Just days before heading back to Central Europe, 17-year-old German exchange student Josie Bauer received a true American experience at the Oyster Bay High School prom.
Bauer, who moved from Germany to Austria three years ago, said that while there are proms in Europe, they are nowhere near the same scale as in the United States.
She said her program's sponsor, Education First, explained the prom tradition, but she never envisioned what was involved.
"We have proms, but it isn't as hyped," said Bauer, who was decked out in a floor-sweeping black gown during Thursday's Oyster Bay prom at the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach. "Here it is a really, really big deal."
Bauer enjoyed the prom festivities with close friends she has made at Oyster Bay. Her date, Zack Geller of Beverly Hills, Calif., a cousin of one of her friends, took Bauer to the prom as part of his East Coast trip visiting family.
The prom was part of a memorable last week in America for Bauer, who received a New York State Regents diploma at graduation ceremonies on Sunday before flying back to Austria.
She has to complete two more years of high school, after which she plans to attend college in either England or Germany.
Bauer's six-month U.S. stay included opportunities to see American landmarks in New York City, Washington, D.C., South Carolina, California and Arizona.
She described the prom as pinnacle of a journey that saw her make many new friends.
"The prom is one of the biggest experiences from my visit that I'll remember," she said. "It is like the perfect end to get to experience a prom with all the great friends I have made here."