“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
— Miriam Adeney (via awelltraveledwoman)

(via booksoulbeauty)

Q

sendcassietospain asked:

Were your parents on board to let you go on an exchange from the very beginning or did it take some convincing? Do you think anyone could be an exchange student? Or does it take a certain type of person to handle all the culture shock? In your opinion, is a one month exchange too short to get something out of it?

A

Oh wow. Good questions.

My parents were very supportive, but because they trusted me and knew I had motivation other than just “skipping” a year of high school or wanting to escape my hometown.

I’ve thought about this myself, and although I think it’s important for everyone to step out of their comforts zones (whether that be by traveling or not), exchange is not something to take lightly. Anyone could be an exchange student, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’d profit from or enjoy it that much. Some people are just homebodys. I think it’s just important to think it through and make sure it’s something you really want to do.

Definitely not. Exchange is what you make of it. If you get out there, talk, make connections, and absorb as much culture as you can it’ll be a fantastic trip.

I read your blog and it sounds like you are a very motivated person with some great reasons for wanting to be an exchange student. I really hope you get to Spain - I’ll be rooting for you!!

Q

hailieghbugg asked:

Omg I thought I was the only one who spent my summer away looking under student exchange tags :P

A

Ahah not at allll, last summer I checked them at least twice a day :)

Q

bulaniskandar asked:

Hey! Do you mind if I asked you what exchange program you were in? I'm going to France next year (2014-2015) as an exchange student either. How do you feel when the first time you go there. The languages, the cultures, etc. How was your host family(ies)? Can you share the WHOLE story to me or just post EVERYTHING in your blog? Thanks before ^^

A

Well if you read my whole blog that’s basically everything. It’s hard to summarize the 10 most interesting months of my life in a few sentences :) I went with ASSE. When you first get there you feel like everything is different, and I mean EVERYTHING. Brace yourself. My host family was great. The new language was hard, but as long as you practice as much as possible you should be fine. Living in a new culture is not better or worse than home, just really different. But as long as you stay true to yourself and be nice to people everything will be awesome. I hope this helped and that you have an amazing year!

For all you future exchange students wasting away your summers on the exchange student tag, I just got back from France and would love to answer any questions you have!

Q

Anonymous asked:

Do you know any other French exchange blogs? :)

A

Well she has probably my favorite exchange blog, and I knew him in France. You can also look at all these and check the exchange student tag on tumblr.

Hope this helped! I’ve been meaning to make a page of good exchange blogs.

The End

                   ”You can never go home again, but you the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.”   Maya Angelou

I’m writing this from the couch in the house I grew up in. In Maine. In the United States. My mom just walked past to get more coffee. My dad has left for work. My brother is still sleeping. He turns 14 today. Yesterday I had mac n cheese and played Apples to Apples with him and my best friends.

On Friday night I had a party with my friends. Whoopie pies, tacos, a walk to the beach, talking, talking, talking, karaoke, and horror movies at 3 am. It was good times. Some couldn’t come because they’re studying for the Bac (I no longer complain about the SATs), but we were: Justine, Elise, Anaïs, Mona, Lucie, Moorgane, Julie, Jeanne, Kanchan, and me.

Goodbyes weren’t too sad, because we have Facebook and Skype and everything, and that we’ll visit each other.

I spent the weekend absorbing the future and packing and spending time with Abigael.

Sunday night was my last night in Guisseny. We had friends over, which I though would bother me, but it ended up being really fun. I think without them the evening would have been a lot more somber. We ate delicious things cooked by Xavier and talked and sang karaoke.

On Monday morning I got up early to say goodbye to Xavier. Then made pancakes with sprinkles. At 10:30 we dragged my suitcases outside and, with some effort, got them into the car. After confirmations that I did indeed have everything, the 40 minute drive to Brest got pretty quiet, with Patricia, Abigael, and me all deep in our own thoughts.

Then we got to the train station and stamped my ticket and it was time to say goodbye. And it was just as hard as it was in August with my real family. Hugs and tears. Watching Abigael sobbing on the platform just about broke my heart. Then the train started crawling forward and they disappeared from view. I sat down and turned towards the window and tried to cry as quietly as possible.

Anyways. I changed trains at Rennes, which was not as simple as it sounds. Basically I learned a lesson the hard way: travel light, travel small, and have good suitcases. Just trust me on this one. Monday was not pretty. (Although now I have some excellent stories.)

But by some miracle I made it to Paris with everything intact, sweaty and exhausted as I was. Eventually all 7 of us staying in Paris that night got together and off we went to the hotel, led by a PIE rep. Of course we got off at the wrong shuttle stop, but we FINALLY made it to the hotel, got our rooms, and ate dinner. After clearing out some excess weight and securing my then broken suitcase with medical tape as well as I could, I got to lay down and sleep.

We woke up at 6, had a quick breakfast, and took another shuttle ride to the airport. I got my suitcase heavy duty saran wrapped (a huge relief) and checked my bags. People spoke English to me. We waited. We boarded. We took off. I said goodbye and thank you to France.

The flight was long. I always forget how loud airplanes are. But they gave us a lot to eat. Sometimes all you need is some super cheesy airplane pasta to make you feel better.

And the captain announced that we would be landing in New York shortly. We should put our trays in the upright position, buckle our seat belts, and store any bags under the seat in front of us. It was partly cloudy in New York, with temperatures in the upper 60’s. This was about the point where I started silently freaking out. Forget butterflies, I had giant hummingbirds in my stomach and a huge smile and when the ground came into view I couldn’t stop staring, taking in all the cars and buildings and neighborhoods in neat little lines. I’ll have to admit when we touched down I teared up a bit. Finally, after 10 months, I was in my home country.

Then the seat belt signal turned off and I jumped out of my seat. There was no more waiting, no more trains or planes. The amount of time in which I’d see my family and friends depended entirely on me.

Passport control.

Baggage claim.

Customs.

A doorway.

People.

And suddenly, my brother, running towards me. Behind him were my parents and two best friends and Sofia, our Norwegian exchange student. I stopped where I was and quite literally burst out crying. Dropped my bags and opened my arms.

Seeing them again and the following 15 minutes was by far the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. It was like a dream. I couldn’t stop watching them. These people who I had known through computers and paper for 10 months were real again, living and breathing and 3D.

And being home is also really weird. At the same time, it doesn’t feel real and it feels like I never left. Everything is the same but different. New parking lots. Trees cut down. Restaurants opening where car garages were. Kitty still doesn’t like cuddling. My high school that’s under construction looks so different. My dog’s mostly deaf. Lots of English. Talking is normal but there are particular words I have trouble remembering. I’ve realized I’m terrible at translating things from French to English. My brother still leaves his dishes on the table and is weird in general. My parents are my parents. Everyone keeps smiling at me and hugging me and poking me to make sure I’m real.

It’s good to be home.

Isabella

How Have I Still Not Seen Les Misérables

I have less than 5 weeks left in France. This fact has left me feeling even more emotionally confused than I felt when I left in August. That time, I was leaving home for a place that was completely unfamiliar to me. I had no idea what to expect and was completely lost for a couple of weeks, but that was normal. In June I’ll be leaving this place I’ve come to call home and walking back into a life I’ve been essentially absent from for 10 months. The problem is that not only have I changed, but everything back home has changed too, so I’ll have to re-learn the way of life I grew up in. Does that make sense? It’s really hard to explain, and I think it’s something only other exchange students can really get. But I’ve heard this analogy for exchange students: home country life is like looking through a blue lens, host country life is like looking through a yellow lens, and you see everything through a green lens.

Despite all these feelings, I still can’t really believe I’m leaving so soon. It’s still this far-off event that isn’t actually going to happen, like the dream vacation everyone plans for but never actually goes on.

Anyways. Today I went on a bike ride and saw a lot of horses and a dude paragliding. I’m going to miss country life. Here’s a list of things that are incredibly convenient to know in French. Sorry for all the parentheses.

- bref = literally brief, but used like anyways

- truc = thing

- miette = crumb

- pain de mie = sliced bread (any bakery bread is just pain)

- canapé = couch

- une soirée = a party

- feuille = lined piece of paper

- bic = ballpoint pen

- crayon gris = pencil

- correspondant(e) (etrangèr(e))= (foreign) exchange student

- le monde entier = the whole world

- tout le monde = everyone

- personnage = character

- charactère = caricature

- dehors/dedans = inside/outside

- en haut/en bas = upstairs/downstairs

- série = TV series like Glee, The Office, The Vampire Diaries, etc.

- émission = reality show like The Amazing Race, Ellen, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, etc.

- virgule (which is very hard to say and kind of sounds like ver-geuihy) = comma

- haie = hedge

- Doliprane or ibubrofène = pain relief medicine

- gouter = snacktime and to taste - Je peux gouter? = Can I try (a food)?

 

- t’inquiète pas or t’inquiète = don’t worry

- laisse-moi (tranquille) = leave me alone

- n’importe quoi = anything/ridiculous/bullshit

- j’en ai besoin = I need

- je m’en fiche (more polite) or je m’en fou = I don’t care

- tant pis = it doesn’t matter/oh well

- il/elle marche pas = it doesn’t work

- j’ai envie/j’ai pas envie = I feel like it/I don’t feel like it

- ça fait chier = that sucks

- je savais pas = I didn’t know

- il faut = must (il faut que tu = you must)

 

- when greeting an older person you don’t know very well, say “Bonjour Madame” or “Bonjour Monsieur”

- Père Noël is not the same thing as St. Nicholas

- especially if you have younger host siblings, look up holiday stories and traditions so you don’t accidentally burst anyone’s childhood bubble

- In France every day is assigned to a certain saint. French people have saint names and not middle names, and when someone says it’s their fête they mean it’s the day of the saint they’re named after.

- learn fork, spoon, knife, plate, and glass before you go because somehow I didn’t know those and it was embarassing when my host family quizzed me

- there are certain times in English when you can but don’t have to use the word “that”, like in the sentence “The house (that) Jack built.” In French, que = that and you always have to use it (side note: in English, add unnecessary thats in essays to make them longer)

- learn body parts and how to explain when you’re sick or hurt; you’ll be glad you did

- don’t say salut to teachers, and use vous with them

- get friendly with the people in your class; you’ll be spending a lot of time with them

- try not to go overboard on unhealthy foods in the beginning; you have all year to try stuff

- always lock bathroom doors

- talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk

 

I have a lot planned for the next month. History, Art, English, and Science tests, packing, a marriage, a grocery store shopping spree, packing, taking photos of EVERYTHING, more packing, and hopefully a trip to the movies to see The Great Gatsby.

 

Until next time,

 

Isabella

What to Live For

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It’s impossible to put into words how incredible my week in Cap d’Ail was, but I’ll do my best.

The group of 46 exchange students I was with during that week are some of the best people I’ve ever had the chance to meet. I got to know some people better in 6 days than others I’ve known my whole life. By the end of the week we were, without a doubt, a true family. It was amazing to watch friendships form between people who ordinarily would never know each other. And because of our progress in French, we could all get to know each other better. A bunch of kids who in August had mostly stuck with people who could speak their own language all of a sudden became one huge wonderful mix of multi-cultural awesomeness.

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Being set loose in cities like Cannes, Antibes, Monaco, Nice, and in classic French villages swarmed by British tourists. An olive oil mill and a perfume factory. Swimming in the Mediterranean. Gelato every day. Eating mussels and french fries while admiring the Côte d’Azur. Climbing up ridiculous amounts of stairs. Forgetting Brian in Nice (we found him eventually). Making a Harlem Shake on the bus. Avoiding horny Italians in the wee hours of the morning. Cheering on very enthusiastic participants of a cross-dressing fashion show. Dancing with Spaniards (they really know how to party). Making new international friends at one in the morning. Having hours-long conversations in the moonlight. Everyone crying and hugging on the bus as we headed to the train station on Friday, not knowing when we’ll all be together again. These are the moments I’ll remember and keep close to my heart. Times and people like these are what we live for.

If there was ever a time to quote Macklemore, this would be it. And we danced, and we cried, and laughed, and had a really really really good time.

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There isn’t really much more to say. It was perfection, and that’s that.

So thank you, everyone. You know what for.

xo Isabella

I just had the most amazing week of my life, with the most amazing people ever. Official post and photos to come.

Normandy

On April 8th and 9th I went to Normandy on a school trip. We were learning about WWII. It’s actually really interesting, and the cool thing is that the war actually took place in France. Back home the coast is crawling with forts and tunnels, but they were never used. It’s crazy to think that France was once occupied by the Germans, and that the Allies bombed France to drive the Germans out.

I learned a lot (including some new horrifying facts about the Holocaust. It’s shocking what people are capable of doing to each other. That is one thing I will never understand.). I also heard some Americans since we visited some pretty famous sites. But more on that later… We went to the Caen Memorial and Museum, Pegasus Bridge, Arromanches, Longues-sur-mer, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery. Historyyy.

And now a bit on the re-introduction of English into my life. So going on that trip and hearing English was a super strange experience. For the past 8 months, the only real English I’ve overheard or spoken in person (not including classes or Skype/phone calls) has been with two other Australian exchange students and a British woman I met at the beach. That’s literally it. And after listening to random French chatter for that long, when you hear English your’re like WOAH WHAT. Kind of like if you’re in a room full of talking people and you’re not really listening to anyone, but when someone says your name you immediately hear it. Also, there were some 8th grade British girls at school for a couple of days. They’d usually go on day trips but on the last day I finally caught up to them and I spoke real, face-to-face English for the first time since January. Now THAT is weird. It was so bizarre to just speak without thinking, and not have to worry about grammar or vocabulary or verb conjugation. I also realized I was speaking clearly and slowly. So Mom and Dad, you don’t have to worry about me mumbling anymore :) And even though they were British, I could not have cared less about the whole accent thing. Right now, English is English.

Tomorrow is April/May vacation and I’m going places. First to the Côte d’Azur and then to Paris. I love France.

I’ve been sending good thoughts to the United States, because April has been a terrible month over there, both in the lives of people I know and the country in general. People are mean, awful accidents happen, and cancer sucks. Hang in there, everybody. This too shall pass.

Good night,

Isabella

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Pegasus Bridge
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Arromanches, a battery
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the town of Arromanches
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Longues-sur-Mer, another battery
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Omaha Beach
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American Cemetery
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April 5 2013

• Today in English class I was explaining a word and my sentence went like this: “In 1968 it was okay to use the word Negro, mais aujourd’hui-“

I slipped into French without meaning to.

Let’s hear it for PROGRESS.

• My friend and I talked to the Norwegian exchange students who are here for a week. They didn’t speak much French though, and I’m not sure if they got that I’m American/speak English, but it was cool nonetheless. If there are exchange students at your school, talk to them! They will appreciate it even if it’s super awkward. Trust me.

• It snowed today and was miserably cold. Is summer here yet???

I just learned about this thing…

… called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. This happens to me all. the. time. learning French. Like every week there’s a new word or phrase.

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Have you ever heard a new piece of new information, such as a new word, and then you can’t seem to stop hearing it everywhere? Then you’ve experienced the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

The phenomenon occurs because the brain is very good at putting together patterns. Just because we are now seeing this word everywhere doesn’t mean we never saw it before; but because we didn’t know what it meant, our mind discarded it as meaningless information. Now that the brain just learned what the word means, it will be looking for the word again.

Now that you know what Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is, there is a good chance you might hear about it again in the near future!

Rock Week

Pictures at the end of this post…

I’m calling February/March vacation rock week because for a good 10 days I did a lot of sightseeing, and most of the things I saw were old and made of, well, rock. Which is not to say they weren’t interesting.

I ended up not going to England because of an insurance problem. Turns out if you want to leave the country in my particular situation, your exchange student insurance doesn’t cover it. Plus the amount of people the paperwork has to go through is ridiculous… Anyways, I spent most of vacation at my host sister’s grandparents’ (Michelle and Jean-Pierre) house just outside of Morlaix, about a half hour from where I live. They’re both super nice, and Jean-Pierre knows everything there is to know about Brittany and so was my personal tour guide for the entire week and a half. Almost every day we went somewhere or saw something new: old WWII tunnels, beaches, standing stones, churches/chapels, etc. And cities and towns too: Morlaix, Saint Pol de Léon, Roscoff, Lannion, Locquirec, and Saint Malo. Lots of countryside was seen and we probably listened to the same CD about 20 times. One day we even went to collect mussels, which we cooked and ate the next day. I don’t have any pictures because it was not camera-friendly conditions, but there’s something really satisfying about being able to go out and find your own food like that. On Saturday night we went to see this talent show, which the boyfriend of one of my host aunts is in. They sang and did short skits and it was really funny, which was refreshing because it’s true when they say French people don’t have great senses of humor. Well, maybe I just have really funny friends in the US. But yeah. That was last vacation. I was pretty disappointed England didn’t happen but it’s okay because I got so much out of my time with Abigael’s grandparents.

Now it’s back to school. Actually, I’ve been back for a while, but I’ve been busy legitimately doing my homework (as opposed to before, when I’d just stare at an assignment until my head hurt) and then we lost internet at the house for a week. Which is surprisingly inconvenient and annoying. I took a 4 hour history test before vacation, and it turns out I got a 14/20! Which is like seriously good! My history teacher (who is by far my favorite) told me she doesn’t necessarily grade my work for its content, but by the progress I’ve made since September. And we also had to fill in/color this map of France with all its climates and economic whatnot, and apparently my map was the best out of the whole class. So that was surprising. Side note: My French and Literature teacher also commented on my progress in French. This makes me really happy but it also makes me feel like I should start participating in class more. I rarely raise my hand to answer questions, but I’m going to make myself do that more often.

A note on my vegetarianism: I’ve decided to give up being a vegetarian for the next 3 months. Of course that doesn’t mean I love meat now, but French people really just don’t get/appreciate vegetarianism, which makes it hard to find things I can eat. Plus I felt like I was missing out on food experiences, which is part of the culture. After a few weeks, I have not undergone any serious emotional damage from eating meat and I no longer have to feel embarrassingly grateful about my family cooking me a piece of chicken because the main dish has beef in it. So there’s that.

The last 3 months really are the best. I’ve made really good friends, my language skills have improved so much, and even though school is harder because I actually have to do the work, I really feel like I’m learning. Especially about France and Europe. Like did you know the European Union, the Euro Zone, and the Schengen Area don’t all include the same countries? Also before this year eastern Europe was just an ambiguous blob of countries, but now that we’re studying it everything’s coming in to focus.

I’m just going to take a minute to recognize some awesome actors and singers back home, who are performing to half-filled houses recently because they can’t advertise their play. The story basically goes like this: My high school in the US was going to do Cinderella for the musical this year, but they didn’t get the rights because it’s opening on Broadway at about the same time (Please take a moment to realize what that means. High school in Maine is considered competition to Broadway. What.) so they chose Thoroughly Modern Millie, which they were’t allowed to advertise for because another playhouse in the state is doing the same show. But the cast/directors/pit band/parents who help - everyone who has put so much work into Millie deserves a shout out for their awesome production. Love you all. :)

Meanwhile there was a minor crisis at home tonight because nobody bought bread.

Happy Easter!

Isabella