Alejandra "Ale" Beck
2008-09 Outbound to France
Hometown: Miami, Florida
School: Immaculata - La Salle High School, Miami, Florida
Sponsor: Doral Rotary Club, District 6990, Florida
Host: Douai Sud Rotary Club, District 1670, France

Ale's Bio

 At first I thought it would be difficult to write an autobiography, for there is only so much I can say about myself on paper. I wondered, “What should I say about myself? Should I mention my interests, my hobbies or my background?” I decided to start here.

Alejandra is my name, but I prefer Ale. I’m currently 17, on the brink of 18 years of age. I attend La Salle High School as a senior awaiting graduation. I was born and raised in the Magic City, Miami, Florida. I live with my parents, younger sister and two chocolate Labradors.

Politics, world affairs, daily news, and anything in between are preferred topics of conversation for me. I enjoy promoting awareness about anything I consider important. I love language, fashion, economics, music and especially traveling. I enjoy laughing at my own jokes and hanging out with my friends. Running, cooking and writing are my favorite hobbies. I believe in living life to the fullest, taking chances, and karma. As an end to a beginning and an introduction, I am very excited to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and anticipate next year’s challenges and adventures.

September 29 Journal

 Pre Departure: 25 August 2008

So I'm basically freaking out internally. I can't believe it's TOMORROW. It's just hours now, not days anymore. It's so weird because it hasn't hit me, yet it has. I can't really explain what I'm feeling but it's a stew of mixed emotions. I really still can't believe that I'll be LIVING in France tomorrow for 10 months! Even, at this point, it's still completely surreal!! I'm soo nervous, yet so much more excited to go. As of late, I've been having the strangest dreams and finishing the most difficult packing I have ever done. And I'm still not sure what to expect. But, at least it has hit me that this is will be so much more than a one week vacation.

En France: 22 Sept 2008

I've been here for about three weeks (though it feels like so much longer). If I were to be asked how I feel, I would say I feel as if I am dreaming. I'm floating, it's as if I don't really feel I'm here. Despite this, I know that I am truly happy. One way I know that I am really here: I am cold. I now know why everyone's eyes widen when I say that I'm from Miami. In addition to that, I've heard all sorts of "great" things about Miami. For example, everyone believes that Miami is full of big houses, expensive cars, bikinis and celebrities. It's really funny to see what their impression is of where I come from.

Leaving Miami wasn't so hard because it really hadn't hit me what I was doing. Once in DC, after exchanging pins and cards of course with the other students, it started to hit me a little. It began to hit me even more on the flight when we were about one hour away and another exchange student and I were like "we're almost there!" It finally hit me in the CDG airport when a French woman took the luggage cart I was going to get: I'm going to be in France for a year. When I woke up from THE nap (all exchangers know what I mean) after settling in, I was still almost in disbelief that I was actually here.

Everyone asks about the elections and if I'm going to vote. I get a lot of questions about American high school also: Do proms exist? Do you really wear those hats at graduation? Are there really are pom-pom girls (cheerleaders in French) at football games? I get a lot of questions about Miami: Have ever seen anyone famous? Do you go to the beach everyday? Is Experts Miami (CSI: Miami in French) real? When I say where I am coming from I usually get these standard questions: Why did you come here then?? (Mind you, I don't think my city is as they would make it seem) Are you cold? (it is only about 60 F here.. and that is cold to me) Is it like on TV where...? Everyone asks me if I live in one of those "big houses by the beach". People also ask me why I am not tanned.

The third day I was here, we had a small going away party for my host sister who left to university. I met a bunch of people my age and some who were going to my school. I am 18 and in Premiere, which is equivalent to a sophomore/junior class as everyone is 15 or 16 years old. I do feel rather old sometimes, but at least my height makes me blend in :]. Even here, no one believes that I am 18. I met some friends of the girl I am replacing. They helped me out on the first few days of school which was really helpful, if not I would definitely have been really lost and would have a schedule that makes no sense.

School here is completely different. The campus is so much smaller (it's about one or two buildings). The view!! We made our schedule with the teacher. I end some days at 5h, but I start at 1h on those days. I have 2 hours of school in the morning on Wednesdays, and have 2 hours of school in the morning on Saturdays. Even the students are different (no one asks to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes and there is no one sleeping). I walk to school! The desks are mini tables with unattached chairs. There are about 5 flights of stairs to climb.

I know more or less what is going on in two classes: English and Spanish. Not even math, because in the first place, math is in Chinese to me. I've noticed though that every day I can understand the professor better!! Taking notes is still hard though because just when I have finished copying what the person next to me has written, the lecture is almost over.

I've learned SO much French, probably even more than I did in my two years of high school French classes. I have learned a lot from my host brothers unintentionally. How? Because they talk A LOT and we watch cartoons together. This has helped so much! Also knowing Spanish has helped a lot, even though I end up mixing up the two and making no sense. I have been going to bed with French phrases and words circling around in my head.

The food is REALLY good. I've eaten all sorts of things, but nothing crazy. Lots of cheese and baguettes, mmm. If I could, I would eat one of those baguettes all by myself (I can already see myself rolling off the plane back home months from now). I have tried thé a la menthe which I can't get enough of and can’t wait to drink everyday when it gets even COLDER. But I do miss black beans and Hispanic food, which do not exist here.

Everything is going extremely well. I absolutely love it here and I'm literally having the time of my life.

Thank you to Rotary, my sponsor club and everyone else who has made this possible!!!!


January 15 Journal

 Sometimes I hear these French words and sentences spill out of my mouth and wonder if it is me who is talking. Then, I hear the very not so French accent, and realize that it is me!

Before, I would translate everything from English-Spanish-French. For a while it was English-French. And now it is usually, if not always, French-French!! My thinking is usually first verb conjugated, second verb not. Remember BAGS (beauty age goodness size) for the adjectives. Make sure to differentiate the "le" and "les". Do I need to add some liaison here? I don't remember when or how this started! I do remember on October 5 when someone asked me something and I responded without even thinking. I had to pause for a second think "Where did that come from?" When did the words on advertisements become words and not jumbled letters put together? When did I stop having to say "comment?" after every other thing someone said to me? Songs sound like songs and not just mush put together. Jokes are funny! I'm so surprised when things like "bah" and "non mais..." slip out of my mouth. I normally think to myself in French. When I first start speaking English it feels weird. It's hard when people in English class ask me to translate something. It hurts when I first start to speak Spanish. I've decided to stop directly translating things, because it usually just doesn't make sense. I've been learning by listening.

Before coming, I was asked, many times, why are you going back to high school . There are mornings where I wake up and wonder why I am still going to high school. There are many Sundays where I wonder why I am still in high school. Actually, there are many Fridays and Saturdays, as well where I ask myself this question. What am I doing in a classroom of 16 year olds? Despite all this, I do not mind that I didn't start university right away. Everyone's doing the same thing anyway. There is no way that I could regret doing this. I would really regret not doing it.

Anyways, it's a good thing I spent a week in the Bahamas with Kristina (outbound to Ecuador) (who I also miss!) to do some last minute tanning. J (Tropical storm Fay was hanging around Miami the few days before I left making the skies similar to here) That tan is basically gone. I still get asked why am I not tanned. This was kind of like a pre exchange- I tried new foods (mm conch salad) and heard a new language (Bahamian J)

Ok, so I haven't written in a long time. SO, I'm going to write a little about a lot..!

In October, I went to Reims. Yes, the French city known for that really big cathedral and champagne. I went with another exchange student and her Rotary club. We visited the Notre Dame de Reims. Then, two champagne caves for champagne sampling. J

Later, in October, I went to Bruxelles with my Spanish class. We went to two museums, Musees Royaux d'Art et d' Histoire and a museum on music instruments (I don't remember the name/ have a picture with the name of the museum). Les vacances de la Toussaint took place the last week of October. During this time, I hung out with some people from school and the other exchange students. On the first day I went to Euro Disney in Paris with another exchange student for her birthday. With my host family, we went to Normandy to the D-Day beaches. We visited several museums and other sites, as well. It was a about a two hour drive but it felt like less since we (my little host brothers and I) were playing games on the way there. I really enjoyed this trip because being with my family together for much longer than usual made me realize how much I really like them.

In November, my Rotary club had a rallye des voitures for a fundraiser. What this is is like a slow car race, except not a race. There are a bunch of fabulous cars that follow a trail. Along the trail there are stops, we stopped at a chateau, a restaurant and then it finished at a race course. What I really liked about this was being able to see "la vrai France": little villages, fields, lots of nature. Though I didn't really want to go at first, this was something I had never done and would definitely not mind doing again.

Also, in November I went to a Moroccan wedding. Not a Moroccan themed wedding, but a real one. I emphasize this because it was something I had never seen and would probably not see back in the US. It was really like nothing I had ever seen. There were SO many colors. There were only females. The food was communal style. The bride changed dresses about 7 times. It was NOTHING like an American wedding. The groom wasn't even there. No priest, no rings, no after party. In fact, the whole event was pretty much a party. There was fun music and lots of dancing! Everyone was so happy. I didn't even know the bride and was still so happy!

My family and I went to the France vs. Australia rugby match in Paris. I had soo much fun even though I wasn't sure of what was going on. Since I've never even seen a rugby match all I could do was cheer when a French player had the ball and yell "Allez les Bleus!" I loved sitting on the French side and I even felt proud. France lost and I still felt proud wearing my French rugby scarf.

The last weekend of November, the other exchange students and I attended a "soiree Bollywood". This was a fundraiser and included a performance of Indian dances, Indian food (yum) and dancing (to an Indian DJ) after! One of the exchangers in my district comes from India... I'd never seen him so happy! Especially when he said that everything was pretty accurate. We all finished the night off dancing together.. so much fun! I love doing anything with the other exchange students because we always have a good time, no matter what we're doing.

When I first got here, something that really stuck out to me and made me stick out was the clothing. In France, clothes are dark (black, grey, blacker, etc). It was hard for me to understand how they could manage dressing in dark colors in such dark weather. I thought I would never do it. I somewhat refused. However, without even realizing, I now dress in dark colors and really like it! It might be difficult to go back to dressing in colors, actually. I've also adjusted to the dark skies and lack of sun. It no longer even bothers me when people close the curtains in school because of the little bit of sun. I also adjusted to the cold, which I'm so thankful for. I no longer walk everywhere holding myself together. My usual thoughts in the cold are "oh, I can't feel my fingers but I can still text" "I can't move my toes, but it's ok, I can walk " "where are my ears?" I've figured out ways to keep warm. Wearing a hat and scarf over my face works well. I usually look like I'm going to rob a store when I walk in, but oh well. Walking fast works well.. very well in fact. It has snowed about several times for ten minutes. But it stays for as long as it lasted: the snow melts away in 10 minutes. Even though I have seen snow before, it's still really weird to look out the window in school and see snow falling.

Everything has become soo normal! I feel like a local, no longer a stranger to the city. I even make sure to always have my essentials in my purse: umbrella, gloves, hat, snack. I've habituated, adjusted, made myself at home. I am home; walking through my city, this is the best feeling ever.

I still think it's funny when people ask me if I know Lil Wayne or sing to me "..American girl" in the tune of Kanye West's song. Or say "Ooo MY-am-ee b-e-ech?!" I love when the French say "dis-donc" and sing songs in English. And pronounce "the" like "zhe"

As for the metric system, I still don't fully understand it. At least I understand one of the most important ones- the temperature. Even though the weather goes from cold to colder and the usual 0 or -1 already sounds freezing (it's really ONLY about 30 F). In the car I still get nervous when I first see 100 on the speedometer. Sometimes I hold on but then I realize the car isn't moving that fast. If someone tells me how many km they live away I just stare at them blankly and whip out my French cell phone to use the conversion tool. The best conversion moment I've heard here was when we first arrived, one of the exchange students in my district thought there was something wrong with the scale at her house because it said she weighed 50.

My daily weeks consist of school, Rotary meeting every other Tuesday, Lille on Wednesdays, watching my soap opera and going out on Saturday. My weekly diet consists of baguettes, nutella and cheese. And I hate to say it (just kidding I love to say it) but I think I have lost weight. I've been thinking of picking up the girls' diet around here: always have chocolate or gateaux in your purse. Actually, in France I have started to like coffee and chocolate. Every now and then I go to this café/restaurant called Au Bureau near centre-ville. At first, going after school was really surprising, now it's so normal and I love it! I love going on weekends and just meeting up with friends and drinking a café. It's really something I don’t do at home.

My Rotary meetings here are about 2.5 hrs in the evening. They're so much longer but I really like going to them. My club jokes around, drinks wine and just talks about everything.

Since I've been here I've been watching this soap opera called Plus Belle La Vie. It's really very corny and filled with bad acting, but it's my favorite (well, the only one I watch). My host brother got me addicted and everyday at 20h20 we make sure that we're watching.

Before coming, I always thought the idea of riding around Europe in a train was really cool. Since I've been here, I've ridden on the train almost every week to go to Lille on Wednesday afternoons after school (Wednesday afternoons I don’t have school and most students use that time to sleep or do their devoirs) to meet up with the other exchange students. The weirdest part is that we often bump into each other without even making a rendez-vous or knowing that the other was there.

I remember when I first arrived that everything seemed SO FAR. Now that I've been here everything is SO CLOSE. The second day I was here and went out with my host sister, all I remember thinking, "why are we going soo far!" Places I went to when I first got here seemed like miles away and they're really only less than that. I was scared I would get lost going to or coming from school. The walk is like a 5 minute walk... or 3 minutes if I'm late.

For les vacances de noel, my host family went to Marseille in the south of France to celebrate Christmas with their family. We celebrated on the 24 with my host's mom family and on the 25 with my host dad's. I had a really special Christmas. I didn't feel awkward at all at either, I felt part of the family. After my host family went skiing and I went to Paris (in the banlieu actually) with my host mom's sister. For two days I explored Paris with no real plan. That was really a dream come true.

This Christmas season we had about four galette des rois. This is a pie kind of dessert where there is a fève (a little favor, usually a little statuette of a famous character) inside. Whoever has the piece with la fève becomes the queen or king. My piece had la fève once and I secretly got very excited! It's funny how something so simple, made me so happy. It's just like so many things here.

For New Years my host sister had a little soiree with some friends at home. Grapes aren't in season, so I bought raspberries for the 12 grapes tradition.

The 4 of January was my birthday. The night before I went out with some friends and another Mexican exchange student from the other district (there are two districts that share the city of Lille) who has the same birthday. On the day of, we had a lunch at my house with some of the other exchangers. After eating, we spent the day just talking in my room (it was way too cold to walk around outside). It was simple, but really all that I wanted. My nineteenth birthday will definitely be something that I will always remember.

I switch families soon. At the same time of being really excited, I'm also feeling very weird about it. I've gotten so used to and attached to my family here that moving into a new one is going to be so strange. I won't have my host brother making silly jokes all the time or singing. I won't have the other one showing me things he finds interesting or...singing. I won’t have my host sister visiting on the weekends. There won't be host mom yelling at the younger two (which I've strangely grown to like and not mind) or my host dad just being calm while she yells. I'm going to really miss all the little things. Four months ago, I found myself saying, "whoa I'll be living four months with these people". Now in a few days, I won't be. I liked them from the beginning and knew that I would miss them, but now that it's time to switch it's hard to believe. At the same time, moving makes me feel like this is ending too soon.

This journal doesn't even express how much I am enjoying and truly loving it here.

May 5 Journal

 At the beginning of January, I switched host families. I was nervous, because though I had met them before, I was not sure what to expect. But I can honestly say that I've never been happier! These past (almost) 3 months have gone by so quickly that I really can't even believe it. I feel like I just moved in a week ago. And now I'm moving out! When I look back, all I can think of is, where did time go? Then again, I was sick half the time I was in this house. In my first or second week I got the flu (from my host mom). A month later I had a virus. A few days later I got Mono. (And I had a cold at the same time.) The weird part might be that my host dad was a doctor. The worst part was thinking "I'm stuck in bed" for a week. The other worst part was that I was supposed to visit Renee in Belgium during my winter vacations, buttt I had mono =(.

Luckily, I recovered and went on a bus trip with Rotary the week after. The bus trip was amazing. It was definitely one of the best times I've had here. After this trip, I had made really good friends with people I had known for about 8 days. It was sad having to say goodbye but just a few weeks later there was a Rotary conference in Toulouse with all the exchange students (I saw Veronica and Ashley too!) in France. So we all just said "A Toulouse!" (see you at Toulouse) to each other, which made it not as hard to say good bye.

Toulouse is in the south of France and I am all the way in the north. So we left a few days earlier to do a trip with 3 other districts around me. So off we went, 4 districts in a double-decker bus. It would have been difficult not to have a good time!! We visited lots of chateaux and other places. On the first day, there was a lot of traffic, so were late for our first visit. And then we ended up being late for everything else. But it didn't matter, it was the people who made the trip what it was. Another three weeks later, I took a Rotary trip around Europe. We visited Munich, Austria, Italy, Monaco, Geneva, and some cities of southern France. Most of the people were from my district or from the previous bus trip, so even though I didn't get to meet as many new people it was nice to get to know and spend more time with the ones I did know. It still surprises me how close I've gotten to people who I met only 8 months ago or even who I've known for only a week.

Before switching families, I was a little worried even before moving because the house was a lot further than my first one. My first house was close to everything.. 5 mins walk to school.. 5 mins walk to centre-ville. My new house was about 20 mins to school. After my first week, I really started liking these walks.. they allowed me to eat what I wanted without having to feel guilty. J During the first week, I was walking back from school, looking at the ground not really paying attention to where I was walking and then all off a sudden I realized that I had turned where I was supposed to turn. It may not seem like much, but to me it was a shock! What I really liked about these walks was being able to see my city and its architecture more. It's no "Paris", but there are still lovely things to see! I don't walk as much back home as I do here, so I take advantage and walk whenever I can! I've even mastered walking without stepping in droppings haha.

It's absolutely crazy how normal it feels to be living here. It's even hard to write journals because nothing seems cool or new anymore!! haha. When people ask me "How's France?" I just want to tell them, "Why don't you ask me how's life instead??". I hate when people ask me "How's your trip?". This isn't a trip!! It never was and furthermore it's become my lifee haha.. I feel like I've known my classmates for four years, I feel like I've been living here for years but I just don't remember anything before this year, or even the first several months. It isn't weird to hear or speak French anymore. I don't feel like that awkward new girl in school anymore. A friend at school told me she was going to really miss me when I leave and the first thing that came to my mind was "but I'm not going anywhere?" I chose my return date. It feels weird. This is the only word I can use to describe it. It's even weirder to see next year's outbounds knowing where they're going. All I can think is, that was me a year ago!!! There are days when I can't wait to leave, but there are days where I never want to leave. I miss many things, but I will miss so much more. How I really feel about leaving these days is, I'd like to go back just for a little "vacation" and then come right back! It isn't weird anymore to leave school at 18h and see the moon out already. Luckily, it's spring now and that has changed.. it gets dark around 21h now!!

I can say that I've grown and learned so much here, but if you ask me how and why I can't explain. Things that used to really bother me now just seem so tiny. When I talk to friends back home, sometimes I really think "Did this actually used to matter to me?" I hardly even bother telling stories about my exchange to friends back home. It isn't even worth describing how I feel to people back home because the truth is, they don't understand. I've learned that only another exchange student understands what the heck I'm saying or feeling. I've learned that it's only worth saying how you feel to another exchange student because people back home either think you're crazy or not having a good time (which IS normal though many people may think it's not!!!). It's funny how we all notice the same things. For example, when I got on the bus for the first trip, one of the first few things we did was (lovingly) make fun of the French and all their little quirks. Everyone seems to have a love/hate relationship with them and I'm guessing this probably happens in every country. Everyone seems to have gone through similar things and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one!!! J For me, one of the best parts of exchange has been the other exchange students and meeting new ones. I honestly don't know how else I would've gotten this far without them! This is one part of my exchange that I will really miss.

Before coming, I tended to be very defensive towards any comments regarding Americans or the country. I tend to hear these comment daily nowadays. I can definitely say that since I've been in France, I have calmed down A LOT. I just laugh now. People are still surprised to find an American that doesn't like Coke or McDonald's and eats ketchup with everything. Or that isn't "obese". I hear a lot of "I don't like Americans, except you".. coming from people who have never met another American. Though this is a somewhat ignorant thing to say, I've started to enjoy giving people a different image.

So now I'm in my third and last family and I'm living with an exchange student from Mexico. I had been looking forward to this for most of the year because this girl is one of my closest friends here. But at the same time, it's a strange feeling thinking "this is the last family". It almost feels like everything is happening too fast and that I still have so much left to do.. but at the same time, I feel so accomplished.

I have finally gained enough confidence to say that.. I can speak French!!!!!! It's taken me awhile to grasp this. But I realize that although it's not perfect and my accent isn't perfect and I still make little mistakes and forget words sometimes.. it's ok =) I can speak it and be understood..!

I have three months left. I remember when I was three months into my exchange. I remember when there was three months left before coming. What will my first three months be like after I come back?

Merciii Merciii beaucoup et a bientot =)

July 30 Journal

 I’m on a tram and I don’t understand any of the conversations around me. All of a sudden I hear a simple, “C’est la prochaine!” And I realize that it’s something that I do understand and it’s... French. It feels like I’ve gone back a few months, but I didn’t; I’m in Lisbon, Portugal!

In the beginning of May I went to Lisbon with my Rotary club. This was completely different from the other bus trips I had done. First off, we took the plane, there were only 12 of us and I was the only person my age. The only word I can describe traveling with a whole group of people from another nationality is… an experience. I got to see one culture’s view on another. It was even scary to see how when someone made a comment, I either agreed or was thinking the same thing. Before coming, we were told that in Portugal, most of the younger generation speaks English and the older, French. My first thought was actually, “Oh, I have to use my English”. My second one was, I get to use my new language!! So as I wanted to speak English as little as possible during this trip, I didn’t and I successfully avoided it… I would even ask for help in French. =)

During this trip, my closest friend (and roommate!) returned home. It was strange having to start saying good bye already. And now little by little I start to have to say my au revoirs. It has yet to hit me that my year is coming to an end. But maybe this is because I’m returning much later than everyone else. I knew that at one point I would leave, but now that it’s here, it’s hard to even believe. I’m really divided over how I feel about it. At the same time I want to stay, but I also feel like it’s also time to go. I feel like I’ve grown and learned so many things that I couldn’t have learned any other way. I’ve changed, but I don’t think I will realize how much until I return. When I look back I don’t feel like my year went by so fast. But then I think twice and realize that it really did zip by. It’s hard to accept! It’s just surreal to look back and see the days blend into months.

The last Friday of May, my district and two others made a trip to Parc Asterix (it can be compared to the French version of Disney). Though this was a very fun day (and sunny!) it was also soo sad. This was the last time that I will see many of the people that I met this year for a while (I don’t like to say it’s the last time!). I don’t like all these “lasts” so I prefer to think about future reunions and visits. I don’t even bother saying “good-bye” to people, I just tell them “see you later” =).

The day after this, I finally went to see RENEE in BELGIUM! (I was supposed to go in February, but didn’t end up going because I got sick). I live only about 30-45 minutes away by car from Belgium, but have only gone about twice. This weekend passed by so fast. What I really remember the most is just laughing.. a lot! And then the yummy Belgian food, beer and chocolates! I asked a lot of questions because I’m so close to Belgium, don’t know much about it. And it's crazy to see how two countries so close are so similar, yet so different. On the last day, I went to Renee’s high school. It’s totally different from French school as well. Overall, this was one of my favorite weekends of my exchange!

There were times where I hated this place, where I thought “Why did they send me here??? What’s wrong with them??” But now I realize that I truly love this place and I’m going to miss it more than I know. It’s sooo weird to be leaving!! I can’t even imagine being back home. I won’t be speaking Franglais (the only thing I can speak anymore), taking the train, eating too much cheese and nutella, getting confused my name and the word for “to go” (in French aller or allez sounds exactly the way my name does.. and this word is always being said!!) and most importantly being with all the wonderful people I have met this year. I have the impression that everyone that I’ve known for years back home is just going to feel like strangers. Whereas the people that were once strangers 11 months ago, feel like people that I’ve known for years. Even a life that I’ve known for years is going to feel like a new one. I just want to bring everyone back home with me!!! That would make things easier! 

In June, I went to see a France vs USA basketball game in my city. This was a strange feeling, hearing both national anthems consecutively. I do feel a sense of pride towards France and I love it! I can’t explain it. I’ve left my heart in several cities across the world, and I know that a very big part will be left here in France, especially in my own little city.

When I first arrived, I told myself, “I want to know this city”. And now, I do. I know its seasons, its history, its events, best spots, stores, everything. It’s hard to leave it. My city may not be famous, or huge, but it’s my city and I love it for that. Going back is just such a weird thing to even think about. When I think about going back, I really just imagine myself “stepping out” of a box into “the other side”. I feel like I’m going into a whole new world, a feeling I didn’t have when I came to France. I’m not too sure of what to expect, but I am kind of nervous! Leaving Miami wasn’t too hard, but I have a feeling that leaving France will be.

This is such an amazing experience, the way so many cultures are brought together in one country either far in distance from our own or far in culture. Sometimes I look at pictures and notice all the different nationalities. We would have never been brought together any other way if it wasn’t for this exchange. It really is a beautiful thing. I can truly say that I am proud of myself for having completed this year. This has been the best and most beautiful year of my life. I’ll never forget it. I’ve seen a lot of people use this quote a propos to finishing their year: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I find this really to be the perfect way to look at it. It hurts that it’s over, but it’s such a amazing feeling that it happened.

I’d like to finish off my last journal by thanking everyone that made this year possible; especially, the program of RYE Florida. We really do have an amazing program. I’ve talked to other students who didn’t have orientations, or don’t even know what Rotex is. Thank you for all the work you put into this. Thank you for every effort, it really means a lot to all of us students. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU

Quelle belle année, quelle belle expérience. Merci beaucoup beaucoup beaucoup.