ICES Student of the Month - February 2021

We are proud to introduce Jana Dieckmann as our Student of the Month for February. Jana is from Gifhorn, Germany and is living with the Jarrett family in Metamora, Michigan where she attends Dryden High School. She was nominated by her host mom, Mandy.

One of Jana’s prominent qualities is her consistently positive attitude. Host mom, Mandy, says that despite the difficulties of the pandemic and quarantining guidelines, Jana finds happiness in all she does. When she was limited to staying home, Jana filled her evenings doing jigsaw puzzles and playing games with her host family. Jana engaged her artistic skills as she and her host mom painted Russian nesting dolls together.

Jana painting Russian nesting dollJana enjoyed painting Russian dolls during quarantine

Jana has fit seamlessly into her host family, connecting well with each family member and participating fully in family life. She is the first person to jump up and happily help with household chores, and willingly does anything that’s asked of her. She often helps her younger host brothers with their homework, especially German and math. The boys admire Jana and love having her as their older sister.

Jana helping younger host brother with homework

Jana helps her host brother with homework

Jana was excited to be in the U.S. during an election year, and she even accompanied her host dad as he voted. She was shocked to see the long ballot with so many candidates and issues to vote for, and says it’s very different from elections in Germany.

Other favorite experiences of her exchange include trying turkey for the first time at Thanksgiving, celebrating an “American” Christmas with stockings and gifts on Christmas morning, and going on trips with her host family.

Jana smiling and opening a Christmas gift

Celebrating an "American" Christmas was a favorite memory

In addition to all her new adventures, Jana has also been able to continue some of her favorite activities from home. An experienced gymnast, Jana has joined a local gymnastics club, where she competes in beam, bars, floor and vault.  It's been fun for her to compete in a sport she loves, and being part of the team has been an excellent way for her to make friends.

Jana holding "1st place team" banner (gymnastics)

She’s also enjoyed sharing some of her favorite German treats with her host family by baking German pretzels for them to enjoy.  And for her birthday, Jana and her host mom spent hours together baking a special German Snow White cake.   This scrumptious dessert is a white cake filled with cherries and vanilla cream and topped with a chocolate glaze.  While it was complicated to make, it was a fun experience for both Jana and Mandy, and a special memory they will both treasure.

Jana smiling with birthday cake & candlesJana's German Snow White birthday cake

While Jana makes being an exchange student look easy, she’s certainly had her share of challenges to overcome. In November, the entire family—including Jana—started feeling sick. A trip to Urgent Care confirmed their fears—they all had COVID. Despite losing her sense of taste and smell and feeling lethargic, Jana remained hopeful and optimistic and was a source of smiles and laughter to the rest of the family.

Jana and host brothers holding candles at church

Jana enjoys attending church with her host family

Host mom, Mandy, says Jana is amazingly adaptable, making the most of whatever opportunities come her way. School has been unusual this year, alternating between in-person and virtual classes, but Jana has taken it all in stride and participated fully in each without complaint. She attends church weekly with her host family, which is also a new experience for her--one she enjoys.

Jana’s resilience and adaptiveness may be partly due to the fact that her mother was also an exchange student, having spent a year in Ohio when she was young. Jana’s younger sister will continue the family tradition by coming to the U.S. on exchange this fall, though she doesn’t yet have a host family or know what state will be her exchange home.

Jana and host brothers holding bags of apples outside.Jana and her host brothers volunteering for the church

When asked how her exchange has changed her, Jana quickly responded, “I was very shy at the beginning, but now I’m much more open. I’m not shy anymore. And my English is better.” Indeed, she was delightful to interview, with a smile on her face and an eagerness to share the joys of this wonderful experience—all in perfect English.

Host mom, Mandy, sums up her feelings toward Jana by saying, "I truly think she is the greatest foreign exchange student! She has shown perseverance, strength, determination, adaptability, kindness, compassion, and patience in all things. We love her and will miss her terribly!"

Jana and the Jarrett familiy

Jana and the Jarrett family

All of us at ICES congratulate Jana, and we thank her for representing ICES and her home country of Germany so well. As the Student of the Month, Jana will receive an ICES t-shirt, a $100 Visa gift card, and a letter of commendation from ICES President, John Crist.

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Nominate Your Student!
Has your student done a beautiful job of integrating into their host family and culture? Or found creative ways to share their culture? Or given back to the host community by volunteering? Maybe your student struggled at first but has worked hard to overcome challenges of their exchange. There are many ways ICES students excel, and this program is not limited to specific criteria. If you feel your student is awesome, please nominate them!

Guidelines for Nominating a Student

  • Tell us why your student is outstanding, including specific examples. If you wish, you may also include statements from school staff, the host family, Local Coordinator, and others in the community.
  • Include the student’s full name, home country, and host city/state.
  • Include at least one (but preferably more) photos of the student.
  • Email submissions to

    Non-winning submissions will remain active for consideration for 60 days after which time a student may be re-nominated.


Tags: Exchange Student, Student of the Month

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