Sunday, June 29, 2014


When I first signed up for this exchange, I was so excited to find a new place, discover so many wonderful things, and meet the most amazing group of people. I did not sign up for all these goodbyes! I guess you could say that I've been in denial for a while. I don't think I'm in denial anymore, but that doesn't mean I have to be ok with this.

Today was the last Rotary event in my district. Only about  half of the exchange students were there, but that didn't make it any easier to say goodbye to them. Everyone started out with the normal happiness that comes with seeing everyone again. However, once the first person said they had to go (this person happened to be me), tears started flowing (from my eyes first). 

I don't know how to describe what I was feeling. I was happy because I know all these amazing people from around the world. I was sad and disappointed that I had to leave them. I was confused (and still am) as to why it had to end. I was angry that I didn't have any time left. I was just a mess all around we'll say. 

For the car ride back to Montélimar, I told myself I wasn't going to cry in front of the family of the girl who's going on exchange next year. Next thing I know, a song comes on the radio. The song that I sang in December with one of my favorite Brazilians (eu te amo João <3) and started crying again. The tears didn't stop for about an hour and they've been making off-and-on appearances since I got back to my host family.

On top of all of that, I'm going to see my mother for the first time since leaving Seattle on August 21st, 2013. In about 5 minutes. Needless to say, I physically cannot function right now. With my mom, we're going to visit each of my host families, our family in Montpellier, and a couple of my friends. I'll be leaving France on friday and will be back in Seattle on friday (time zone changes are weird).

It's all ending. Please make it stop ending. This is torture.


PS: To any exchange students that I have met this year, I love you more than words can say. Even if I barely spoke to you, you'll have a special place in my heart forever and always! <3 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not "goodbye", but "see you soon" (I hope)

Sorry I haven't been posting at all. As my exchange is winding down to the end, I just haven't been motivated to explain it. So excuse me for that. 

On June 11th, I had to say goodbye to the majority of my French friends. I kept telling myself that I was going to cry so much, but in reality, I only cried once... at the end of it all. The actions didn't seem real at the time, but once I got back to the house it all hit me at once. Saying goodbye to the people who have accepted me all year was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I know I'll see them again someday, but the thought of facing next year without them scares me.

Next sunday, I will be saying goodbye to all the exchange students left in my district. That is going to be extremely difficult. I know that I'll probably never see most of them again. The thing about the exchange students is that everyone will be so spread out after it's over. I'm looking forward to seeing them one last time, but it won't be the same atmosphere. Everyone will know that it's the last time. Everyone will be crying (yes, even the strong ones). Everyone will have to face the fact that it's ending or is already over.  

Another important event next sunday will be the arrival of my mother in France. I plan to introduce her to my host families and show her around the area that I have fallen in love with this year. She'll even get to attend a Rotary meeting here in France. While I know that constantly translating between French and English will be difficult, I'm looking forward to the challenge. I want to show my mom how much this year has given me, but I doubt a few days will be enough.

The people that I have met this year mean the world to me. I could not imagine a better group to have shared this experience with. Saying goodbye hasn't been easy and will not get any easier, but it is part of exchange. Nothing lasts forever, but at least the connections we have all made this year will last a long time. 

11 days until my flight back... I can't believe it's coming to a close.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Eurotour Schedule

Eurotour Program

April 26th: Tour of Paris, France and a guided tour of the Pantheon. Night in Reims, France (a city in between Paris and Strasbourg)

April 27th: Tour of Strasbourg, France. Night in Germany along the border.

April 28th: Tour of Munich, Germany. Night in a city near the border of Germany and the Czech Republic.

April 29th: Tour of Prague, Czech Republic. Night in the center of Prague.

April 30th: Tour of the castle in Prague. Night on the border of the Czech Republic and Austria.

May 1st: Tour of Vienna, Austria. Night outside of Vienna, where we ran into a Rotary bus trip from Germany. 

May 2nd: Day in the bus. Yippeeeee sleep. Night in Jesolo, Italy. 

May 3rd: Tour of Venice, Italy and a gondola ride. Night in Jesolo again.

May 4th: Tour of Milan, Italy. Night along the French-Italian Border

May 5th: Visit to Mont Blanc and the ice caves. Night in Annecy, France.

May 6th: Tour of the United Nations center in Geneva, Switzerland. Chocolate in Switzerland. Visit of Lake Annecy. Night in Annecy. 

May 7th: Tears.

A more detailed post on the trip will be done after I am not sick and have gotten enough sleep. :)


PS I'm sorry I didn't have time to post the itinerary before or during the actual trip. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Family

So last week I changed host families! I'm sorry this is so late but I've been adjusting to the new family and I haven't had the time to write. Anyway, last Sunday was my last day with my second family. It was also right before my birthday. So naturally I was a little bummed to be leaving such a wonderful family just before my birthday. But my second family, being the amazing people that they are, surprised me by inviting my first host family (who I hadn't seen since the switch) and my third host family over for an afternoon celebrating my birthday. 

Yes, I cried.

No, I am not ashamed of that.

Okay, maybe a little bit.

But still.

Anyway, moving on. With my new family, there's an entirely new rhythm (PS it took me a full minute to spell rhythm right and I'm still not sure). For one, there are no children at the house. This is a rather big change for me since I'm not an only child in the states and in my other two host families I have had two sibling who were almost always at the house. There is one daughter who comes on the weekends, but other than her, it is just me and my host parents. 

Since there are no children, dinner is not as early as it was in the other families. I had gotten used to eating around 7:00 or 7:30 in the other two families, but with this one we eat around 8:15 or 8:30. Also, I no longer have a 14 year old sister to discuss my day with. That is probably the hardest part about changing. I got really close with my host sister in my second family and now I have no one to talk to about my pointless daily problems that won't matter in 5 years. 

Things at school haven't changed much, but now I feel like the friendships I have are actually going to last beyond this year. Being able to actually speak and fully understand the language has really helped with that. Hopefully French will get even easier by the end of this all. 

Speaking of the end... The end is less than three months away. I dooooooon't liiiiiiiiiiiike thiiiiiis.

I'll be going on a bus trip around Europe in less than two weeks and I'm SUPER excited for it! I'll get to spend 10 days on a bus with a bunch of awesome exchange students. :D YAY.


Monday, March 31, 2014

JRJ Weekend in Paris!!!

Imagine this:
500+ exchange students from 35 different countries in Paris for the weekend.
Yes. It is as wonderful as you're imagining it. Maybe even better. 

This weekend, the two Rotary districts in Paris hosted the "JRJ Weekend" that happens every 2 (maybe 4?) years. Basically, Rotary gets all of it's inbounds together for a fantastically amazing, beautiful, unforgettable, exhilarating, and just all around wonderful weekend. 

Friday, my district took the bus up to Paris. After 7 long hours on the bus, we finally arrived at the Hostel. Now, this Hostel was not the classiest place. In fact, there were only 3 outlets per floor. On my floor, they were being shared by about 35 girls... Definitely not enough for all the hair straighteners and cell phones. But anyway that isn't what was important. What is important is the people. My district of about 40 students shared the hostel with two other districts of about 20 and 30 students. I was the first from my district to go talk to one of the others. Once everyone realized that no one was going to bite, everything went really well.

Saturday morning we piled into the bus after breakfast and drove to a spot in front of the Eiffel Tower. This was the first time that all the exchange students were in one place. It was so crazy and hectic. There were hugs happening everywhere and a bunch of different languages being spoken. I got to see some of the Americans that I got my visa with in San Francisco as well as some people who I had friended on Facebook knowing I would get to meet them. Everyone took lots of pictures. I, being the slightly crazy person that I am, went up to random groups of people that I didn't know at all and started random conversation and then hugged everyone. I also retained A LOT of names. I surprised myself at how many names I was remembering. 

After the Eiffel Tower, we went to a presentation. Now, mind you, we were 500+ exchange students who wanted nothing more than to TALK TO EACH OTHER. Needless to say, we didn't really pay attention to the presentation. I felt bad for the speakers, but at the same time, they didn't really consider the fact that we would all instantly love each other to pieces. Following the presentation, we took "Les Bateaux Mouches" along the Seine River with our districts. The sun was shining and everything was so beautiful. I spent the ride talking with one of my best friends just about life in general. I think it brought us a lot closer together. 

Saturday night was the grand event. It started with a chaotic "organization" of the flag presentation. 500 students in one hallway with Rotarians yelling different orders. Lovely. After the presentation got underway everyone found seats and waited for their turn to sing their national anthems. Once all 35 countries were done, we sat down to eat dinner/walk around aimlessly to find our new friends. During dinner the talent show started. Each district presented something really cool and/or adorable. Two of my Brazilian friends, one of my Mexican friends, and I sang a medley to represent our district. It went really well (despite the fact that we had been losing our voices all evening). 

Once the talent show ended, everyone went to the dance floor -- including the Rotarians. Now I thought it was weird when I danced next to all the Latin Americans, but Rotarians next to Latin Americans is something else (that is absolutely wonderful). The night ended around 2 am, but with the hour change, it actually ended at 3 am. We got back to the hostel at 3:45 am and had to wake up by 7 am that morning. I took advantage of the empty showers (there were only 2 per floor for the girls) and ended up going to bed around 4:15. Basically I was dead on Sunday.

Sunday morning we all went to Versailles. I had been to Versailles for the bus trip, but I didn't really get to see the gardens the first time. After walking through with my friend who had never been there, I met up with some friends I had made the night before and wandered through the gardens with them for a few hours.

My district left Versailles around 2 pm. The bus ride back was LONG. It took about 7 hours to get to Lyon, but those 7 hours seemed to last a day because I couldn't sleep. At one point, everyone on the bus was asleep...except me and the driver. Ugh. But it was alright I guess since I didn't get bus sick. I ended up back in Montélimar around 9:30 pm and at the house around 10:00 pm. 

This morning I woke up sick, so I didn't go to school. Hooray for sleeping all day. I just feel bad for the exchange students who had to face that today after such a gloriously tiring weekend. I wish I could go back and relive every second of it. Hopefully I'll be able to see some of these people again. They truly add a whole other side to this experience and I love them for that.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Paris/Barcelona Bus Trip

For the first week of vacation I was on a bus travelling across France and into Spain. My host family  drove me to Lyon Sunday night. I stayed in a hotel with most of the other exchange students in my district who were going on the trip. We all hung out until about 11:00 or 11:30 and then went to sleep. The next morning we all woke up at an ungodly hour and got on the bus at 5:30 am. We drove to the airport/train station and picked up the rest of the students. Everyone was either from my district or the district in Lyon. 

We spent the first day driving up to Paris. Continuously riding in a bus with very few breaks is not very fun at first. Eventually everyone found their groups and talked (after sleeping for a few hours). Once we got to Paris, a tour guide got on the bus and talked to us about Paris as we drove around. After the tour we got to walk along the Champs Elysees and see the Arc de Triomphe. Afterwards, we went to the hotel and ate dinner. After dinner, no one was tired, so the chaperones took us out to a bar (no, we did not drink alcohol) so that we wouldn't disrupt the rest of the hotel. 

The next day, we visited the Eiffel Tower and the Palace at Versailles (pictures soon, I promise). At the Eiffel Towers, we took the stairs to the top, which was super super fun (PS that was sarcastic). We all took pictures on each level of the tower and some of us went to the very top, including me. On the third level, a group of us met some Italians and spoke to them in a couple broken languages. After the Eiffel Tower, we went to the Palace at Versailles. In the beginning they gave us portable audio guides, but no one really used them. Everyone took pictures and talked.

We later got on the bus again and drove to Limoges. We stayed in Limoges for the night and then went to Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley. We walked around and took pictures of course. We then began the descent to Barcelona, Spain. It was a looooong bus ride, but when we finally arrived, it was well worth the wait. 

The first day in Spain, we had another guided tour that was very similar to the one we had in Paris. Sadly, these tours are a little pointless since most of the exchange students weren't listening. The guide took us to a beautiful church and then a fruit market in the center of Barcelona. She then left and everyone had free time to go shopping in Barcelona. I walked around with one of my American friends and we went to STARBUCKS. I really miss that coffee sometimes. I got some in Lyon for the Fete des Lumieres, but it's such a change. You really start to appreciate how ubiquitous they are in the Seattle area after being so limited. 

The second day in Barcelona, we went to the Sagrada Familia and the Picasso museum. The Sagrada Familia is a stunning, unfinished cathedral that is in the middle of being restored. They are supposed to finish the restoration in 2028. Even though it was in the middle of construction, it was still stunning. The architecture is really different from any building I've ever seen. The Picasso museum was interesting, but we had a guide. I prefer to tour museums at my own pace so that I can focus on what interests me. Despite the guide's priorities, it was still really interesting. 

The last day in Spain, we went to the Dali museum. We once again had a guide with priorities, but the art was still really fascinating. Sometimes I wonder how this stuff manages to become famous. I will never understand it. Or art for that matter. After the tour and lunch, we got in the bus and went back to France. We stopped in Montpellier for dinner and dropped off our two chaperones. It was a tearful goodbye, but somehow everyone managed to get back on the bus and return to Lyon.

It was really difficult to leave everyone at the end, but we have Paris in two and a half weeks. In Paris, all the Rotary exchange students in France will meet up at a conference for 3 days. Knowing that we don't have too long to wait for that helped a little. 

I have one week left of vacation and then it will be time to return to school. I'm looking forward to seeing my French friends again, but not to waking up at 6 every day. Hopefully it won't be too difficult to transition to.

I promise I'll post pictures as soon as I can!!