They're Here!
German exchange student discovering the High Line and the Meatpacking District during arrival orientation in NYC
From atop the High Line park, Tom (Germany) strikes a natural pose—the Meatpacking District at his back.

Students marvel at Manhattan

Well, at least some of them are. And while the PAX team continues to work hard to find great families for precocious and excited exchange students from more than 70 countries still awaiting placement, those attending a special PAX orientation were lucky enough to experience their dream—New York City! Everything was new and exciting for these impressive international teens. Their initial reactions were evidence of this.

From naive questions, such as, “What are those stairs on the buildings?” (fire escapes) to gasps and sheer wonder at the seemingly mundane (Canadian geese in the park), the students were freshly-arrived. In fact, they nearly all zonked out following long flights the night before only to be awoken and shuttled into the city the next morning—dozing off again until a Korean student spotted the Manhattan skyline from the Queensboro Bridge. While perhaps a bit tired, it was determined long ago that holding students in a classroom-like setting for serious orientation material before they’d had a chance to explore the “cultural capital of the world” just beyond the campus gates would be cruel. So, day #1 is always The Big Apple!

While the geese and fire escapes were entirely new, the sites featured in Spiderman movies and Gossip Girl episodes were all too familiar. In fact, nearly everything could be put into pop culture terms. Our tour guide Rob quickly picked up on this—to the students’ excitement. “Amar’e Stoudemire really lives there?” a basketball-crazy young man from China demanded.

For lunch, we grabbed a slice in Harlem with a view of St. John the Divine. “Anyone want another?” “Yo!” (“me”) a growing Spanish youth exclaimed—not yet used to quick responses in his new language. On our way back downtown, a brimming German girl called out, “There’s the Chrysler Building!”—obviously having researched in advance. The pack of PAXers raised their smartphones in unison, instantly beaming the image back to whence they came. A harbor boat tour, Rockefeller Center, Museum Mile…all but those who’ve worked as hard as these students and dreamt about it for so long would have yielded to exhaustion.

As night descended upon the otherwise indifferent metropolis, a Thai teen stood arms outstretched, twirling in the artificial luminescence of Times Square. A collective contentment washed over the cohort—they’d made it.