One of the joys of exchange is experiencing all the ways we’re different, as well as all the many ways we’re the same – and this is especially true during the holiday season!

Leonie Gabriel from Germany is staying with the Fishel family in Fishers, Indiana.

She and her family both celebrate Christmas, but this year Leonie is excited about experiencing it in a brand new way – while sharing some of her favorite German traditions as well!

Leonie loves that Christmas is a time for the family to come together. She’s already thinking about some small differences she can expect, like opening presents on the morning of the 25th instead of on Christmas Eve, like she is used to doing.

“I also imagine that I will hang socks out with my host siblings, in which Santa Claus can put the gifts!”

She would also like to attend church with her host family for Christmas, since she has heard that church in America is completely different than what she has experienced in Germany.

“Me and my host siblings will put out biscuits {cookies} and milk for Santa Clause,” shares Leonie, “which is also something new for me!”

But as she embraces the NEW, Leonie is just as excited about sharing some of her most treasured traditions with the people she has come to love here in the U.S.

One of her favorites is singing Christmas songs while she plays piano on Christmas Eve, which is a tradition she plans to keep alive this year by performing a Christmas duet with her host brother!

She also wants to include her friends in a “girls day” tradition, which sounds like it’s worthy of becoming a staple for just about any teen girl.

“We’ll be watching a Christmas movie together, baking Christmas biscuits together and decorating them,” shares Leonie. “Plus I hope that we sing together, spend time and just have fun!”

At Christmastime, relationships with loved ones come first – and Leonie counts herself especially lucky to feel so at home with her host family. “I can’t imagine a better one, and I just feel awesome!” she shares. “I get along well with my host siblings and we do a lot together.” Leonie has enjoyed many adventures with her family of all shapes of sizes – camping, attending a Charlie Puth concert, visiting holiday world, swimming, and going to The Lion King musical. And while Leonie HAS noticed that America is quite different from Germany, from the school system to the culture to the “sweet-tasting food,” she’s loving all the “new.” And this Christmas season, she’s excited about sharing some of the “old” as well.