Sunday, November 24, 2013

Exchange Lives in Us Forever

Exchange ends the day you come home, I thought at first.  You step off the plane, drive back the same highway that you used to go to the airport, arrive home, and then done.  That’s it.

However, I realized that it’s not true.  

I’m no longer in my host country, France.  But I feel the relationships that I made with my friends and host families still living inside of me.  I can vividly sense that they are right next to me, laughing and talking like I’ve never left them.  It may seem crazy, but I start laughing by myself when I look at old pictures that bring back memorable moments.  It’s been a while already, but it feels so fresh in my mind when my heart races in contentment.

The best part out of this is that I’m not sad because they’re over.  Instead, I am so gratified that they all happened from the first place.  But I would say that they’re still continuing.  The strength that people gave me and the happiness they nourished me still keeps me going.  Using this force, I know that my future will become brighter than ever.

I did say that the next time I write on my blog would be in March 2014 during my last Rotary Youth Exchange orientation.  However, I guess that isn’t true anymore.  What brought me to write another entry is that I got to see one of my best exchange friends again!!!  You would think that I went back to France, but it’s actually not that.  My family and I headed to Mazatlan to see Melissa, another exchange student who was in my host high school!

My family, Melissa, her mother and I enjoying a day at the beach ♫

Mazatlan is a gorgeous seaside city on the west coast of Mexico and I had a great family vacation there.  Unlike an ordinary trip full of touristic excursions, my family and I spent some time with Melissa’s family and other Mexican locals.  In fact, having our families meet each other strengthened our friendship even more.  I got to see her house, meet her friends, tag-along for a half-day at her high school and join some of her extracurricular activities.  She has explained her personal Mexican life to me when we were in France, but it was incredible how much more I began to understand her background.

United after 4 months!!!
(And there's me with my Spanish book...)
It felt like exchange again because for me, having absolutely no Spanish knowledge, I had trouble trying to understand what was going on around me.  But I loved that!  Because I’ve already gone through this stage in France, it felt so much easier and enjoyable this time.  Being ready to smile though you understood nothing, is truly a skill, I swear. 

Melissa's mom, grandmother and I, meeting each other for the first time
in person.  It was so funny because they were too happy to see me after
our hilarious Skype talks during exchange.
Altogether, this trip proved me that exchange lives in us forever.  And even better, the relationships that I’ve made can become even stronger, as it was established between me and Melissa.  Despite the distance between each other, we’re always friends at heart and our connection will never die.  I also remember that a Rotarian (who was a former exchange student) from the Kamp Kiwanis orientation has told me that even after decades, people from exchange will still be connected to you.  In her case, she had her host parents come to her wedding!!!

Now, now, I don’t expect my friends or host families to come to my wedding as I don’t even plan on having one yet!!  However, I am keeping in mind that we will meet again somewhere, someday, for each other.

Other than that, life back in my hometown is going very well.  I’m enjoying my last year of high school and I’ve created many new friends (as my old ones all graduated already). Also, I’m part of my Rotary Club’s Youth Committee.  I’m always keeping myself busy as usual so I know that the March orientation will come around very soon.  For now dear readers, I’ll see you by then!

Your adventurer,

Very beautiful and vibrantly coloured architecture along streets in city-centre 

Thumbs up!  Ready for the banana ride.

And if you were wondering what a banana ride is, it's simply a bouncy ride on a floater,
pulled by a speedy boat.  We ended up being bounced off,
falling into the sea, getting lots of salt water stinging in our eyes and nose...

Mazatlan is known to have one of the best sunsets in Mexico.

Melissa and I with Thomas, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from France!
Thomas knows a friend of mine from Kamp Kiwanis because they're
both from the same Rotary district in France!
Also, Thomas knows another friend from my Canadian
Rotary District who's in Tepic, a city two hours north of Mazatlan!
(Like Thomas, she is also doing her exchange this year.)
Did I also mention that Mazatlan was the host city for another student
from my Canadian Rotary district during my exchange year?

This probably makes NO sense at all, but as long as you see
how incredibly small our world is, that is good.

Participating in my first-ever pole-dancing class with Melissa.
'Twas an interesting experience.

Dinner with my family and Melissa's family
It was another unique dinner night as Melissa and I spoke in French with each other,
my family spoke in Japanese, Melissa's family spoke in Spanish,
AND we spoke in English altogether.
 Of course we ate tacos and sushi :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Following Exchange Life

Time has slipped by so quickly like holding soap in wet hands; the more your hands tighten, begging for grip, it slips out on its own.  That's what my time following exchange felt like.

It's been over a month since that big adventure and feelings of it gently stir inside of me every now and then, like waves swiftly ebbing on an ocean shore.  As I fully accepted that it's long over, my time at home has been reasonably enjoyable.  I was rather surprised of how comfortable I was being back at home, with my family, my own room and my hometown filled with friends who've never quitted our friendship.  Nothing has greatly changed except for a local flood disaster.  Everyone was happy that I came back, and I felt ready to move on.

I eagerly jumped back into my busy lifestyle as I began a summer job doing housekeeping in a mountain lodge, revising grade 11 notes to prepare myself for the coming senior year, taking driving lessons and even squeezed in some time for hang outs with friends.

My friends here at home are awesome.  When I saw them again, we all jumped and hugged and it was such a warm reunion.  They let me catch up on missed news and they also listened to some of my stories in France.  We laughed over gossip and it truly felt like I had my place back again.  Of course we all changed but we somehow overcame to accept those differences and just kept moving on our friendship together.  Honestly, I was so lucky to have these friends since it made my homecoming feel naturally complacent.  Usually so many of us exchangers come home having misfortunate confusions, disorientations and fatigue; also known as reverse culture-shock.

Some argue that students with little or no reverse culture-shock didn't have a successful year, not having to do self-readjustments to the things that were changed in themselves.  However, other students like me prove that reverse culture-shock may not happen at all even after successful exchanges.  It doesn't mean that we didn't fully adapt or appreciate our host countries; instead, a bigger factor have overpowered the irritable and hostile feelings of that shock.  In my case, it was satisfaction and appreciation.

During my exchange, I've faced problems like the host-culture, school, resources and host families.  We all have a little of it at least!  Hence, our year abroad IS about finding solutions to solve issues to continue flying like happy birds.  For knowing that I have accomplished my goals - from making friends to conveying an important opinion to another using a foreign language - I reached an extremely high level of satisfaction of my exchange.  Obviously everything doesn't turn out perfectly the way you want it to be; but to know that you tried feels good enough.

I've also realized that being separated from home opens up a different and fresh view of... home (surprisingly)!  Recognizing the things that I didn't have during my year made me clearly see my values.  I must admit that Canada is a livable and peaceful country compared to some others and we are tremendously fortunate to live here.  Acknowledging my home country made my return easy and perhaps will make me a happier Canadian!

Anyhow, having or not having reverse culture-shock is in any way, a successful exchange.  Again, there is no right or wrong.  So current or future exchange students out there: don't panic about your return!  As long as you are grateful for the people who support you AND even the challenges that push against you, the year will be a promising and fulfilling year that will help you truly mature from the lessons you will learn from.

On another note, I came back from an orientation weekend at Kamp Kiwanis, near Calgary, organized by the Rotary District 5360.  There, I had the opportunity to meet all my outbound friends again (who went on exchange like me but to different countries), fresh inbounds (new exchange students whose Canadian adventure has just begun), and members of the Rotary Youth Exchange committee.  It was an incredible occasion to see the outbounds again since the last time we met was back in April 2012.  And now, we are officially Rotexes (ex-exchangers)!  (*Fan fare*)

With my two Rotex friends who went to Germany and Venezuela

More of my Rotex friends after enjoying delicious ice-cream ♥♥
Snap-shot of an intense game of Camouflage

Evening activities organized by senior Rotexes

What I enjoyed the most about the weekend was the circle group discussion and story sharing between us Rotexes.  We've endlessly talked about our exchanges: the funny times, those regretfully awkward moments, the food (super important topic!) and even the tough situations we've struggled in.  And it all turns out that every exchange was unique and we appreciated the different experiences each of us have swam through without drowning.  Witnessing everyone's growth by looking at their transformed personalities and global knowledge was jaw-dropping; the shyest boy that I met before exchange became the most outgoing person out of the group, and the girl who was daunted from learning an Asian language became literally fluent.  (Kudos to those who are learning languages that don't use the alphabet!)  I couldn't believe how much a single year can do to us and what an impact it will leave on us for the rest of our lives.  Looking at myself, I wonder if I have changed a lot too.

Friendly mix of Rotexes and inbounds
Now looking at the inbound students, I can only stretch the corners of my mouth into a huge smile because I know what an amazing year they'll go through.  I know this because I was there too.  I know what it feels like to be plopped in an alien-like setting and to be speechless because you're either shocked or awed - but also 'cause you don't have the ability to even talk from the first place!  I know that gratifying feeling after someone says, Ton français a beaucoup progressé!  (Your French has improved a lot!)  And most importantly, I know what it feels like when you have someone to support you.  A caring friend who simply asks how you're doing can really lift all the heavy burden off your back.  Whereas I've gone through all of that, I want to be like that person who helped me out when I was needing it, because I know how much it'll mean to those who I'll help.  

Massage train!! (Recovering from the day-long activities)
And speaking of giving back for what they gave me, I know that I need to owe so much to my home Rotary Club in Canmore.  There are so many people I could thank in thousands of paragraphs, but I need to give a big acknowledgement to Janet, my outbound counsellor of that club.   She has helped me in so many ways that I can't explain just using words.  When things got really out of hand, it was her who stepped up and gave me a lift, even though she was practically standing at the other corner of the planet.  She showed me her care for my well-being and I was so grateful for having her as my back-up.

So to thank the many like her, I decided that I want to give them my thanks by keeping myself involved with Rotary.  It is a perfect opportunity to do so because Rotary needs more youth engagement and I think that I would be a good candidate to promote that.  Therefore, Amelia and I who are both going to high school next year are going to launch an Interact Club: Rotary International’s service club for youths aged 12 to 18, advocating community service with assistance and sponsorship from the Rotary Club of Canmore.  This way, I hope I'm giving back to Rotary for what they've given to me.

Representing my home club: The Rotary Club of Canmore
(Left to right): Me, Amelia (who went to Japan), a Rotarian and Pablo (this year's inbound student from Spain!)

To those beloved readers out there, especially to those who've read from the introduction: you must be thinking, When is she gonna write "The End"??  I mean, yeah, my exchange is definitely over and I can't write more about my travels in France and all-about.  (Sorry, that means no more photos of French cuisine and me jumping in front of the Eiffel Tour.)  However, the after-exchange life is an equally important part to the exchange year itself since we all keep changing.  Especially that we now turn into adults, necessary choices have to be made.  Besides, who said that there's an end to adventure?  Folks, my adventure keeps going on!  I will lay this blog to rest for a while (assuming no one wants to hear my sufferings of senior year) and I will call you out again in March 2014 when I will meet the Rotexes and inbounds again, plus the new outbounds. 

Just like you would have probably guessed: 

Still adventuring,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Back Where It All Began

Usually, the trip going home from a fully-packed, foreign experience would be the time to admire photos, re-read journal entries (for the billionth time), and to laugh but bawl a thunderstorm of tears, obviously scaring the passenger next to you in the airplane...  It would be a nebulous explosion of realizing what a year you've lived.  It would force your hard-working brain to permanently store precious memories and to feel the triumphs that bury your regrets. 

Though this chunk of exchange is known to be the most emotional part for anybody, my return to Canada was definitely not like how it was explained above - though experiencing it would have been intriguing, I'm sure.

I safely arrived home over a week ago and everything was great except for an utterly, horrible stomach ache.  Therefore I spent a lovely an unpleasant time on my 12-hour plane ride coming home, reflecting not about my year in France, not my host families and friends... but unhelpfully, my poor stomach.  Nothing else.  Instead of scaring the man next to me with a thunderstorm of tears, he most likely thought that I had constipation as I was always up and moving around...

Of course exchange isn't perfect till the end, eh?

When I arrived at my last airport (thankfully with a better-feeling stomach), it felt like my whole exchange was nothing but a dream; like it never existed.  The moment I said good-bye to my family back in August rushed to my mind instantly in a flick.  The raw feelings of this flashback felt implausibly fresh; I couldn't believe it happened 10 months ago.  I seriously convinced myself that I left Canada that day before.  However, I stopped my mind from spinning in confusion by reminding myself what I was wearing:  My Canadian red Rotary blazer.  But instead, much heavier.

Collecting and attaching objects onto our country-colour-coded blazers is a Rotary Youth Exchange tradition.  Swarmed by homemade button-pins, mini-flags, city badges, bottle caps and random objects (like a spoon from my school cafeteria), they each symbolize an anecdote of my time in France.  Before leaving Canada, my blazer was naked so having it heavier this time proved that my exchange was no dream.

For us, the exchange students, one year is a long time away from home yet it goes by as quick as a snap, making exchange a very unique experience.  It's a certain period of our lives where we learn some of life's biggest lessons... all condensed in one year!  Without having our parents and friends to give us counsel, it only leaves us to make our own decisions.  Along the way, we learn how to make connections with new people despite the language barrier and cultural differences.  Those people whom we meet become our friends, and it's them who open doors for us and contribute to shape our vision of their society.  The longer the time we spend together, the more attached we become.  Therefore, our one year transforms into one life like a Rotarian once told me, "Exchange is not one year in a life.  It's a life in one year."

This kind of experience doesn't only apply to exchange students however; in a way, it is similarily experienced by many others too.  At least with travelling, being forced to step out of our comfort zone and to make first-hand discoveries, there is always growth.  Growing doesn't mean getting taller; it also defines the expansion of our knowledge, fed by the influences that touched us most.  It's when there's many of those influences around us at once that make us feel like we're living a completely different life.  And that my readers, is probably the most effective yet sophisticated process of truly understanding how to appreciate the world more.  With this appreciation, there's world peace thus living on this small planet becomes much, much more easier for all.

I'm extremely fortunate to have experienced a year abroad as it has showed me many things and changed how I see the world now.  You see, it's not possible to explain only in words how much exchange has impacted me.  Withal, it's better than nothing so that's why this blog exists from the first place; it's a chance for you to glimpse into a year of a certain exchange student... it's not the same and it will not be the same as other exchanges, but it leads you as a rough guideline of understanding what adventures exchange allows you to encounter.

I also began blogging because I wanted to send my deepest thanks to the Rotary for their organization and effort into this program; without them, I would have never had the opportunity to see so much.  Next, thank you to my family, friends, teachers and co-workers who supported me in keeping my spirits high.  You were all my back-bone that unceasingly encouraged me to keep having fun and observed my growth.  And last but definitely not the least, to you readers out there around the world.  Thank you.  Getting hundreds and hundreds of page views not only made me feel happy but motivated to keep sharing my experiences with you.  I certainly hope you will all keep following my blog as my adventure is not ending quite yet.  (I still have a weekend with the returning inbounds at the end of August and a big orientation weekend next March 2014 to share my experiences with future exchange students.)

Still adventuring,

ps: The photos of days that I spent before leaving
Farm Life with my Last Host Family

Eating loads of cherries right off of the tree

Helping my host family to make haystacks which required us to
follow a strict procedure and LOTS of physical labour...

According to what I learned with this host family, making haystacks (or at least good quality ones) is probably one of the most difficult tasks to do on a farm.  Imagine growing a field of grass with care during your entire spring and early summer and determining four sunny days that you will cut, dry, collect and store those dry, healthy grass.  Just deciding when to do it is the tough part; farmers have to be careful because there can't be any rain or moistness when those four-day work is followed out since water can rot the hay.  If it starts raining on any of those days, the entire project is busted and therefore becomes a big problem as the hay is important to feed their animals for next year. 

As my host father was a vigorously active man, he did the cutting, drying and collecting the first three days.  The rest of the family and I helped him do the storing which was exhausting travail.  We began hauling heavy cubes of hay onto the wagon which were driven to a roofed storage house which again we hauled off of and stacked three metres high.  Our hands were well scathed by the stiff-dry cubes and sweat trickled down forehead to jawline.  Unfortunately, our job became hastier as rain began sprinkling down.  At least with everyone's hands at work, the entire job was done in a few hours.

Golfing at Roanne, a city next to Lyon, with my friends

Striking a pose with our putters... a must-do when golfing?

Wandering at Parc de la tête d'or (Park of the Golden Head) in Lyon

My farewell party with 20 friends over! 
We played group games, roasted sausages, marshmallows and burned one's math homework... jumped on a trampoline, ate again at 3am and slept outside in tents!!

It was my chance to say thank you to my friends for the incredible year
as we enjoyed a party of a lifetime

In a long line-up with two host sisters towards JapanExpo,
an exposition of Japanese culture at Paris!!

Presentations about Japanese culture

A performance showcasing taiko drumming,
using traditional Japanese drums

A takoyaki stand where we ate lunch
(Takoyaki is a ball-shaped pancake snack that has a piece of diced octopus inside)
It is a famous snack in Osaka

Many visitors doing cosplay, short for costume-play,
of Japanese characters especially from manga

T'was a enjoyable last week in France. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Leaving Louhans was not a horrible and emotional experience as I have imagined in my dreams.  (I dreamt about my good-byes since the beginning of my exchange, and yes, it’s considered as a nightmare for an exchange student.)  Instead parting from the village with tears and uncountable tissue packs, it felt good to conclude at this moment of my year because I felt proud of myself for how much I’ve integrated into this French life and how much I enjoyed it, simply. 
For me, this place was not longer a remote, middle-aged Burgundian village; it was also where I considered as my home, made countless numbers of friends, connections with families and learned about their language and culture.  It was where I’ve done my firsts and lasts.  It was also a place where I made mistakes, had problems yet rebounded in full spirit.  Altogether, it was a place where it allowed me to venture on one of the biggest journeys of my life.   I’m saying that it’s “one of the biggest” because I know that adventuring is a hobby that I can never stop.  It has always been my passion to travel and discover new things, people and ideas so I know that there will be more journeys to come in my future.
I smiled when I left Louhans as I told myself that time’s up and I need to wrap up my year abroad.  It has been an incredibly fun experience but I feel prepared to head back to my Canadian home to share to my family, my friends and the Rotary about it.  Ready to shift back into my normal lifestyle.  Ready to say I did it.
This is finally it.  July 7th, the day I take my plane back to Canada is now within hours.   I have already left my host-village Louhans yesterday as my host mom, older host sister and I went to Grenoble, a city located below Geneva and Lyon, near the Italian frontier. 
Grenoble is surrounded three sides by 2000m to 3000m mountains despite the altitude of the city itself is 200m from sea level.  It is the most southern city in France I’ve visited during my year.  There, my host sister will do her first-year at a university from September so she and my host mom looked for an apartment which she’ll move in soon.  (In France, most public universities only allow less wealthy students to live in their campus unlike my host sister who needs to find her own lodgement.)  Therefore during their search, I was lucky to visit the city with her grandparents who lived nearby.

Gondola we took up to the Bastille, a medieval fortress

At the top with a panoramic view of Grenoble

Downtown of Grenoble

Ate my last lunch at a chic café where I ordered one of the city’s specialties, Ravioles au bleu de Sassenage (Raviolis with SUPER delicious blue cheese) and Diablo violet (tonic water with ‘violet’ syrup) which tasted like the drink Shirley temple but carbonated and without juice.  SO GOOD


At dusk, we strolled in a village near the city and the sky was so beautiful
My last day was a great conclusion of my stay in France and I wish to come visit this country again but with my family next time.  Nothing about my exchange could have been better thanks to everyone who’ve helped me along.
Anyways I better get going because you know, I’M COMIN HOME CANADA !!!
ps: I will update what I did since the last day of lycée when I arrive home!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's just about summer time

Today, the weather is over thirty degrees Celsius, the flowers are blooming and trees are spanning their healthy, green leaves towards the blazing sun.  A variety of birds are singing, occasional cries of roosters echo across the large, lively garden and a gentle breeze of wind carries the thick and humid summer air.

Despite this beautiful setting, here I am, in front of my laptop, dumbfounded, not knowing what to write on this blog post.  I'm stuck trying to express my mingled feelings of half wanting to stay here in France and half wanting to go home to Canada.

It doesn't mean things are going bad here; don't get me wrong!  Actually my exchange life has been incredibly exceptional as you can probably tell from my previous posts.  My time at lycée just ended a few days ago, resulting a wonderful conclusion of my academic year.  My teachers and classmates are so proud of how my French grew.

That last day of lycée, a personal reward that I've been vigorously aiming since the first day was finally reached: to become a real French student.  I didn't want to be an ordinary exchange student who would be isolated from the regular students.  I knew that the separation would largely reduce the learning potential of an authentic French student life.  I told myself that no matter what homework are thrown at me, I would at least try to do them while spending as much time with my host families and new friends.

Basically it was me who chose my own exchange to be a difficult journey.  There are no easy exchanges that exist anyways but I raised my own difficulty bar much higher.  At least under this French mentality that states that those who work must succeed, I had no other option than just to convince people that I can do it.

To truly participate in my French classes meant taking the national BAC (baccalauréat) exams at the end of the year (so like final diplomas).  And that, my readers, takes A LOTTA might and power for any student.  Me as an exchange student, I had another disadvantage (and a big, obvious one): basic language comprehension.  Dang.  This meant that I had to do twice the effort: to learn and understand the French texts taught over the year (like the regular students) AND learn the basic grammar.  No way in 10 months I'd grasp both very well.

Oh well, I told myself so I plunged completely blind into this death sentence ultimate mission.  Let me tell you, it was not easy at all.  The two acts of convincing people in the foreign language and succeeding to learn using that language were equally, and devastatingly, challenging.

Convincing consisted of me, begging my French professeur to get me applied for the BAC exams.  Though she didn't have the right to prevent me from doing it, she seriously discouraged me.  She told me that it's too difficult for even the French students and that I should rather work on basic grammar exercises at the back of the class with the other exchange students.  Even all my classmates said it would be a better decision.

You should know me well by now:  Without a glitch of hesitation, I said no to her and asked my first host mom (the current one at that time) to sign me up anyways.  No way I was gonna spend my year isolated, working alone on French conjugations!

After it became official, however, I became worried and stressed; not as seriously like last year in Canadian grade 11 since the grades actually counted... but enough to say that my year abroad was definitely packed with things to be learnt - if not, with a lot of difficulty.  I swear I have spent all my classes till January without understanding what the teachers and classmates were saying to me.  (Even more, I didn't realize that the short paragraphs we studied in September were not just random phrases but instead poems composed by famous French writers until a few months ago.  It was just THAT bad.)

But I am nowhere near of being regretful for choosing this pathway.  Like my father taught me, the challenges we put ourselves up to will make us stronger and ready to face even more demanding situations in the future.  I can see clearly now what he meant by that.  No matter how life can chuck us into scenarios that seem too hard and worthless to solve, we must always take it as a stage of growth and be cherished to have that opportunity to do so.

Anyways, like the other students, I behaved well in class and copied everything what my professeur wrote down on the board, in spite that I understood nothing and ended up with swollen fingers.  I reasoned that I'd understand these notes (hopefully) when I read them again at the end of the year.  And indeed I was right.  Even in December, I finally comprehended them (except for some odd words and entire paragraphs that were rubbish 'cause I assume that I didn't understand the professeur's untidy calligraphy.  Most of them write messy after all.  For example, they write their letter 'p' without the circle... so like an 'l' but placed lower, if you get what I mean).

As my classmates witnessed my dedication to lycée, they began to help me in many ways - even some students assisted me from the instant I told them that I applied to the BAC.  Like I mentioned earlier in my other posts, they've given me enormous courage throughout the entire year and I thank them so much for that.  On the other hand, I rarely got any praises from my French professeur until I did my first BAC Blanc exam (practice BAC tests) in January when I scored 9.5/20 which is extraordinarily good, considering where I started from.  After that, life at lycée was a lot easier.

So the last day of lycée swung by a few days ago, and wow.  How much I've grown.  After months and months of it, I feel like I've received my long-term reward of being a true French student.  Finally.  Every comrade and professeur congratulated me and my two other exchange friends who've also improved their French.  My French professeur even gave us a good-bye bisous (French cheek kiss) which NEVER happens between a prof and a student because it's such a personal custom!

All I was able to do on that last day was to just smile.  Smile really wide.  It wasn't sad at all.  It was an extremely gratifying day when I knew that I achieved the biggest goal of my exchange.  That day was pure satisfaction and I know that I can head home to Canada feeling fulfilled.  Although my BAC exams are this week and July 1st (I know, going to school in July is a horror), it doesn't matter if I succeed them because I know that I've tried my best and I gained the respect that I am just like the others.

Weirdly, the last day of lycée was a déjà vu of my first day.  It strikes me how the first students I've met are the exact same students I spent together for the last time there.

This is SO strange but in fact, the two boys who were in my first lycée day photo wore their EXACT SAME sweater on that last day.   Even more, we took these two photos in the EXACT SAME place without on purpose.  I mean... is this POSSIBLE?!!

June 2013

September 2012
I didn't realize this until later when I glanced at some early exchange photos on my laptop, and oh my, how much I laughed.  Such gentlemen they became and how much I grew.  Of course it's visible how exchange students grow during their year abroad but in my case, every one of my friends grew up too.  They told me that it was thanks to us, the three exchange students (Canadian, Mexican and German) that they've got a look at different cultures and learned something from our stories we shared.  Exchange students are proud ambassadors after all.

Au revoir, ma vie au lycée.
Tu vas me manquer beaucoup mais je n'oublierai jamais les souvenirs que tu m'as donnée.

Good-bye, my lycée life.
I will miss you a lot but I will never forget the memories that you gave me.
By any means, I should get back to why right now, I have such mixed feelings though I'm surrounded in French summer paradise.  Again, I'm sitting in front of my laptop, more dumbfounded than ever, staring at this unpublished post.  What on earth am I doing?

It's just a weird time of exchange.  Mentioning that I'm leaving in a few weeks, I feel good to head home, but at the same time I want to keep living this accomplishment that I've earned.   However, I CAN'T wait to see my family, my friends and my country (oh the mountains)!  By all means, I don't have a choice but to put my exchange to an end so I'm sticking to being optimistic for the return home... yet I could endlessly come up with reasons why leaving my host country is going to be a sad journey.

You see, there is no right or wrong, up or down, left or right, and yes or no.  It's both.  This is what the end of exchange feels like.  Being stuck.  That's where I am, struggling between two different lives, which are both astonishing.

Nevertheless, don't grieve my dear readers.  I didn't mean to post this to make you feel worried or to scare the future exchange students!  It's just an honest post that explains a passage during a year abroad that many experience.  On the bright side, I have unbelievably accomplished my biggest goal and I have days ahead to profit the heaven of exchange life.

I'm gonna go out to enjoy the sun while it lasts (^^)/
A bientôt,