“this was the key to my happiness”

I am an exchange student. I didn’t believe the power of being in an exchange program until now.

 

iDB 38Everyone was telling me how amazing it is and how the exchange experiences have change them forever. I’m finally understand these people who had already been abroad.

First of all my dream to go to America began when I started learn English in the school. My parents would do anything to support my dream. December 2014, I started planning the exchange program. I was so excited and happy and I was telling all my friends and family about it. I did not choose a certain state, because I wanted to leave the search as open as possible.

Last year in August, I left my home country to leave abroad for a year in the United States. And now here I am. I have the perfect family, I live in a small and cute town, and I love going to school. I already have found a lot of friends, and I’m coming to believe that in 2 months I’ll tell my family and friends that I had a wonderful exchange program and about how my year abroad taught me the “life lesson”.

However, being an exchange student is not always easy.

Can you imagine how an only child would live without her mom and dad for ten months in a totally strange place where the people speak different language? She did not even do her own laundry, did not cook herself own meal, and always asked for her parent’s help. Yeah, that was me.

I had to be a good student in school, but there were times when I felt really lonely. Even though I had met a lot of people. This is because friendships grow. They do not come from nowhere, they need time. Time to trust, to respect, to like, and to have fun with each other. I walked to classes alone sometimes; I was not used to it. I tried to connect with people, but sometimes I was tired of trying. I do not blame the people for not talking to me; they just did not know what they should talk about with me. Sometimes I would get mad, because I thought that talking to a stranger must be the easiest thing on earth; you can ask everything: How it is like being in America, why I am here, where I am from, how old I am. And again, I was not used to being alone.

I learned my best “life lesson”, because I did not have anybody to talk to during the first few weeks.

I developed my own strategy. Every night before I would go to bed, I would think about the nice things that happened to me that day. I did this for over two months. During that time I learned to value the little things in life, such as a smile, a hug, a good conversation, a friend who helped me with homework, a good grade on my homework, a plan for lunch, getting to know somebody new, and a lot of other, little things. And I realized that this was the key to my happiness. Every night, I would fall asleep with a good thought, and I would wake up with a positive start in the day. This also made me realize that every experience, positive or negative brings you one step forward. There are no steps back. You learn from your mistakes, and that is worth more than doing everything the right way.

I am so truly thankful for this experience; it has changed me forever. Appreciate life, embrace what you have, and accept that this is your life, and you are the one to change it. Being an exchange student, and living in a different country for a while has opened my eyes. I learned a different language; I learned other traditions, and cultures. I learned to accept, and to be respected. I learned to be responsible, and to be careful. I learned to be friendly, and to be polite. Most of all, I learned how to live.

After eight months, I have found a hand full of good friends, who I can trust, and I have gotten to know even more people. I know now, that it is my job to talk to people, and to ask about their lives. I am the one who came to their country.

Thank you everyone who has been part of my year!

Leticia
ICES student from Brazil living with the Murray family in Derry, New Hampshire

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