Why do I want to be an exchange student? Why do I want to leave the comfort of my home in America to serve abroad in a new and unfamiliar place? Why would I want to skip Junior year, one of the best years of high school, to be an exchange student? Why would I want to leave everything I know and love?
To be truthful I really don't know. It's not like I've wanted to do this forever or even since I was much younger. In fact, my mom thought I would never end up leaving her, especially during Middle School when I spent most nights sleeping on my parents floor. Maybe the best thing to say is I woke up one morning and said, "Hey I think I'll be an exchange student."
But no, that's not right either.
Back in middle school, the best thing that could ever happen to me was travel. I traveled with the People to People Student Ambassadors to California for 2 weeks in 2002. I'm still surprised that my mother actually let me do it. I was pretty messed up back then and sending me away for two weeks without her was a huge risk. But it paid off in the end I came to the realization that there is life outside of my town and my state. And you know what -- I caught the travel bug. That trip ultimately made me who I am -- a traveler and a citizen of the world, riddled with a bad case of wanderlust.
|New friends in Australia.|
Then in 2004 I got lucky again and my parents agreed to send me to Australia with People to People- provided that I pay for half. And I was more than happy to pay for it. I was traveling again! The trip was even better than California. And this time I realized that there is so much more than my town, my state, and now my country. I really had the best time of my life and not a day goes by when I don't think about this trip. From snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, to falling asleep under the stars in the Outback, and feeling high class while touring the Sydney harbor. Life couldn't get much better.
So back to the original question.
Beginning of freshman year, I got another People to People letter and realized that I didn't want to go on an another 3 week trip. I was ready for bigger and better things. I remembered my Mom talking about a friend of hers from high school that went to Sweden as an exchange student. I mentioned it to my mom and she sounded pretty supporting of the idea. But it was just an idea -- not an actual plan. Plus I honestly didn't believe I could handle being away from America for a year. Nevertheless, I looked into some programs, but didn't pursue anything.
And then came International Weekend.
A bunch of Rotary Youth Exchange Students came to our school to hang out and it was really great! We hosted a French exchange student and I really got along great with her. When she left I ran down to the computer and filled out an initial interest form. It had begun.
So why do I want to be an exchange student? Again, I don't really know. I guess it's just that I love to travel and I wanna see everything in the world. But it's more than that. Much more.
Now for the story about how I really got Japan...
Okay so there is a story behind how, the whitest most-non Asian little American, ended up with Japan. After I contacted the local Rotary club and told them I wanted Belgium. They told me to wait 6 months. So in July I got tired of waiting and looked in to AFS, but decided Rotary was still a better for me. Anyway I still had the idea to go to Belgium when I stumbled across a web site that told me I couldn't go to Belgium because I was too young. So I spent the entire months of July/ August/ September/ October contemplating where I should go and then I settled on Austria. I have always wanted to learn German and skiing the Alps is a total turn on. But even then I really wasn't sure if that was the right place for me and I left open the option for other places.
In November, I had settled on somewhere in Europe. Europe seemed nice and safe and perfect for me. My parents thought France would be interesting, however I'm too conservative to go to a place like France. Then I realized maybe Europe wasn't the place for me. At the interview I walked in with my head held high and still no decision made. When the lady handed me a country sheet it took me a few minutes to realize that I had to put something down. So I wrote down Austria as first choice. South Africa as second choice.
And Japan as third choice.
My theory behind this arrangement was wherever I was going it would be different from the other choices. Plus I just wanted to be an exchange student I didn't care where I was going. My Youth Exchange Officer told me Austria was a no- no and South Africa was definitely going to be it. Okay so I was going to Africa... awesome. In January, still thinking I was going to Africa, my former exchange student Ale from Argentina came up to me and said "If you promise not to tell I'll tell you where you are going" So I said sure and she said Japan. So that's the look boring story about how I Julie got Japan.
And you know what I wouldn't change it for the world.