My experience so far in United States

By Cynthia Bhonsle

“My exchange year is filled with all kinds of happy and sometimes sad moments. I got to learn a lot from this year. I landed in New York and from there onwards my journey began. I got to see NY as a first part of America.

It was my first plane ride, so I was a little bit scared at the beginning but I had my friends from India with me so it was a cool ride. Then after the 2 days stay in NY, I flew to Columbus and that's the place where I met my lovely family for the first time. They were all ready to welcome me into their family with open hearts.  After picking me up, we went to the mall had a lots of fun over here and then headed towards home. After a 2 hours drive, it was finally the time to see the place where I was going to live for the rest of the year, so we went into the house through the back door and then to the hall, and then to my room. I was so excited to see my room because they had decorated my room for me. Once while chatting with my host mom I told her that I would love to learn piano so they even had a piano in my room. I was so happy to see all that.

Then the next day my mom took me to take vaccination shots because the school which I went to was really strict about it and I had to take 8 shots at once. Tears automatically started flowing through my eyes. And I was like I am done for the year I don't need anymore shots.

Then was the time to go to the school. My first day of school was totally different. I didn't know what I was doing and where I was going because my school was really big and I wasn't used to changing classes after every period so I had difficulties in finding classes. I met an awesome group of exchange students. They were from all over the world. And till the last day of school we all were together. There is a great bonding between us. All my teachers helped me to catch up with the work and helped me a lot. Mr. Dennis, who was my AP government history teacher, is my favorite one. I became the most comfortable with him and was able to share anything any everything with him.  I had most of the best memories with my school. I went to the school prom. I went to prom with one of my friend. We both really had a good time together and enjoyed it a lot. Now, I know why prom is so popular and an important thing in US because everything from buying a dress, getting matching jewellery, high heels, getting a makeover to prom walk, dance and party is so much fun.

I never had free time, and I am thankful to my mom for always keeping me busy because I always used to have something or the other to do and that’s why I didn't get homesick at all. I used to volunteer at girls scouts at the hospital where we used to have activities with AFS, with my church, and with the youth group with school.

I have 4 members in my family. My dad, Kevin Tice; my mom, Terri Tice ; my sister, Kelya Tice; and our dog, Dante Tice. A year with all 4 of these was a lifetime memorable one, I celebrated Halloween, Christmas, Easter and shared all the happy and sad moments at times.

Then I have an another family at the hospital. Dawn Wilson was the head of our family. I volunteered here for the whole year and completed more than 100 hours, and I did get a certificate for that during the awards ceremony at the hospital. I went to sisters feast with Dawn and some other friends from the volunteering group. There we got to stay in a haunted hotel. And I don't think so I'll get an experience like Dawn and her family telling us the stories about the "Friendly" ghost in the hotel named Efrem at midnight in the basement of the hotel. I don't think so I'll ever forget these stories throughout my life.

Now it is almost time to come back to India. It seems like I just arrived here yesterday. Personally I think I have changed a lot: I have become more independent and can take decisions on my own. My English has improved; it’s way better than it was when I first came here.

While writing about my experience, I re-lived my entired exchange year. Truely, my exchange year wasn't a year in a life but it was a life in a year. I am so thankful to everyone who supported and helped me to go through it. My parents, my local coordinator, AFS India, AFS USA, my organization, my cluster cootrdinator and everyone thank you so much......!!!!”

Chance of a life-time

By Samreen Fatima

“I am an exchange student originally from India. I came to the United States of  America  in 2015-2016 for my senior year in High school. I got a chance to study abroad in USA. My family and I thought that was a wonderful opportunity, so I decided to join the exchange student program. And this is where my journey began and I call it “MY YEAR.” I have been hosted in Beloit, Wisconsin with a lovely Mom & Dad Being an exchange student is one of the greatest experiences I have had in my entire life. My year in America gave me so many impressions on all kinds of things, and I will never forget any of them. Life now has a completely different meaning to me, and I know myself better than I did before. I think that going abroad makes you see new aspects of your being and rearranges your overall view on life. Since I have come to the United States in August 2015, every day new challenges had to be faced, but luckily, I made lots of friends that would help me to keep going. However, without my lovely host parents, none of this would have ever happened at all. They are the two who decided to take a complete stranger into their family. My respect and thankfulness for this wonderful job can't be expressed in words. They are like real family in another part of the world. I go to Beloit Memorial High School. The school was new, everyone was different and it was so diverse. 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. Haha.  I loved answering people's questions like, Do you guys ride on elephants, you guys have Mcdonald's etc... I had the chance to take fun classes like Spanish, Interior Designing, and Art and that’s where I met people with similar interests. Right after I came here, I joined the Tennis team and in spring, I managed the Softball team. I also joined lot of clubs after school. I joined the church with my family every Saturday and didn't even realized how I got so closed with people there. I have done nearly 75 hours of volunteering during my stay in America.

I travelled different places around the United States like (Florida, Disney world, Minnesota, Mall of America, Green Bay, Illinois, Madison etc.) I even got the opportunity to experience the beautiful snow, Big dinner of Thanksgiving, a wonderful Christmas with tons of gifts, and Easter with full of chocolates. I learned a lot about American culture, Government system, way of living and many more. Apart from my enjoyment, there were the times too where the things were not in a good shape but I worked out with it, and learnt my lesson from it. It's so true that exchange year is not always about enjoying, it's the learning and the lessons you gain in your life. Exchange year is not a year in life, for me it's a life in a year. Time flew way fast, everything appeared more like a dream than reality. Well I just wanna say that it was worth of leaving your family behind at a very young age. Now, with pride, I can tell my story to everyone.”