|Irene, Antonia and Heiner Praun attend the going away party for Antonia.|
Antonia Praun's six months in America have come to an end. She is a foreign exchange student from Austria who studied at Emery High School this past semester. She lived at the home of Glenda and Kyle Hansen in Huntington.
Her new family recently gave her a going away party and from the turn out of friends and family to see her off, she truly has become part of the community. Friends were sad to see her return to her home in Austria. But, of course her family who came to pick her up were delighted to have their daughter back.
Antonia flew to San Francisco to meet her parents and then they drove back together to Emery County seeing the sights along the way. They visited the Grand Canyon and other parks arriving in Huntington, where the family was treated to a trip to the Wedge and sightseeing around the area.
In school, Antonia was active in track and a great student always anxious to learn new things. In June, she went with her youth group to the Martin's Cove area of Wyoming on a hand cart trek. Antonia really enjoyed the pioneer experience along with making new friends along the way. She said she originally went along on the trip for her sister, Ariel Halton, who was going and Antonia wanted to be with her, but she said in the end the trip was really about her and discovering new things and new adventures. Ariel isn't her real sister, but the six months they have spent together has formed a real bond between the two teenage girls and their families.
A bond not soon to be broken as Ariel has plans to visit Antonia in Austria and Antonia would like to return to the United States to attend college in the future.
Antonia's parents are Irene and Heiner Praun from Graz, Austria. This is the second largest city in Austria and is in the southeastern part of Austria. Heiner said, "Graz is located near the Adriatic Sea. They grow a lot of wine grapes there and it isn't as cold as much of Austria. You can't ski there. We have to go about a 100 miles to ski. It is an old city with an old heritage and many reminders of World War II. Culture is very important to the people of Austria.
"Many of the people of Austria were sympathetic to Germany during World War II. But, after the war Austria became very independent. The next generation is always fighting with their parents and wondering why they supported Hitler. We now have a Democratic Republic, with a president who has a small representation and a prime minister who is the general director of the republic. Vienna is a very historic city too. When World War I was lost, Austria became a much smaller country than it was. Vienna was the capital of Europe from the 1600-1900s. Vienna has 2 million people. The Habsburg dynasty led the country and Europe as they had many daughters who married important people in other countries. One of the daughters married Napoleon. Their dynasty was over in 1918 and since then Austria has been a Democratic Republic.
"My wife, Irene is a teacher at a high school. We have a son, Maximilian who is 20 years old and studying law. In Austria, they have smaller families now. During the war and after the war the families were bigger. I have four sisters. But, now the average family size is 1.3.
"I like big families. It is good to see the bigger families here in Utah. I am the only one in my family that stayed in Austria. They have gone to Sweden, Paris and Germany. During the 50s and 60s, Austria was a very poor country and many people left to earn money and they just stayed away. But, all of them would love to come home. My mother is 93 years old and last year she traveled to Florida alone on a cruise.
"I am a businessman, a consultant. It is a small company that deals with roller shutters, blinds and awnings. Our country is very interested in energy efficiency. They are very worried about global warming and they take it serious. All of the new buildings are very energy efficient and have reduced energy usages by as much as 50 percent.
"Antonia wanted to go abroad so she could learn English and we were open to the idea, but she is only 16 years old. It was necessary for her to go this year and it wasn't possible to wait or her chance would be over. It was a week before Christmas when we received the name of the family where she would be going. I talked to Glenda on the phone and I just thought she's OK and Antonia would be fine with their family. But, when that plane left taking my child away for six months without much contact, it was hard. I found Utah on the internet, but it looked like gray mountains and desert. It is so beautiful now that we are here and see it in person.
"We have been really impressed with our tour around the country and here in Emery County. The landscape, the colors, the mountains, I just couldn't imagine, it's really impressive.
"All the way here, Antonia was telling us about everyone and the country. She has really loved her time here in America. It has been a positive experience for her and positive for us too since we've been here. After she got here our communication was through email and I knew after the first three emails that she would be just fine. The family was OK, the school was OK, she's had no problems. When she called me on my birthday, she suggested we come and pick her up and see some of the country. It is so good to see Antonia again," said Heiner.
Antonia may be gone for now, but her special spirit of friendship will long linger in the hearts of those who have come to know and love this unique girl.