Michele McDonald
2004-05 Outbound to France

Hometown: Orange Park, Florida
School: Ridgeview High School
Sponsor: Orange Park Rotary Club
Host: Roubaix Sud Rotary Club, District 1670, France

August 31 Journal

I'm here in France, another country, another world. The trip here was a whole other world to me too because it was my first plane ride. Getting on the plane at Jacksonville was not that hard but the size of the plane was scary, it was so small. The ride to Washington was short and made easier by having Katie take the journey with me. Once in Washington the wait was short and I got on another plane that was enormous. I thought I was ready for the long plane ride but it was so much longer than I thought. The flight was like a dream.

I think the hardest part was stepping off the plane and onto France. After that, it was non stop. My host family had to get their daughter off to the US minutes after I arrived so we all had to rush to the other end of the airport. After all the goodbyes were said, I thought that I was going to my new home but no. I was going to stay with my host aunt for three days. In those three days I felt like I was in a daze. Was I really in France? Could this all be true?

My third day there we went to Paris which is the biggest city I have ever been in. As we drove toward the Eiffel Tower I saw an old Ford Thunderbird which stood out among the sea of identical cars. It somehow made everything seem alright to see something so impractical in a sea of practicality. I loved everything about Paris and I shall have to return again to see more. After seeing the city I took my first train ride which was fun and boring.

Now I am home and things are going alright. Yesterday I rode on the metro for the first time and it was basically everything I expected, people getting on and off.

I start school in a few days and look forward to forming a routine. Life marches on in both worlds, the one I left and the one I am living. In this world time just seems to move a bit slower.

Until next time,

September 24 Journal

Well, well, It was officially been a month that I have been in France. Life is becoming life here. I am settling into a routine and that makes life easier. I am happy with my new life, I mean, how could I not be - this is France. I love how here you can see people walking down the street with an arm full of baguettes and find it normal. To me it is all some great romantic picture that you only see in old movies. I love it.

School I would say is the majority of my life here but the great part is I don't have to really try at school like I have to in the United States. Here, I can just go to the classes and listen to the teachers and try to make sense out of the words that are coming out of their mouths. I even had a test in history that consisted of four questions and the teacher just told me to do what I could. I answered one of the questions in a very brief way. When I got the paper back, the teacher said that it was good but she wasn't going to grade anything right now. I must admit that I was a little disappointed because I have yet to have any teacher give me an actual grade. That is life here though.

Last week I went to the sea with my class to look at rocks or something like that but I enjoyed just looking at the beauty around me. There was mountains and ocean all in the same place. A totally new experience for me. On the way to the sea I got to ride on my first double-decker bus. I thought that it would be awesome but it was just another bus ride, like the bus I take every morning to school that is crowded with kids and the bus that I return home on. Buses are everywhere here.

My family is great here but so big. There are seven of us in one house. It is crazy to say the least. At least the house is big enough for us all, three stories plus a basement. Of course my room is on the third story, so probably three or four times a day I make the trip to my room which consists of 43 steps, oh yes I counted them, not to mention the 67 step I go up and down all day at school. Back to my family, there is my host father, my host mother, my 16 year old host sister, my 12 year old host sister, my 10 year old host brother and another new addition to the family, my host cousin I guess. He is staying here to finish school because his parents moved to the United States. Small World. Anyway, my family here is perfect, so different than my real family but that is what makes this all more of an adventure.

I love almost everything here but I could wish for better on the weather. I am basically a Florida girl and all my life I thought that I wanted to move somewhere cold but I was wrong. It is about 40 degrees here everyday with occasional rains. Needless to say, I freeze my tail off everyday. I am soon going to buy the biggest coat that France has. It isn't really all that bad but at least when I am cold others are too. Well that's it for now. I can't wait until I can fully participate in everything here, the language is still a barrier but a barrier that is coming down quickly.

Until next time,


November 11 Journal

I know that this journal is coming a little over a month but I have been busy. I can't believe that I have been here over two months. This last month has been the most interesting by far, mainly because of two weeks at the end of October. My host family and I took the school vacation in Corsica. That's right, that little island in the south of France that is known for its amazing beauty, a.k.a., L'isle de Beauté.

The trip started out with a car ride that traversed all of France, from the very north to the very south. It was a long ride, which took all day long. I really enjoyed the ride though because I got to see the landscape of this country that I am living in. It was so different than Florida. There were mountains everywhere and my ears popped the entire way, but I was willing to live with it. We stopped in Lyon to have lunch with some of my host family's friends and then we headed off to catch our boat.

My host mother told me that we were going to be taking a boat to Corsica and that we were going to be sleeping on it but I didn't expect the boat that we got. It was basically a cruise ship and the biggest boat that I had ever been on. I know that it doesn't seem like a big deal but just riding on that boat made me happy, oh the little joys in life.

Well, we went to sleep on that boat and woke up in the morning docked in Corsica. It was so pretty. I couldn't wait to see all of it. We drove for about thirty minutes to my host family's house. The view from the house was amazing. Looking straight out I could see the ocean and then when I looked to the side I could see mountains. It was heaven for me. We unpacked and then headed directly to the beach. It was so strange to be able to wear a swim suit and actually be hot when I had been wearing a sweater and a coat in the north. The next few days were passed at the beach and I even got a tan. It was great.

Of course, nothing can be perfect. The next few days, it rained and was semi-cold, but that didn't stop us from doing things. We went out and collected chestnuts and then roasted them on a open fire. It was the first time I had ever had them and I found out the they are really good. We also went and collected mushrooms which is one of my host father's favorite hobbies. I have to admit that I really like the mushrooms that we find in the forest, and besides, it is about as French as French gets.

After about a week and a half of fun in the sun, or the lack there of, we headed back to our little northern town of Chéreng. The cold was a bit of a shock when we arrived home but now I am getting used to it. I am not as cold as I used to be all the time. I like to think that means that I am becoming French.

It makes me feel really good when people acknowledge the progress I have made with the language. Almost everyone says that now I understand everything and I always have to tell them no but I am getting there. It is certainly a lot easier than a month ago and each day feels better. I did go through a short time of being incredibly annoyed with myself because I felt like I wasn't learning fast enough but that was when things began to click.

Life is good now. I have friends at school and I can talk to them which is great. I can take the metro into Lille all by myself and feel completely secure because if I need help, I know that I can ask for it. Things are good and I can't wait to see where I will be one month from now.

Until Next Time,


November 19 Journal

I felt the need to write another journal because a lot has happened in a short period of time. Last Sunday I went to Paris with two other exchange students and one's host dad. It was really fun. We hit all the big tourists spots. It was the second time that I have been in Paris since I have been here and I know that it will be impossible to ever to be bored with that city.

I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was standing under the Arc de Triumph or when I was looking at Notre Dame inside and out. I had always dreamed of coming to France and seeing these things and to have done this sort of thing so young, I don't know how I can ever do anything else in my life to top it. It was so weird to look at Notre Dame from the same angle and see it just as it is pictured on my French book back home. The feeling of knowing that you are in a city that is famous for its beauty and history is just amazing. Needless to say I am already making plans to go back. I have to go back anyway because we went to the Louvre but we didn't go inside. I can't have that.

Although Paris was great, I had a feeling the other night that topped it by far. I am in the theater club at school and last week there was a girl from Holland there. She is staying in France for two weeks. She can't speak very good French but her English is amazing. She didn't understand what the instructor was saying because of course it was all in French so I had to translate everything for her. It wasn't that I understood everything but I understood enough to tell her what was going on. I don't think that I had realized how far I had come with my comprehension in French. I was so proud of myself. I love that now other people are noticing that now I understand more. People are actually asking me questions now instead of asking the people around me about me. I feel like I have made a lot of progress but I am still not where I want to be, but it is definitely coming. For now, Life is good.

Until Next Time,

or as the French write it,

January 9 Journal

It absolutely amazes me that I have been here for a little over four months. My memories from back home are still so vivid but at the same time I am building a life here and the memories are a little bit surreal.

Well I just went through the big holiday time. It was kicked off with Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, I figured that I would try and spread the Thanksgiving spirit to the French. I went around all day long and said Happy Thanksgiving to anyone I saw at school. It was funny because everyone thought that it is just a holiday where there is a turkey so I got the chance to explain the story about the Pilgrims, but honestly they still believe it is our excuse to eat and maybe they are right. I didn't do anything with my host family for Thanksgiving because they just weren't interested in it but that doesn't mean that I didn't celebrate it. I went to the host family's house of one of the American exchange students with all the other exchange students and we celebrated Thanksgiving. We had all the essentials, hand made cranberry sauce, corn, pumpkin pie, and the turkey, of course. The meal itself was a miracle that a bunch of 16 and 18 year olds cooked it and it was edible, actually good. It just gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling to celebrate a family holiday with my new group of friends.

Then there was the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a time of just sitting back and absorbing everything. School became more and more like school back home. Teachers started to realize that I understand more than at the beginning and therefore started to make me do more work. I even started to do the tests in history. It is a good feeling to know that I understand well enough to do the work but on the other hand, that means that I have to do work. Why can't things ever be win win; that's life. Apart from that, my language is improving and life is becoming fairly simple. It is a much more reassuring feeling to get instructions on how to do something and actually understand the words. At least I don't look like a total idiot all the time now. Anyway, the month of December was basically just a month of laying back and enjoying my time.

Then Christmas came and all the trimmings. Actually there weren't a lot of trimmings because the idea of decorating houses with lights is still fairly new here. The few houses that were decorated were considered a marvel. I did have a hint of sadness because of the lack of decorations because my house in the states is always decorated for Christmas but this is a new culture and I adapted. I must say that I was kind of disappointed by my host family's celebration of Christmas. We opened presents on Christmas Eve and the morning after we piled into the car and headed off to Chantilly to celebrate Christmas with the sister of my host mother, the same sister that I stayed with my first three days in France. We ate a big lunch and then everyone just kind of talked. I just wasn't very much in it. I honestly think that it would have been better if I wasn't incredibly sick at the moment but that was the hand I was drawn. My Christmas was memorable but I wouldn't call it a great memory.

We stayed in Chantilly for three days. We didn't really do much. My host parents did take me to the Chantilly Castle though. It is a beautiful castle and I enjoyed the little visit. When we left to go back home, it was time to start packing to go to my next host family. I had two days to pack and the third day was moving day, early in the morning. I must admit that I was excited to go to my next host family. My first host family was nice but I never really felt like part of the family there. It was so different from my real family with seven people in one house and only three back home, it was a little overwhelming. I did get along with everyone in the family but it just wasn't comfortable for me. I think I am better for having a family like that first, I learned a new way of life that I would have never experienced any other way.

Now I am with my second host family and I couldn't be happier. I arrived on the 29th of December and two days after was New Year's Eve. I had such a good time at their party. It wasn't very large, about 14 people, but the time was good. We finished eating dinner around 11:30 which left us just enough time to ring in the New Year, after midnight is when the real fun began. We played this game with pipes and styrofoam balls and we shot them at each other. There was no point in it but it was just fun. After we played games all together. All in all we stayed up until 7:00 in the morning. Needless to say, the day after, we were all dead and we slept until late into the afternoon. It was the best New Year's Eve that I have ever had.

This host family is perhaps the perfect fit for me. The first thing that makes it great is that they have four cats and a dog which makes it more like my home. They have a 13 year old daughter and of course we get along great seeing as she was the one to ask her parents to host me after meeting me at my other host family's house. The parents are great. The mother is just a very warm person to be around and the father is funny and enjoyable. The other night, my host father and I talked about tricks with words, like words that are the same backwards and forwards. He is trying to teach me all the slang so I can talk like a "real French person". It is fun. Everything about this family is great for me and I couldn't be happier.

Well that is my month and a half all summed up. I feel like the ones who read this are missing out on something. There is no way that I can write all the little things that make this exchange so amazing. They can't know what I know. This year is just for me and I will have my little stories for all my life.

Until Next Time,


February 10 Journal

It has only been one month since I last wrote my journal but I feel like it has been an eternity but at the same time I feel like it has been a day.  This feeling is impacted by how much I feel I have changed and grown in the last month.  I would have never guessed that one month could be so important in my life.

I just recently had my birthday and now I am 17 years old.  Honestly, 17 is not much different than 16 but the birthday itself represents something more to me.  I have been here in France for almost 6 months.  I celebrated my 17 years of life with a family that is not by blood but has become my family by so much more.  They gave me a little birthday lunch that day.  My host mother made me a cake.  It was not a party or anything like that but I was with my family and therefore it took on all the characteristics of a family gathering back home.  It was a feeling that was just right.

I am also now a person who has seen more of the world than when I last wrote.  Before, I could say that I have been to the United States and France but now I have the ability to say that I have been to Belgium too.  It is not such a large accomplishment when you look at a map and see the distance from my house here to Belgium (about five minutes by car) but it was my first time there.  Belgium is basically the same as France, same language, same types of people, but the feeling of crossing the border is thrilling.  The story of why we went and what we did there is my favorite part.  We went because my host mother just wanted to show it to me and once there we ate a Belgian waffle.  Walking along the streets, my host parents found some chairs that they liked and so they bought them.  As my host father and host sister carried them back to the car, my host mother said that they were like the street people who carry a chair around with them so they can sit down whenever they feel like it.  My story now is that the first time we went to Belgium was to eat a waffle and buy chairs.  I have been back one time after that but the second time didn't hold a candle to the first.

I have seen things here that I have never seen before either.  The day after my birthday, I woke up and looked out my window but I couldn't see out.  Snow had covered the window.  I was so excited.  I have lived in Florida basically all my life so snow is not a part of my life.  It was beautiful.  The car was covered with snow. Walking up the path to school, I almost fell several times and I had to hold on to my host sister to keep my balance.  The snow continued for three days and then it stopped but I keep hoping that it will return.

I have also met people here that I would have never met before.  I am American and therefore I speak English but because I have been in France for almost six months, I have an ability to speak French as well.  This became the reason that I was contacted to translate newspapers for an international youth tennis tournament.  It lasted for nine days and I met people from all around the world.  I only really had one problem with it, if a person does not speak French, they are expected to speak English.  This rule applies to kids who are 14 and 15 years old as well but they can speak English.  To me, I believe that this idea is wrong.  I do not think that people should be forced to speak English instead of their language.  I believe that those who speak other languages should try to learn others.  In a sense, the languages of the world are becoming obsolete and English is taking over but this is not right.  Now I realize all the English words that have leaked into the French language and I realize that the world is losing its languages.  The experience only makes me want to work harder to become less ignorant to the other languages around me.

Throughout this month, I believe that I have grown.  I see my language progressing at a rapid rate.  Talking is not a problem now.  Of course there are words that I don't know but all they have to do is explain them to me and I understand.  My favorite experience occurred one night after dinner.  My family and I were sitting at the table and we began to talk.  We talked for about two hours or more.  I became myself. The language was no longer a barrier at all.  I was opinionated and expressed those opinions.  It was very much like what my family used to do back home. Progress in a language sneaks up on you.  You don't realize that you have progressed until you sit back and think about your life.

There is no possible way that my life can be the same after this year.  I will no longer be the person that everyone knew a year ago. I have seen too much and I have experienced too much to go back to that state.  You don't realize the choice you are making when you decide to join this program but after you have made it there is no turning back to the way you were, at least not for me.

À la prochaine


March 26 Journal

Well, I have been finally able to sit down and take the time to write my journal. I have to say that I have never been so busy before in my life. I have been looking at my agenda and I don't have one weekend were I don't have something planned. I guess that I should be grateful for that.

The end of February was consumed by the two week vacation which I spent with my host family in Bretange or as the Americans might know it Brittany. My host family's middle daughter lives there and we went to see her as an excuse to do a little sight seeing around this beautiful land. Bretange is known for its rain which we did experience a little bit of but I have to admit that it added to its charm. We spent most of our days going to various little towns and just walking around. They were so incredibly beautiful. We walked along the ancient walls that once used to serve as protection for the towns. It was like something right out of a fairy tale scene each time (and we must have done this in at least three towns). The day was usually finished off by a crêpe in a nice little crêperie, I mean I am in France.

The very last day was the day I had been waiting for the entire time, not that I wanted to leave but we were going somewhere that I had been dreaming of, Le Mont Saint Michel. Bretange gave us a beautiful day with lots of sun for this event. I was so excited I could hardly stand it as we drove up to it. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. We went all the way up to the top and looked out to see the ocean which had gone out and was soon to be coming back in. It was like something right out of a dream. I only have the utmost respect for the people who started building this church back in the 700's. We ate on the rock and my host sister and I ruined the French mood by ordering a hamburger and fries but we thought "why not". After our day we left to come back to the north.

On our trip home, it started to snow (I am sure that everyone is familiar with my love of snow now). It was so pretty and it was snowing a lot. I was happy and in my own little world but eventually we drove out of it. My host father said it was a good thing we got out of it because it was snowing hard and it was dangerous. All I could think was that I wanted more snow. Well, this little snow started out a series of snow falls which went all the way to the beginning of March. I am told that it never snows like this here especially in March so France was just being nice to me.

Of course, with how much I love snow, I would never think that it could do any harm but I was soon proven wrong. I had a trip planned with one of my exchange student friends to go to England with her class but the day before it snowed more than it had snowed here all year. It was pretty and I really liked it and just kept telling myself that we would still be able to go but at 10:00 the night before the departure we got a call that said the trip was off because of the snow. I was sad but we made the most of it. I stayed the weekend with my friend and we had snowball fights, made snow angels, and I made my very first snowman. The weekend was fun and the trip has been rescheduled and so I still love the snow.

My most recent interesting event was the Rotary weekend in Paris with all the inbound exchange students in France, all 350 of us. We took over a youth hostel and got hardly any sleep. We did some sight seeing and saw the inner workings of the French Senate which I find incredibly too beautiful for anyone to ever get any work done in there. After the visit we all joined in the gardens to ask some senators a few questions. The moderator was the channel 2 weather guy that I see every night and I got a picture with him. I am sure that will be worth some money one day. The weekend ended by a tour of Versailles which was indescribably beautiful. I can now check another site off of my "Things to See in France" checklist. The next day at school was hard because of my lack of sleep during the weekend but I made it and I have no regrets from that weekend.

Well that about sums up my month. Just a few random pieces of information. We had "Caranval" at school where everyone wears a costume and I wore my Rotary Blazer. I figured it was strange enough to catch a few eyes and it was a hit. It is good to know that it serves for something other than its classic duties. Next week I change host families and I can only hope that my next one is as amazing as the one that I am with right now. I will not be writing a journal for the month of April because I will not be at my host family's house the entire month. How lucky am I, an entire month of Vacation!!

À Plus,


June 13 Journal

It has been a while since I last wrote and boy has a lot happened! For starters on the 2nd of April I changed host families. I wouldn't have a chance to stay a while with them to get to know everyone because the day after I moved in, I went on my class trip to Haute Savoie. For all those who don't know where that is it is smack dab in the middle of the French Alps. Let me just tell you, I was excited! Coming from Florida I don't see a lot of mountains or snow for that matter so it was just another exciting experience in my year. We stayed at a chalet which was not necessarily beautiful but the cool part was that I got to stay with my class. We did some little visits like to a cheese factory, très français, but my favorite by far was the day in Geneva, Switzerland. The weather was beautiful and the day was just great. We saw the Red Cross museum and we went inside the United Nations. I found that to be very cool. The rest of the week in Haute Savoie it was raining and so the cross country skiing which was planned was cancelled but I wasn't too depressed to not have it. As we were boarding the bus to go home, it started to snow. I know the irony. We we arrived back in the north, it was snowing in April!!! They all said it was my fault which I found to be a good thing. But the trip overall was great. I became closer friends with people I already knew and made a few new friends. It was an unforgettable experience.

Well I arrived back in my host family's home that Saturday and it was once again back to the unpacking and then packing because Sunday we were leaving for their beach house in the Charante Maritime. Ok, not really a beach house but a close to the beach house. We stayed there for ten days. We couldn't really do much. The weather was not great. There was a lot of rain and it was basically cold all the time so that meant no going to the beach or tanning. We stayed at the house most of the time where I tasted many new cheeses and found that not all French cheeses are horrible. I discovered that I can handle the mild cheeses. Each time I said that a new cheese was not bad my host family said that I was becoming even more French and that made me happy. We went to see the reconstruction of the boat that Lafayette took to go the US to help us out during the American Revolution. We also went to an aquarium where I saw fish that are from Florida. My very last day was a trip to Bordeaux where I took the train to Lyon to start my bus trip of Europe.

My bus trip was great. I saw a total of 5 new countries with a group of 50 exchange students all crammed into the same bus for 15 days. It was amazing. We started by touring Lyon which was pretty and then we headed to the French Alps. I was so excited, I saw Le Mont Blanc and I actually got to walk on it. We also went down into a glacier. It was so super cool and cold for that matter. After all the mountains we went to Germany. There we only saw a concentration camp, Dachau, which was a very moving experience. From Germany we headed into Austria which I would have to say was probably my favorite country. It was so incredibly beautiful. Everything was green and the people were so nice even though I don't speak a word of German. We saw Salzburg and then we went to Vienna. In Vienna we ran into a group of exchange students, just to prove that we are everywhere. After Austria was Italy and the beautiful city of Venice. I loved this place. We did the classic tour on a gondola and just explored this ancient city and all of its wonders. Italy was followed by Monaco. This city is so rich but oh so very small. We saw the entire city on a 30 minute train ride. It is beautiful and honestly ça fait rêver. Spain was next on the list with Barcelona as the top city. I tell you that is a place that is alive. They live far into the night and there is always something to do. It was really so much fun. After Spain we headed back into France and all of us were so relieved because we could finally go into a restaurant or store and speak to the people. It was so annoying to always have to order things in English in the other countries and sometimes we would accidentally fall back into speaking French to the people and confuse them even more. Overall the trip was something totally amazing. I made some really good friends and I saw things that I had only dreamed of seeing. I loved it.

After my long month of vacation, it was back to school but I was so excited to go back. I was missing my friends. One month away from them all was just far too long. I had one week of full school and then I was off traveling again. I went to England one day with another exchange student and her class. It was fun. We went to Canterbury. I think I saw more French people than English people however. My friend and I went into a book shop and the lady who sold us the books ended up being French and we spoke to her in French instead of English. Life is so ironic but cool nonetheless. We went to England on a Saturday and I stayed with my friend until Sunday. She said joking to her host dad that he should let us stay home from school Monday because usually it is a day off of school but this year everyone is working and giving the money to the old people's home and a lot of people were striking. To our surprise, he agreed and planned a trip to Paris for us. We were so happy. We didn't do the classic tourist stuff in Paris seeing as we had already done all that. Instead we got our hair cut. Now I can say that I have aParisien hair cut and I must say that it suits me quite well. it was a fun day that was totally random. Honestly how many people can stay that they went to Paris on a whim?!

School was school but I found myself just hanging out with my friends more and more. I knew that I wasn't going to have much more time with them and I wanted to get everything out of my last few weeks with them that I could. I did a report on the States, Florida and my life back home in history class and I was shocked at how easily I talked. An hour passed and I didn't even realize it. It is when you do things like that that you know that you have really made it in your new language. The last day of school was very emotional for me, no tears but close to it. The last two hours of class were like a little party and I enjoyed just talking and goofing off with my friends but I knew that goodbye was soon to come. At the end, they gave me a big card which everyone signed and I can't believe that I was capable of holding back the tears. I know that it was the last time I will see some of those people but I don't think that I will ever forget them.

The next big thing that I did was I went to Paris with the exchange student who was at my school last year. I went there because my class from the US came to do a trip in France and Spain. It was so weird to see them in France. France has become my place and to put them here was just strange but we had a fun day together. I got to show off my French and they got to just hang out in the most beautiful city in the world. It was cool.

And now for something rather recent. I just got back from 5 days in Normandy with my host family. We saw all of the big sites of the war. It was sad but I think it is something that should be done. I was shocked by the amount of American flags that I saw hanging from people's windows and in the towns. it showed that what we did for the French was and still is really appreciated. It was a good trip. although it was mostly serious, we succeeded in adding a bit of fun in there. There was beautiful sun the entire time and I got a tan, something almost impossible to get in the north of France. It was a great experience and I would love to go back to Normandy one day.

Well that about sums up my last few months here. To think that I only have a month and a half left. I can't believe that some people are already home. It is hard to see the other exchange students leave one by one. I am going to be the last one to leave from my district here and that just means that I have the most goodbyes to say. I know that there will be tears and I am not afraid of them because I know that the tears represent every hard thing that I conquered this year and that has made me stronger. I know this is not the end, it is only the beginning.

À Plus,


July 27 journal

Just when you finally get comfortable where you are and things start to seem normal, the rug is pulled out from under your feet and things are changed all over again. I am starting to prepare for my departure from France which will take place in a few days. It is hard to believe and the month of July just flew by me.

July was spent in Charente-Maritime with my third host family and we went to the beach everyday. I got a tan and it was strange that I went to the beach in France where I have to take a 10 hour car ride but I never go to the beach back in Florida where it is so close. That is the irony about this year, everything changes, you change and you may not even realize it. The trip was good but it used three of my weeks of the month of July and I returned back to the north with only one week left.

The thought of one week left threw me into a kind of panic. I couldn't see how I was going to get everything done but now that the first few days of my last week are gone I can see the end approaching and I think that I will at least be ready with all of my affairs even if my mind doesn't have a full grasp of the actual event.

The last few days are so strange. You have to end things that you started. I went to the bank yesterday to close my French account and I almost cried. It is not normal to cry over closing a bank account but that signified the end. As I watched the lady cut up my card I felt like she was cutting up my heart and my life in my new home. When we left the states we had to finish some things but we could leave some things unfinished because we knew that in a year we would be returning but in this case, I don't know when I will be able to come back. It really does feel like an end.

The strangest part is that I don't know how to react to the idea of seeing my family again. Throughout this year they have just become that voice on the other end of the phone, just a voice, that is all. I know that they are there and they will love me no matter what but I know that I have changed. Have they changed so they still fit with my personality? I doubt it but that was the risk of coming but honestly I am happy that I have changed. I feel so much more independent now, how my family will react to this new independence I don't know but I am willing to try it.

I want to thank the Rotary for all that they have done. Without them I would have stayed the same person I always was but with their help I have been pushed to live a new life and I believe it is a better one. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this year. Those people who say encouraging words through the hard times and even through the good were vital to my year.

I know that I will come back because I have started a life here and it can not just finish like that but the end of this year is hard. It has given me so much. I have enough stories for a lifetime and I have made friends that will last much longer than that. The end of the year that has done so much to change my life is fast approaching and not even my protesting can stop it from arriving.

Reste comme tu es maintenant ma vie, ne change pas, et attend-moi.