Posted by Susan Colville-Hall on Apr 30, 2020
Exchange to me this next year holds so much importance to me as a person and practically as well. To start with the practical, I am a junior in high school planning to finish high school this year and graduate early. This past year I have had my lasts and said my goodbyes to the high school Friday football games, the after school Starbucks runs with my friends, the classmates I will not see next year, and I have worked countless hours saving to pay for my own exchange instead of going out to eat with friends or buying new things. For me this has been significant in my life as it ends a big portion of my life and signifies change and growth as a person to be moving towards this next stage of my life. For this next year, I was planning on having probably one of the best years of my life going on exchange. In a strictly practical sense, not going on exchange would mean that I would be at home for a year probably working and then going to college since this past year I did not apply to colleges. While this is not the worst thing that could happen in this upcoming year, it was not the way I had pictured or wished to be spending my time. For me emotionally, this exchange also has significance since around 8th grade I have longed to experience rich cultures and speak in another language. It wasn’t until this past year that I realized it was possible for me to go and I started this journey. As I became more involved with the exchange students here in the U.S. I have seen first hand how life changing it can be. Seeing the exchange students at the last overnighter was one of the happiest and saddest things to see as we sat around in a circle at night softly singing a song together and enjoying the limited time we had. I saw the deep connections each of them made with each other often feeling a little bit envious wondering why I wasn’t in their circle not realizing that what you must go through as a group is something unique to everyone who goes on exchange. This bond is something so unique and precious that can’t be made in any other setting than exchange. For me, being culturally aware and being able to understand and communicate in someone’s own language has always fascinated me and been one of my goals. Exchange for me would allow me to explore these avenues and continue my french learning in a new way. As I continue to get older, I find myself wishing to find my own identity and who I really am and what my values are in life. For me, exchange meant my first journey alone where I would be faced with challenges whether I liked it or not and I would have to be able to overcome these. I think being able to overcome these and really be myself without my parents would allow me to find out more of who I really am and discover new things I didn’t know about myself. Ever since I was little, I have had a passion and yearning for travelling as well as I have always been interested in trying new food when we go out to eat or watching foreign films. This passion for me goes beyond just wanting to travel and see cool places. For me I think it means understanding people better and connecting. It means opening up my own thoughts and challenging them and making me uncomfortable. This next year I hope to go on exchange and experience the challenges and uncomfortable moments and the new people to further expand myself as a person and those I meet. Exchange to me means so much more than just seeing a new place and I wish I could fully express myself and what it means to me, but I think it would be impossible in words. If there is one takeaway from this is that exchange means more to me a virus and more to me than having to wait a month to go.
Lydia Olin-Hitt, a hopeful future outbound