Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And A New Chapter Begins...

As I finish up one part of my life, I look forward to move on to the next. Last Friday I graduated from high school and my journey will continue onward next year in Turkey as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.

Since middle school, being an exchange student had been something in the back of my head.  I'd always been interested in traveling and leaning about different cultures, but it never became reality until a few years ago when my family decided to host an exchange student for the first time. I at first was hesitant of letting someone into my home and showing her the “American way of life.” What if we don't get along? What if she doesn't like me? What if I don't like her? A million questions went through my head at first, but as I got to know Sana on Facebook before she came to my house, I realized how amazing this opportunity we were both being given was going to be. Not only was she coming to the United States to learn about my culture, but I was also excited to learn about her culture.

Sana and I became the best of friends the first day she arrived at my house. We took her to Graeter's Ice Cream, and we sang, loudly, in the car on the way home. Sana and I had a really great friendship throughout the whole year. We had our ups and downs, but as I watched all of the opportunities she was getting, I decided that being a foreign exchange student would be something I would like to do, so I started looking into it.

While looking at my options with Rotary Youth Exchange, I decided it would be best to start with a short term exchange then later do a long term exchange after high school depending on how the short term went. I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go because there were so many wonderful options, but due to my three years of high school Spanish, I decided Spain was a good choice for me. I filled out all my applications, and a few months later I was matched up with a Spanish host family living in Murcia.

I spent half of my summer with my host sister, Adriana, in the United States, then we traveled to Spain so we could live with her family for the other half of the summer. My short term exchange brought me many challenges, but I'll never forget the outrageous costume parties and sitting and talking to my host mom at night. Even in the short month I was there, I knew it helped me open my eyes and see the bigger picture in situations. I was able to experience a new culture first hand and I knew a whole year of culture and language learning was something for me.

When I got home from Spain, I began preparations for my long term exchange, including arranging an early graduation. My family hosted Fiona last fall and winter, and I was happy to learn more about Germany through her. I eagerly filled out my long term applications, and before I knew it, I was matched with a country, Turkey!

Since I've been matched with Turkey, I've been trying to learn the language with Rosetta Stone.  One of my friends gave me a “Conversational Turkish in Seven Days” book, so I've been reading that as well. I've been studying up on Turkish culture, I actually went to the library and checked out books, something I haven't done in years! I've been matched with District 2440, but I still am waiting on receiving a host family and all of my guarantee forms.

I want to thank the gracious Rotarians who are sponsoring me and preparing me for my exchange and also for the Rotarians and families who will host me next year. I am most grateful for my wonderful parents for supporting me and making all of this possible for me. I don't think I'll never be able to tell them how much I appreciate everything they've done for me.  They're probably the best parents ever for letting me go on exchange and have these amazing opportunities. :)

Exchange has changed my life in so many positive ways in the past two years. I've met so many wonderful people, and made many amazing, life long friends. I'm so excited to be able to travel and be an exchange student. It still amazes me that this is actually happening for me, because if anyone told me a year ago I'd be spending 2012-13 in Turkey, I'd have thought they were crazy. But now, I can't see it any other way.