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Leaving Soon!

    Hello everyone! I actually have been so busy with trips, friends, preparing for college applications, etc, that I haven't had much time to make a blog post! As I'm writing this, I actually end the CIEE program in less than two weeks. It has been an amazing trip! Honestly, the biggest complaint would have to be the rainy weather that prevented me from being outside every day! Currently, it's about 75 degrees and sunny out, so I'm sitting in our backyard. With the sounds of the pool, the sight of our chickens in the yard, and one of the cats right next to me, I know I will miss this place. 

    I've been on a few small trips to other ares, such as Provence and Albi. I got to visit Marseilles briefly, and it was beautiful. Out of all areas, however, I think I prefer Toulouse because of it's safe feeling. To me, I think the city is actually quite large compared to my home town, yet I always feel like I know where I am and I can get home safely. The other areas while beautiful were either too large, busy, or just more of a "vacation city". I plan on coming back to France (as soon as possible, really) later in my life, and I would definitely consider staying in Toulouse again.

    I'm not really sure about how I feel about coming back so soon. Of course, I am excited to see my friends, family and pets, and actually I really miss the food in America. Although, a lot of things are nice about living here, too. I love the fact that when I want to go out to the city, all I have to do is take a bus and it knows exactly where to go. No google maps- I just get to sit there in the bus until my stop! While I do miss driving, it is a nice change. However, public transportation can be annoying when you're in a rush! With traffic, sometimes it takes me an hour to get home from the city on a bus when it is only a ten minute drive by car! Also going to school, I take a bus and a tram, and if I miss one, or if one is late, that could be what makes me late to school! I hate when this happens because it makes me seem unprepared when I walk into class late, when really I missed the bus by 30 seconds! Another thing I like about living here is basically the ambience of... the whole country! I love that people just go to parks and lay in the sunshine, or sit at cafes during breaks at school. There is so much socialisation which is incredibly different then where I live. For me, well we don't have breaks during school, but if we did, I'm sure everyone would just go home or to a friends house. We wouldn't walk anywhere, or sit at a cafe together. I feel like meeting people here is a lot easier (when you speak french of course) than it is when you're living the typical American drive-everywhere lifestyle. But anyways, I think I will miss being in France some days but I am glad to be getting back to my normal lifestyle for a while.

Anyways, my host mom's home so I'm going to go chat with her! 

Dos Hermanas Feria

Spring in Spain is crazy! Starting with Semana Santa, then Sevilla Feria, and so much more! After the Sevilla Feria, we had a week of school, then another Feria! It only lasted 4 days and was much smaller, as it was just for my town, but it was a lot of fun! The Feria was from Thursday through Sunday, but we only had one day of school all week! Monday and Tuesday were off because of "El Dia del Trabajador" or Labor Day, we had normal school on Wednesday, and were off for the Feria the rest of the week! Wednesday night was the "Pescadito" which is the fancy fish dinner for the parents to start off the Feria. This Feria is less formal, so my family didn't dress up in our Flamenco dresses. Some of my friends dressed full Flamenca for a few days, but many people just dressed formally. I had so much fun dancing and having fun with my friends; I definitley reccomend to anyone coming here to take some dance classes! You can enjoy the Feria so much more when you can participate! Also, people are always very surprised and impressed when they discover that the american can dance Flamenco. There were "cacharritos" or attractions/fair rides at the Sevilla Feria, but I only went on those like twice, while I rode so many of them at the Dos Hermanas Feria! There was one huge one that all my friends were scared of that I really wanted to go on, and it took a good bit of convincing, but I finally managed to convince a few to go with me! Dos hermanas feria friends

On the last night of the Ferias, there's always a Fireworks show! I didn't get to see the ones in Sevilla, as I didn't go that day, but I got to see the ones in Dos Hermanas! One of my friends lives on the top floor of his building right next to the Feria, so a big group of us went there to watch, and we had the best seats in the house! I also had my first experience with a cat in Spain while at said friend's house. He has a cat who is so sweet and fluffy and cute!! I've got 2 cats back home and I miss them! Hardly anyone in Spain has a cat, so they're a rare find. 

The other day was one of the biggest soccer games for Seville, as it's between Seville's two teams; Betis and Sevilla! It's called the Derbi game and everyone was sooo excited for it. My family is all hardcore Sevilla fans, so I've sorta adopted that; well, enough to constantly argue with all my Betis friends! We invited a bunch of friends over for the game and made a party of it. (Luckily most of said friends are Sevilla fans!) It was a great game but ended in a tie. It may be an American opinion, but I think it's much more entertaining when a game has a winner and loser; who's content with a tie?? Not me that's for sure! Many of my school friends are for Betis, so it would've been great to have that win, if for nothing else, for the bragging rights!  

I've got pretty much just school all the way until summer, which starts here at the end of June; where'd all the parties go?? I'll definitley miss the Ferias- I hope I can return to visit one some year! 

If anyone has any questions or wants to talk more about my experience here, feel free to DM me on instagram @martha_dd

La Feria de Sevilla

Saturday finished off the Seville Feria, the festival to celebrate the start of spring. We had been preparing for this week for a long time, and it's finally here! With dance lessons since January and the whole alteration process for our Flamenco dresses, by Saturday evening we were 100% ready for the Feria! The first day I went was Sunday, because Saturday night is just for the adult's dinner. I got all dressed up in my Flamenco Dress, with my hair done up and a massive flower ontop of my head, and headed out with the family.  Feria fam

The first thing I noticed as we walked to the Feria (other than the massive amount of people dressed up in suits and Flamenco dresses!) was the massive "portada" entrance to the Feria. The portada is huge, beautiful, and covered in lights! It changes every year and takes months to build in preparation for the feria. Feria is held in a huge special area that's not used at all the rest of the year. In this area, there are hundreds of "casetas" lining the streets. Each one belongs to a group of families or a club. My family's caseta is called "Los Mosquitos"! Something that I was surprised by in the Feria, was the abundance of horses and horse-drawn carriages, I wasn't expecting that, but it added even more to the whole vibe of it! It felt like I was in a different time period; with structured dresses and carriages, it felt like I had been transported to Victorian England or something!  Portada
Portada Caballos feria
It may sound weird, but during the whole Feria experience, I felt like Mia from The Princess Diaries (love that movie btw!) Coming to Spain, I got a whole new life, just like Mia. I have my special dresses for Feria, and learned how to dance and act in a new way, just like Mia did! 

Feria was an amazing experience full of dancing, eating, and hanging out with friends! The environment of Feria was amazing, with music all around and everyone carefree. I had a fabulous first Feria, and I hope it won't be my last!

If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to DM me on Instagram @Martha_dd

International Food Festival

For those students who joined our high school exchange program in Zhengzhou, China, it is not just an opportunity for them to know more about Chinese culture, but they could introduce local students to their own culture too!

This time, a secondary school that cooperated with us in Zhengzhou held an international food festival. By inviting students from Italy, Germany, Thailand and America, we got to know more about each other.
During this festival, exchange students were encouraged to wear traditional costumes of their own culture and prepare a dish that represents their countries. Also, we had a group of Chinese students would cook some traditional Chinese food. 
 
All staff and students on campus were invited to this festival, they would taste the food, talk to the 'chefs' and know more about the cultural meanings behind the dishes. We don't always have to go abroad to experience a foreign culture, we could experience the same thing by inviting foreign students to share with us.
 
As the students have to work as a team to prepare this festival, they also understood more about each other and knew better about how to be a good team player. 
Thank you for all teachers and students who organized this festival and supported our international 'chefs' during this activity.


Semana Santa

 

The past week has been the Semana Santa (Holy Week) here in Sevilla. Everyone had been hyping it up to me since I've been here saying that it was one of the most important parts of Sevillano culture.  My host dad, who is a passionate member of 3+ brotherhoods, had shown me video after video after video (after video) of these "pasos" which are basically these big wooden floats which show gold, silver, and wooden carvings of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They are decked out in flowers and candles and carried by about 40 men. These pasos are carried around in processions through every street in Sevilla's center and the surrounding villages. They are accompanied by hundreds of people wearing tall pointed hoods (called "capirotes") which frighteningly resemble those of the KKK.

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The first time I saw these white-pointy-hooded people carrying crosses and candles around the streets, I had a pretty shocked reaction. My host dad assured me that they had no ties to the extremist group (obviously), but it's still a very bizarre sight for any American. Let's just say I had a lot of concerned friends swipe up on my snapchat story. 

I had prepared for the city to be busy with tourists from all across Spain (and the world) to experience the Sevillan Holy Week, but nothing prepared me for just how many people there were. People take this thing so so so seriously. These pasos go on 24 hours a day for a week straight. One night, I stayed out with my host mom until 6 a.m. to watch the Madrugá (the most important night of pasos). And we went home on the early side! Many of my friends didn't get home until 9 a.m., and some decided that they wanted to stay out watching pasos until 2 p.m. the next day (this further confirms my theory that Spanish people don't need sleep, but that's a whole other subject in itself).

 

I would be lying if I said that watching these pasos didn't get boring at times. As amazingly beautiful as they are, usually about a few hours in my feet would start hurting, I would get tired, bored, and all of the processions and pasos would start to look the same. Something I noticed is that most Spanish people are SO INTO IT. They carry around little books showing the schedules of the pasos and where they're going. They meet up with friends, dress to the nines, and watch paso after paso after paso after paso. It was so interesting to see just how passionate they are to watch these things. 

On one of the last nights, as a paso was being carried through the streets of my town, I was feeling a bit "over it" if that makes sense. The minutes began to add up and I was definitely ready to go home for the night. Then I saw, standing in the doorway of a home, an old woman. She was holding a red flower up to her heart. The flower had come from the paso depicting the death of Jesus. Tears streamed down her wrinkled face as she watched the procession make its way down the street. 

I asked my host dad, "¿por que esa mujer esta llorando? – why is that woman crying?" His response was one that I'll never forget: "She's crying because she knows that this is the last paso she will ever see. She's thanking the Lord for allowing her to live a full life."  That was when I came to realize just how important this holiday is to Spanish people. Although I am neither Spanish nor Christian, in that moment I began to feel the meaning of these pasos. It's more than just a religious procession: It's a unique and powerful tradition that Sivillanos hold dearly to their hearts. It shows how deeply routed Spanish culture is. Though there are things about this culture that I never seem to understand, that's okay. It's bigger and a whole lot older than me. These pasos have been going on for centuries. This symbol of faith and tradition is so important to them because it is part of them. And I feel beyond grateful that now, the pasos have become a part of me and my own life. That's the beauty of learning from another culture. 

 

Semana Santa in Sevilla!

I've been with my host family for over 2 months now, but it feels like it has been so much longer but also no time at all, simultaneously! I'm so adjusted into life here it feels so natural. Last week is the end of the second trimester at my school, so two weeks ago, the week was filled with tests and presentations, it was crazy! Last week was nice and chill, though. Tuesday I went on a field trip with my art class to an old folk's home. There, we drew their portraits and just hung out with them for the day. We even danced some Flamenco! On Wednesday we went on a field trip into Sevilla to see "los pasos" for Semana Santa.  Paso 4

Paso 4

The name of the last one is "San Marta"! 

On Thursday and Friday I was too sick to go to school, but according to my friends, they just watched movies and hung out all day. On Friday morning, Lucia (my host sister) and I went to the hospital, because we both were very sick. At home, we don't go to the doctor's much if we're sick, but here they do more often. I was surprised by how easy the whole process was, we were in and out within the hour! The rest of Friday, Lucia and I watched 11 episodes of Pretty Little Liars (11!) Well, we had nothing better to do! 

Sunday was "Domingo de Ramos" the first day of Semana Santa! We went into Sevilla and saw a bunch of "pasos." The streets were packed like crazy, but it made the atmosphere so fun! The pasos, nazarenos, and music were all around; it was all so beautiful! It's crazy to think that there's 40 men under each paso, carrying them, and each man has to carry around 100 pounds!

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Ddr paso1

Semana Santa truly is an incredible experience, and we're not even halfway done yet! Tomorrow, my parents will come visit! I'm so excited to show them around Sevilla, Semana Santa, and everything in my life here! A bunch of my friends are so excited to meet them too. I can't wait to see my parents, and the rest of Semana Santa! 

If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to DM me on Instagram @Martha_dd

At Starbucks!

Hello everyone! Currently I am sitting inside of a Starbucks here in France. I’d actually like to include this in my list of differences for today, because it’s quite interesting.

-Starbucks

In Michigan, Starbucks is everyone’s entire life. We go there for meetings, to do homework, and even wake up early to run and get a coffee before school. Typically though, everyone is on a laptop doing some type of work. Starbucks is known as a place you may meet to do homework or finish work you need to concentrate, however I find here that Starbucks is more of a social outing. People come in between breaks at school or work, and really just eat, drink and talk. I kind of like this better, because when I come in and just sit on my phone I don’t feel obliged to pretend to do homework on a laptop.

-Police

Now this a HUGE difference... In France, there are literal police officiers/military-looking guards roaming the street all the time. Of course in the US there might be police walking around if there’s an event or a protest, but once France they just walk around all during the day in groups of three. They’re in a full, and in my opinion a bit eccentric, uniforms, and even equipped with rather large guns. They could seem a bit threatening at first, but they will typically smile at you if you smile at them, because they’re really just there to do their job of protecting the citizens. Honestly, it’s a little comforting because I feel like they’ll always be close if I’m in trouble.

-Coffee

Everyone that knows me knows that I love coffee, so I was shocked to find that in France, their go-to form of coffee is actually espresso. Instead of ordering coffee and getting a cup of coffee and your choice of cream in sugar, when you order a normal coffee here you’re served a small shot of espresso- MAYBE with a sugar. This took some getting used to, but since I happen to like the flavor of coffee, it was pretty easy to adapt to. At my host home, I just make a cup with a few shots of espresso and some milk to get the familiar feeling of holding a warm cup of coffee.

On another note, I think it is getting warmer and I am so excited!

Why Did I Choose to Study Abroad?

Hello! My name is Benjamin Pearl, I’m in eleventh grade, and I am studying abroad in Spain for the academic year 2017-2018 through CIEE. Unfortunately I’m a bit late to this whole blog thing (about 6 months to be exact lol), but recently I've been motivated to share some of my stories, tips, recommendations, etc from my study abroad experience.

Let’s start of with why I chose to study abroad:

I’m someone who loves people. I love meeting new people, I love talking to new people, and I love making new friends. How cool would it be to make A TON of new friends from another country, in another language, while building a bridge between cultures!? The answer is very cool. And coming from someone who has developed and grown these interpersonal relationships over the past sixth months, it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I also have a passion for traveling. I love seeing and going to new places and learning about the cultures and customs. What better way to satisfy my yearning for travel and culture by living in another country with another family? I have been able to immerse myself and become part of a brand new culture with brand new people and a brand new way of life. This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity which is extremely uncommon in today’s world (even most study abroad programs in college don’t dive this deep into the host country’s culture).

In addition, I also have a passion for the Spanish language. Ever since I took my first Spanish class in middle school, I knew that I wanted to become fluent in this beautiful language. With hundreds of millions of native and non-native Spanish speakers, this language is becoming increasingly more important in today’s global community. I knew that the most effective and interesting way of becoming fluent would be a full cultural immersion -- and WOW was I right. For me, Spanish became a language of a mashup of indifferentiable noises and tongue rolls (and the castellano th sound) to a language that I can almost fully understand and speak. I know I would never be able to learn this skill in a classroom. I can now say that I have developed the ability to communicate and express myself in a new language which is something that I have always dreamed of doing. I absolutely could not have accomplished this hadn't I thrown myself into a Spanish-speaking country for a cultural immersion. And let me tell you, it was not easy to get to the point I’m at in terms of language skills. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be so so worth it.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I was craving something different. I wanted something new. After going through eleven years of the same school system, taking the same classes with the same people, I felt a need to differentiate myself. I felt the need to break the mold and do something new. I knew that studying abroad was so different and unique for a high schooler, and I am proven right all the time. I get a feeling of utmost pride every time someone says “you’re a high schooler studying abroad?!” or “what you’re doing is incredible, especially for just a kid in high school.”

What students worry about and, probably, what I worried the most about while choosing to study abroad was the impact it would have on my college application and academics. I weighed the benefits of a few AP classes and some extracurriculars against the once in a lifetime opportunity of leaving behind my life in the US for a year to immerse myself in a new country, becoming fluent in another language, develop a bridge between cultures, while becoming more independent, building my character, and discovering more about myself and the world as a whole. I chose the latter option. And, in my opinion, that decision will go to benefit me as a person much more in my future than my American 11th grade classes* ever would have. I already see myself reaping the benefits of studying abroad. I no longer question if this was the right decision. I know that this was the right decision for me. I encourage anyone who is considering studying abroad to weigh the benefits of staying in an American high school** just like almost every other American student against taking the opportunity of doing something different. I chose to do something different and unique that will provide me with skills and experiences that will literally last a lifetime. I weighed my options and chose to study abroad and I am so happy that I did.

*I am still getting all of my junior year class credits! I worked with my guidance counselor, CIEE, and my Spanish school to make sure that, one way or another, I am getting my necessary class credits.

**It’s important to remember that studying abroad in NOT a year off from school; it is not a vacation. I still have to work hard to do well in my classes here in my Spanish school. Luckily, they have been very flexible and accommodating to the obvious language barrier.

My instagram is @benpearl. Feel free to DM me with any questions you may have!

A Guide to Packing When Studying Abroad

Hi guys, my name is Kim and I am 16 years old! I'm currently studying abroad in Australia and have been here two months out of six! I'm experiencing this amazing opportunity with CIEE's High School Study Abroad program. I currently reside in Mackay, Queensland, which is right next to the Great Barrier Reef!

Packing is scary, but necessary, so here are some tips that I came up with using my experience of packing!

*Please note that all of the information that I'm sharing with you is all of my personal experiences, and each person's experience is different. I never really saw any tips and tricks on how to pack for students studying abroad so I wanted to share this post with you!

When I was packing, I had no clue how to do it or what to bring. I ended up saving packing two nights before my departure, which surprisingly wasn't too difficult. The one challenge I did come across was all of my itineraries said I was allowed two checked bags, but then was informed I should only bring one, seeing as carrying two checked bags, a carry on, and a personal item might be a bit too much to handle for one person. This messed up my whole original packing scheme because I was packing for two checked bags, so all of my stuff that I was going to "need" for six months had to be squished into one checked bag. 

While it may seem like space would be the first issue when packing, it's actually the weight of the bag that poses more of a threat. If I really needed to, I could stuff a whole bunch more things into by bag, but it was the weight that stopped me from packing more. If you go over the weight limit, or even get close to it, your bag is tagged as "heavy" and usually officials go through it (which is a pain). If you are over the weight limit you will be charged around a $150 overweight fee, so don't think you can sneak your way through!

Tip: Pick and choose the things you definitely need, and choose lighter items over heavier ones. I learned the hard way that any kind of liquids (like face soap, cleanser, shampoo) are very heavy, so if possible, try to buy them when you get to your destination instead of putting them in your checked bag. Even if you think your deodorant brand isn't sold over in the country you're traveling to, that might have to be a sacrifice you make when packing.

Take note that spray cans will most likely be taken out of any of your bags. I think the reason they take these out is because if the spray can explodes in your bag, it could potentially make other things explode as well. In my case, I packed a small travel size dry shampoo, but when my the officials went through my bag, they took it out.

Tip: Leave any hair spray, dry shampoo, spray deodorant, etc. at home.

For Australia in particular I knew it would be hot here, but I didn't realize how hot it got. Even though the weather is hot, remember that your body will climatize and get used to it. Also if you travel here during the winter time, it does get chilly in the nights and in the mornings, so it's wise to pack something that will keep you warm during those times, if you are someone who gets cold easily.

Tip: Remember to bring lots of close for hot weather like shorts, t-shirts/tank tops, etc. Also maybe bring one pair of jeans/long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and definitely a sweatshirt.

Personally, I didn't start packing until a few days before I left and I could manage well, but it's always wise at least think about what you're brining as the departure date gets closer. 

Tip: Create a list somewhere, whether it'd be on your phone or on paper, make a list of things that you might forget.

I, personally, have contact lenses and have prescription medication, so I had to make sure I was prepared for the time I was away. I called my pharmacy to get the right amount of medication that would last me the six months I'm here and also ordered enough contacts so I wouldn't run out.

Tip: Think of all the items you need that you will not have access to in the country you are going to and pack yourself enough to last you. Make sure to give yourself time to do this just in case you need to order something or wait until you have access to it. 

Maybe some of these tips helped you, and maybe none of them did, but just remember to give yourself a little big of time to pack, and even though it's a daunting task, it's completely necessary and if done carelessly, you might find yourself in your host country without your essentials!

Studying abroad is an amazing experience and I hope that we can make the best out of any travel experience we have the privilege of doing.

Until next time!

Camera Rollin'

There’s something truly ungodly about modern technology. I just flipped through my camera roll, holding down the right-arrow button out of nothing more than boredom; with that, my life literally flashed before my eyes. Sure, each image flew by too quickly to merit appreciation, but in some ways that’s appropriate—we rarely recall the specifics anyways. With one push of a button and six minutes of free time, I relived every quirky outfit choice, every fleetingly beautiful view, every friendship made and lost, every tree-trimming party and family vacation and awkward selfie and memory worthy of preservation. I’m not quite sure why it elicited such a visceral response, especially since this astounding phenomenon, that of photography, is less than new technology: a preexistent part of my world, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, I think there’s something worthwhile in a bit of reflection, something… moving. Indeed, my breath was running short by the roll’s end. The end of an era, the Pre-Italy Era, and the beginning of another.

Glittery “photo shoots” in town park, tear stained faces as I say my goodbyes, cliche touristy pictures from Milan; my first night out with newly-found friends, my first time eating lasagna, at least thirteen random cats I’ve found on the street; cloudy, underwhelming days in Florence, forty nine iterations of the same headshot, every Greek sculpture I could find maintaining at least one limb. The unfinished adventure of my lifetime, wordlessly inscribed in pixels. Looking hard enough, you can see the gradual changes in my disposition, see the wide smile soften into something more genuine, see the shoulders drop and jaw unclench. I’m a different person than the girl I see here, the girl from six months ago… and what would I say to her now?

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You think you know what you’re in for. You think that because you’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” and picked out your shoes for the plane ride, you’re somehow prepared. You’ve got this mental image of what your world will look like, of walking across cobblestones, gelato in hand, laughing with equally sophisticated friends and trying not to scuff your Italian leather heels. You’re so sure that’s what your future holds, absolutely, unwaveringly certain. And you know what? You’re not entirely wrong. There will be moments like that, moments when you look around and feel like you’re living a Hallmark film. But there will be so much more.

You’ll go on adventures, completely spontaneous and horribly planned. You’ll see new things and meet new people, and push through sleep deprivation by the sheer force of adrenaline and independence (not to mention espresso). You’ll consciously experience a thousand unforgettable moments, and subsequently forget them all. You’ll marvel before centuries of artwork and architecture, taste biscotti cookies with a secret ingredient that’s been guarded for generations, dance onstage at a hidden Roman amphitheater, and then later explain yourself to security. You’ll take the bus, miss the bus, and, when you’re language comprehension switches up the details, wind up in marvelously wrong places. You’ll climb Vesuvius and discuss the David, give tours of Pompeii and glide along the Grand Canal in Venice, and live out your dreams so many times over that you can’t quite separate reality.

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You’ll also be incredibly bored. You’ll wake up every morning at seven a.m. and go to school, try (and fail) to break your newfound caffeine addiction, and silently pray that your math teacher is sick. You’ll sit at home and binge Netflix shows, you’ll curse at the weather, you’ll walk the same streets with friends night after night after night, until you almost convince yourself that life would be better, more exciting, even, if you’d just stayed home. It would definitely be easier. Because the one thing you’ll surely find, within the first hour of arrival, is that this is really hard.

You’ll cry in the bathroom three times your first day, and avoid phoning home because you can’t bare to see your parents faces, to hear them speak. You’ll shrink into yourself when meeting new people, embarrassed by your pronunciation, and start to shake when strangers laugh at your foreign mannerisms. You’ll do homework in another language, you’ll procrastinate homework in another language, you’ll whine and moan about it until somehow it gets done, and then you’ll realize you’ve gotten the grammar all wrong. You’ll try to take up journaling, and blogging, and then forget about it for three months (sorry readers, I’ll get better). You’ll struggle making friends and silently panic every time you sit alone, then, later, wonder if your friends really care, or if they’re merely enthralled by the fact that you come from the same land as Beyonce. You’ll question yourself: if you’re strong enough, smart enough, confident enough, reckless enough to survive another day. You’ll wonder if you’re on the right track, if there is a right track, and if you’ve really done all you can do to ensure this year is a “success,” whatever that entails. Most of all, you’ll wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea.

But then, about three seconds later, you’ll mentally slap yourself. You know you’re being stupid. You know that you’re incredibly privileged to be here, that this is the definition of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’ve never had better friends, never felt so safe and yet so challenged, never learned and seen another world through another set of eyes. You’ve never flipped through pictures on your camera roll and laughed at how little you knew. You’ve never been this happy in your entire life, and now your only remaining fear is that, once you leave… you never will be.