I’ve wanted to be an exchange student my whole high school life. I read about summer programs in a brochure from IFS. Having friends from another country would be the coolest thing in the world. I would be on my own, have my own Indiana Jones adventure. At the end of my senior year I was applying to IFS. I had meetings in the weekends about rules, how to survive, homesickness, etc.
I was placed with the greatest host family in the whole world. They treated me like their own. I had a host mom, a host dad, a brother and sister. Ben would always be sweet and give me hugs and kisses. I loved every minute of it because I never had a younger brother before. Through e-mails we established that I was going to call them Mom and Dad. I felt super loved. They hugged me when I needed to be hugged, let me stay out late at night with my friends, and even let me have parties in the basement.
I went to an American co-ed public high school and that was a big adjustment coming from an all-girl private Catholic school. I have never met so many kinds of people in just one place. I was scared during the first day of school. I didn’t know anyone, I got lost since the school was huge. But pretty soon I started to get comfortable. It was funny how people always got surprised by how good I was at speaking in English. They were like, “Wow, you even speak better English than me”. I had the chance to take fun classes like Spanish, photography, and art so I met people with similar interests as me and got to go to field trips. My favourite was going to Chicago. I was giving a talk about the Philippines for the school’s Global Awareness Week.
I made a lot of friends and met so many people. Friends took me out to movies, hockey games, restaurants, road trips, rock shows and concerts. I got to do my first American prank, which was writing on boys cars with lipstick. Everyone was warm, open. I never really got homesick because I had friends who made sure I was okay. They were all always there for me and helping me. I will forever remember all the fun times I had with them.
Every month, I met with other exchange students in our area. I made friends with people from Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, England, Hungary, etc. It was fun when we were together because we saw how language, skin color or height didn’t matter. We were all the same. We talked about the differences at home, school, and out countries. I learned so many things about other cultures.
Being away for 10 months and living alone in a completely different world has taught me a lot of things. I now can say that I am independent, appreciate -my family and friends here more, open to new ideas, and more confident about myself. Having my own adventure has proven to me that anything is possible and that I can do anything.