Doing Something Different: Adventures of an International Student in the Sunshine State!

by Hannah Becker, Private School Placement Program Assistant

Around this time last year, 16-year-old Sina Rieckmann was considering spending a semester of high school abroad on the Private School Placement Program. Sina was looking to do something different and exciting that would take her out of her typical, daily routine in her home country of Germany.

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Sina (left) with a friend outside of
her new school

Having thoroughly enjoyed American life and culture from previous visits to the U.S., Sina reckoned that spending a semester studying at an American high school would open her eyes to new perspectives and allow her to have some amazing opportunities.

It wasn’t a difficult decision for Sina when deciding on where she wanted to spend a semester in the U.S. Like many international students, Sina wanted to be in a location with lots of sun, beaches, and palm trees. There is no place better to experience that than the Sunshine State, Florida! When narrowing down her school choices, it was a no-brainer decision for her.

I chose the Tampa Preparatory school because it’s a nice private school in downtown Tampa and they have a really good academic program. I had lots of different courses to choose from. They have some classes which are really fun like ceramics, photography, theater and dance but also really difficult academic classes so you have lots of different opportunities.


Sina with her host family

In April, Sina was thrilled she when she received the news that she was accepted to Tampa Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida. After a summer anticipating her arrival in Florida, Sina packed up her bags in early August, and left her hometown in northern Germany to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. She arrived at the home of her host family, Martha and Christopher Cobb, to welcoming arms. Having raised three boys, the Cobbs were thrilled to be hosting Sina.  Upon her arrival, Sina and the Cobbs formed an instant bond and now,  two months later, she’s fit right into the family. They’ve had some wonderful family moments together so far: at the beach, Disney World, and Sina’s personal favorite – a Kelly Clarkson and Marron 5 concert. While the Cobbs have been showing Sina all that Florida has to offer, they’ve shared some unforgettable experiences and have been learning and growing together along the way. It’s certain that their bond will continue long past her time in the U.S. is finished.

Two months into her program, Sina has been exposed to her fair share of new experiences. One aspect that surprised Sina about American high school is how significant school spirit is in the daily life of students. As a member of the school volleyball team, Sina has been right in the thick of the enthusiasm of her fellow classmates. Their cheering is very infectious for an international student! “Everybody is proud of going to his school and supports the school at sports games,” Sina remarks. While she was surprised by this as first, now you will often find her rooting for the school team just as though she was a born-and-raised American!


Sina with her friends
showing their school spirit!

School spirit in American high schools can teach an international student about the importance of community support.  It’s easy to see how such strong passion for school activities positively affects the mentality of the study body and creates a greater sense of community. For Sina, this is a very different atmosphere than her school in Germany, but she is quite enjoying being part of the Tampa Prep community!

From sharing home cooked American meals with her host family, to cheering on the Tampa Prep Terrapins, Sina’s had some wonderful and influential experiences so far. She has learned a lot about typical American lifestyle and made some life-long friends. These experiences have exposed Sina to a different manner of living than she was used to before leaving Germany. As she was initially hoping to do, Sina has definitely done something different this semester.

To those of you considering spending some time abroad, Sina advises that it’s important to be open. “You just have to be open to everything new and to everybody you meet and you will have a great time,” she says. Sina’s done just that and is having a very transformative semester so far. It’s obvious that her adventure will continue on through the remainder of her time in Florida, and she will keep on growing even once she’s returned to Germany.

Just like Sina, do you want to do something different? Then consider spending a semester or a year on the Private School Placement Program! You can find out more information about the program online at