As one of my readers was interested in my life as an exchange student, I decided to write an article about time between having the idea of doing an exchange year and the day of the departure. This is not easy for me because nothing worked out the way it should and I actually just want to forget the things that happened to me this summer. But on the other side I thought it is a good opportunity to show you the things that can happen and that there will always be good times after bad times.
- a warriors diary
My thought of doing an exchange year came up three years ago when I was visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Florida. I've always been interested in traveling and getting to know other countries and their cultures and I knew that an exchange year would be the perfect opportunity to do all these things. In September 2011 , my parents and I started looking for organisations. I immediately got accepted so we could start all the paperwork ( it was ALOT ). We finished everything in January 2012 and since then there was only one thing I could do: Waiting for a hostfamily. I was waiting and waiting and more and more students got placed-except me. But I stayed patient hoping that everything would work out. Suddenly it was August. Summervacations. I said goodbye to all of my friends without knowing anything about where I would go and when. I spent more and more nights crying in my bed, I was afraid that things wouldnt work out. I was one of the first ones that applied for an exchange year and I was still at home. I can still remember exactly what happened then, it was no doubt the worst summer in my whole life. But I better start from the beginning:
August, 15: My organisation called. They found a hostfamily in a suburb of San Francisco, California. My flight would go in one week. I cried because I was so happy. Went out with friends the same evening. My parents called just a few hours later and said that I better come home soon, they discovered something terrible. As my organisation didnt give me much information about my hostfamily, my dad thought it was a good idea to google the hostdad - maybe you'd find something like a picture. He googled the name and found tons of articles about my hostdad- who was accused because of drug dealing, opening a bordello and stealing money from prostitutes. I started crying. Why me? I was shaking, I didnt even want to imagine that I, a 16 year old girl, was about to pack my suitcase because I would fly to live with a criminal that would go to court and may be in prison for a very long time. How can an organisation even do that? Dont they have to check who they send their exchange students to? I couldn't believe that this was true. We called my organisation the next day. They were really surprised, saying that they just gave us the information that they got from the american organisation. Two hours later the placement was taken back. Without even saying sorry.
I had a second placement after that and a third placement. You cannot imagine how I felt in that situation. My friends kept asking why I was still here and I felt like a failure, even if nothing of this was my fault. Why me? Doing an exchange year has always been my dream. Was this dream about to end now?
I got a second placement just a few days later. There were major problems too. I got a third one. My nerves were at the breaking point. I didnt trust my organisation anymore. My parents and I basically cried the whole time. And we were fighting a lot. I didnt do anything else than crying. Why me? Why is everything working so well for everyone else? My parents and I put so much effort in it, they supported me and helped me as good as they could and then one disappointment after another. How less do organisations care? I felt deported. I was afraid. I was so afraid to go on the other end of the world with an organisation that I didnt trust anymore. My parents didnt want to let me go. Not with that organisation. But I only had two options - accepting the third placement or ending the dream of an exchange year. I didnt know what to do. I took the second option. I cried alot. I could not imagine going back to school, seeing all the people that I already said goodbye to but I couldnt imagine either going to the states with an organisation that I didnt trust at all, that did these things to me and my family. We canceled the contract.
It was already the beginning of september and school would start in less than 2 weeks. Suddenly my mom came up with the idea of going to Canada. She has called a few other organisations and one of them said that they could still place me. I never really thought about Canada. I was not sure what to do. But speaking with the women from the new organisation gave me hope and strength again. She was just so nice and I had the feeling that she really cared about me,more than the other organisation ever did. I told her everything that happened. She listened and we talked for a long time. One thing that I really appreciated was that she understood me and she was kind of shocked but she did not try to decry that organisation just to make me come to her organisation. I felt that I was in good hands. Unfortunately, this program was way more expensive- also because the families in Canada get paid for taking a student, but my grandparents supported me too and I gave alot of the money that I saved so we could arrange it somehow. Just a few days later the women called again saying that they found a hostfamily for me. A mother with a 10 year old daughter and another brasilian exchange student who was my age. I was so happy. When I got home that day, I already got a long email with lots of pictures of my new hostfamily. They seemed so nice! I was just so thankful. My family, who supported me in everything I did and who tried everything to make my dream possible and also to my relatives that did exactly the same! And of course the new organisation that did their best to place me and give me the opportunity to go to canada. Everything had to go really fast so on September the 14th, it was time to say goodbye to all of my friends and my family. I did not cry when I said goodbye to my friends but I had tears in my eyes when I said godbye to my family. I can still remember standing on the check-in with my heavy suitcases, waving my family goodbye. I felt like a little child that was lost in a big world. I turned around for a last time and saw my family standing there, arm in arm and waving with tears in the eyes. I turned away and was ready to start a completely new life in another world- still having tears in my eyes.