was hosting us, and it was a very cool way to give back to the community and the people who were being so nice to us.\u201d But in addition to giving back, Sara was receiving something invaluable \u2014\u00a0an education in the English language the quality of which was essentially unobtainable anywhere else. \u201cThis was 2008, so there was very little way to communicate with anybody in my country. So I would speak Italian basically once a week when I would call my family. I was very, very involved in many activities, where all the kids spoke English. The level of English I acquired throughout the program allowed me to get a Master\u2019s in English, to go to an American university, to get jobs in the States.\u201d It wasn\u2019t only her English-language skills that allowed her to do this, she said, but the sense of confidence she developed living abroad. \u201cYou\u2019re in a new country by yourself, to be a little bit more independent. If you have a problem, you have to think on your feet and figure it out. became more open-minded and accepting of new values, new religions, new people, new ways of interacting with each other. Coming from a European background, that\u2019s not something we\u2019re really exposed to.\u201d Sara currently works in New York City, where she is the director of strategic accounts at TransPerfect, which offers global translation and multicultural marketing services. Her time spent studying abroad, she said, put her in the right frame of mind for her future professional career. By living in the United States, Sara was able to begin to understand what she would need to do to succeed in the country. \u201cI was very involved in sports, in community activities \u2014 that taught me to network, and to keep your connections, because you never know what\u2019s going to happen,\u201d she said. \u201cI knew I needed support in the United States if I ever wanted to come back. This also helped me get into the American mindset. Here, if you work hard, you succeed. If people know and see that you have what it takes to get to the next level, people will give you opportunities. In Italy it\u2019s a much more old-world mentality. We don\u2019t really trust young people as much, so it\u2019s more the older crowd that runs the show. Here, it\u2019s much more \u2018go for it,\u2019 take your chances, if you fail, get back up.\u201d Sara has never stopped giving back to her community. Her schedule prevents her from volunteering every day, she said, but she does try to pick a big event about once a year in which to participate and raise money for various charities. Last year, she joined Oxfam and did a 100-kilometer walk. The money raised went to help villages in Africa build schools, source clean drinking water, and meet other basic needs. In New York, Sara has become involved with organizations focused on women\u2019s issues and empowerment. She has been volunteering with the Lower East Side Girls Club, helping organize various events that raise money to help and support young women. She\u2019ll also be running the NYC Marathon in the spring, accepting donations to benefit the Girls Club. \u201cI\u2019m also going to start a mentorship program, so we will take the girls out to museums or to lunch on weekends,\u201d she said. For an exchange student on the fence about studying abroad, Sara has nothing but encouragement. \u201cI honestly think it will be one of the best experiences of your life. It opened so many doors for me. It made me grow, become a more mature person, more self-aware, more culturally aware. I see so many things from a different perspective because I\u2019ve been involved in many different environments. I really think it\u2019s an invaluable experience that will give you so many opportunities in your personal and professional life.\u201d For a family unsure about hosting, Sara is equally positive. Ten years later, she remains in contact with her host family. She will attend her host sister\u2019s wedding in October. \u201cHaving an exchange student in your house is challenging, but it\u2019s an experience you will keep forever,\u201d she said. \u201cIt\u2019s almost like traveling abroad. You learn so many things about new cultures. The students give so much back to you. It\u2019s an enriching experience that goes both ways.\u201d We invite you to read more about hosting a foreign exchange student. If you have specific questions about hosting, check out our host family FAQ page. You can also read testimonials from our past and current host families. When you feel ready, complete our host family interest form and our area representative will get in touch with you. You can also get involved by joining our team of Area Representatives! Help match host families and exchange students and bring the world closer together, while making a supplemental income.