Jilian Sands
2011-12 Outbound to Hungary

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Ponte Vedra High School
Sponsor: Ponte Vedra Beach Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Szeged Szent-Györgyi Albert, District 1911, Hungary

Jilian's Bio

Every year Rotary has come to my school and given a presentation on their youth exchange program and every year I have told myself to apply. This year I finally stopped contemplating and filled out the program application. And I am very happy I did because I will be going to Hungary for my senior year!

While school takes up the majority of my time, in terms of hobbies, I enjoy anything having to do with tennis, whether it be playing or watching, baking, though only deserts, because when I try to cook, the food usually burns, reading, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy visiting my sister and brother- in- law in New York City a few times each year (this year’s visits included a week-long pastry making class and attending the US Open).

I love traveling and have been to several countries outside the US with my mom (including the UK and Italy). I enjoy learning about other countries, their histories and their cultures. I am so grateful that I have been given this incredible opportunity to learn not only about a new culture but even more about myself. I know this experience will shape many decisions I make in my life going forward. So thank you so much Rotary for what is sure to be an incredibly difficult, but rewarding once in a lifetime experience.

Jilian's Journals

September 24, 2011

I arrived in Hungary a day short of a month ago. Acknowledging this also meant it was time for me to write a journal, my first journal to be exact and I’ve been staring at my computer screen for about an hour now trying to figure out how to start it, so this will just have to do…

My flights from Jacksonville to Atlanta to Amsterdam to Budapest were really easy, while only one delayed flight and even then it was only for about half an hour and we were already on the plane. I didn’t learn how easy they were until I arrived in Hungary and Nicole, another exchange student in Szeged from California, told me about her flights which unexpectedly included an eighteen hour layover in JFK, which I guess is a future caution to never fly internationally (or domestically) through JFK.

My first weekend here, I went to Dabas with my YEO, his wife, brother- in-law, and Raymond, one of the other exchange students in Szeged from Taiwan, for a small fish soup festival. There I also met some other inbounds from who are currently live in Kecskemét. It was my first time trying fish soup, but I was told it was solely for preparation of the fish soup festival that happens in Szeged every year. This brings me to the following weekend, when the exchange students from Pécs, Dabas, Kecskemét, and Szeged gathered with the Rotary club in Szeged for the festival. Although you would think that there would be little difference in fish soups, that not true, and the one we had in Szeged was just a little bit better, maybe it was the fact that there were no fish eggs in it, I’m not sure.

School here is a bit confusing, but as I’m in mostly English, Spanish, and PE classes, it’s not too bad, though at times I am honestly surprised when I walk into the halls and hear Hungarian. My school, which I’m told is the best in the city, is located just outside of the city center, so whenever we get out early Nicole and I walk around a bit and explore some.

My favorite night so far in Hungary came about a week and a half ago, when my Rotary club took Nicole, Sami (exchange student from Argentina), and I to Serbia for one of their parties. It may seem random that we’d go to Serbia for a party, but as it was less than an hour bus ride (including crossing the border) it wasn’t that unusual. While in Serbia, I watched some traditional Hungarian dances, and learned a bit myself, had dinner and a tiny bite of what was described to me as “Bambi” and a dessert filled with poppy seeds.

I have gotten used to a sort of weekend schedule, at least one for Sundays: the whole family (including my host aunt, her family, and the exchange student they are hosting) go to my host grandparents house for lunch, which actually really convenient seeing at we all live within a three house radius of one another. Sunday afternoons are when the fun really begins, either my host family or host aunt have a Ping Pong Party at their house. Neighbors and friends come over for a few hours to play multiple tournaments of doubles ping pong.

Last weekend, I spent the night at Nicole’s house where we made chocolate chip cookies for her host family. Needless to say they were a success and were almost gone by the next morning. I don’t know if chocolate chips are sold in Hungary, but Nicole’s host mom declared that if they are sold somewhere, she will find them.

My host family here is really great. I get along really well with my host sisters (Lili and Réka) and I end up getting most of my Hungarian help from them. My host parents remind me a lot of my parents back home, which has made it a lot easier to adjust here. Most times during the week, I end up watching either Game of Thrones with my host parents, or Desperate Housewives with my younger host sister Réka. Both of which are dubbed in Hungarian, so it makes following the shows a bit difficult, but when we walk movies there are usually English subtitles for me to be able to follow.

It may sounds weird, but at times I forget that I’m in the middle of Europe, in a country that speaks one of the most difficult languages in the world, but then you notice things like:

• Stoplights don’t just go from red to green, then go from red to red and yellow, then to green.

• At school you stand up when the teacher comes into the room.

• There is no lunch break at school, only a twenty minute break at eleven, but people are constantly eating throughout the day.

• You take the city bus to school; something I think is much better, if you miss one another comes ten minutes later.

• Ping Pong and foosball are everywhere

Although this past month has not been easy, it has been amazing. So thank you to my family and Florida Rotary!