Friday, February 26, 2016

The journey begins...

Some of you may wonder why I didn’t write this blog last year. The answer is quite simple. Life of an exchange student was much more complicated and busy than I could ever imagine. Day by day, I was living my own American Dream. I was living every day to the fullest and often I was simply too tired to write anything. Now that I have returned home, I feel the need to share my story with the world! However, before I tell you about all the amazing places I’ve seen and about all the things I have done I have to come back in time to the last few months before leaving for the United States…
It was the beginning of May 2014. For weeks now, I have been waiting for the information about my future American school. For second time that year, I learnt that waiting patiently is not easy at all. Being connected to other ASSIST scholars through a Facebook group, I was aware that many people already knew where they were going.  Each day I was more and more nervous… The schools were being filled with students and I still didn’t know my fate… I could only imagine how I would want my school to look like. I spent many hours reading about all of the ASSIST member schools. They could send me literally anywhere! The mystery of location of your American school is one of the exciting parts of ASSIST. When you declare that you accept your scholarship, you have no idea where in the States you will be sent: East coast, West coast or the mainland; mixed or an all-girls school; day or boarding; in the city or somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  It requires to take a risk but it’s a risk worth taking and usually when you find out which school you have been placed in, your realize It is a perfect match. It was just like that with me. Before I found out, I had a strange feeling that I will be sent to an All-girls school. I was almost certain about it. I believed that my interests and things I wrote in my application were extremely girly; dancing, writing, singing in a choir, drawing… everything one would expect to be the interests of a stereotypical girl. I was almost mortified at the thought of spending a year at a school just for girls. To be honest I was praying to not be enrolled in one of those.
When the big day came, 7th may 2014. I checked my email about ten times within few hours. Every time - the same disappointment: still nothing. It was right after I finished my ballet class when the email came. I remember I was literally shaking, while I was opening it. After all, I was holding the information about my home for the following year in my hands. When I managed to calm down, I read the email. The most important part of it said,
“You have been accepted for admission into Grade 11 to The Hockaday School, a boarding school in Dallas, TX.”
It was quite a shock. I never expected to be sent to a school located in the South of the United States. Most of the member schools are located on the East Coast, more or less in the area of the original thirteen U.S. states. When I read the word “Texas” I imagined wild west, ranchers, horses, cowboys, guns and cowboy boots. Some of my friends were laughing that I will be riding a horse to get to school but as it turned out later, it was not the case at all! Surely, Texas is quite outstanding but it isn’t as wild as some people may expect it to be (at least not everywhere). I immediately googled my future school because there were no information about whether it is an all-girls school or not in the mail. When I clicked on the link to the school’s website, my heart stopped for a second. It was a school for girls. I was too excited to show any disappointment. I have to admit I was, a little bit disappointed. But only after few minutes of browsing the website I was already in love with the school! It seemed to fit my character perfectly!

me wearing my school uniform, standing in front of the Hockaday School entrance sign.

When I got on the plane to Boston in August 2014, I had no idea what to expect. I only knew I was going to spend three days at orientation and then fly to Dallas to a boarding school for girls. I was full of hope. I saw it as an amazing adventure that I’d been waiting for my whole life. Many people asked me before I left whether I was scared or nervous. My answer was always “no”.  Looking back at it, I realize how excited I was to begin my new American life. I didn’t even think of all the responsibilities and downsides of living far away from home that I could experience during those ten months. It was a dream come true and as I watched other scholars cry a bit while leaving their friends and families, I could only smile. I wanted to already be there and start my own adventure! I was about to become an independent person, to live one years without the constant protection of parents and family. I was buzzing, I waved my family one last time and I was gone.
Now I know that the small step I took to get on the plane to the United States was actually a giant leap to change my life forever. Although the time has passed, I am and I always will be an exchange student.  The people I met, the places I’ve seen, the culture I learnt, made me who I am now. If someone gave me a chance to become an ASSIST scholar one more time and told me I could decide where to go and how my year would look like, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every single day I dream I could rewind time and relive that year one more time, I know it is impossible but being a writer has its benefits – I can write about it.
I invite you to join me on a journey back in time to the highlights of my year in the USA.
Till next week,