As the busy summer months gear up here at Aspect, Katja joins our headquarters staff in San Francisco to offer extra support and hard work as we place our 2014-15 exchange students. And, lucky for us, she knows a little something about exchange programs – she was an Aspect exchange student herself!
Katja had been talking about going to America to study for years. Finally, when the brother of a good friend of hers made the leap to leave Germany and study abroad, she saw her own opportunity. Fifteen years ago in Munich, Katja packed her bags, ready for an adventure. “I didn’t even have a clue where Wisconsin was!” she laughed. “But I was really excited. I didn’t care where I was placed.” She had a wonderful exchange year, highlighted by a deep connection with her host family. Lin, a long-time Aspect coordinator, and her husband welcomed Katja to Wisconsin, starting a friendship that is still strong today.
They have visited one another several times over the years, staying closely in touch. “They even came over for my wedding,” Katja shared. After her high school exchange year, Katja went on to study Biochemistry in Germany, graduating with a PhD. In between her science courses and labs, she found time for her favorite hobby – baking. Working jobs in both a pretzel and cupcake bakery, she had the opportunity to practice, and now enjoys making specialty cakes for friends and family for their special events.
Recently, her husband’s job brought them (and Katja’s sweet treats!) to San Francisco, a happy circumstance that presented the opportunity to reconnect with her Aspect memories. Katja feels a personal connection as she helps the effort to place next year’s students with host families. “This was me 15 years ago,” she said earnestly. “I can just imagine how excited they all must be.” She knows the effect that an exchange experience can have on a student and family’s future. “You really help shape their lives. Who knows what this will lead them to do later?”
We are thrilled to have a member of our Aspect family back working with us. When Lin calls the San Francisco office as an IC now, she adds a happy hello to her former host daughter. It is a daily privilege to see Katja helping a new generation of Aspect exchange students. And her brownies are to die for.