Mariah Meikle


Hometown:Apopka, Florida
School: Lake Brantley High School
Sponsor District : District 6980
Sponsor Club:Apopka, Florida
Host District: District 1740
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Gannat


My Bio

Bonjour tout le monde! My name is Mariah Meikle and I currently reside in Apopka, Florida. I attend Lake Brantley high school and I am in the 10th grade. I am fifteen years old and the youngest of three. I have one brother and one sister and I live with my Mom. I first found about Rotary when Scott came into my English honors classroom to give a presentation on it. That night I went home ready to convince my Mom to let me apply, not much convincing was needed and soon I was done filling out my application and excited for my interview. I was very confident after my interview and extremely hopeful to get in, later that week or so I was given a call with rejection. Honestly, I cried and was heart broken over it but even then I decided one way or another I intended to be an exchange student but before I could even research I was given another call with the best news I could've got, I suddenly had a place in Rotary exchange so I am beyond grateful. The beautiful country I will be spending my exchange in is France! I am absolutely ecstatic to go. I will have taken two years of French by the time I leave for my exchange and I'm excited but also very nervous to have the chance to be completely immersed in another culture and language. I have read sooo much about the French school systems and culture in the past few weeks since I learned of my destination. Knowing I am going to France is almost like a dream and yes of course I'll miss Florida but there's nothing more exciting than leaving to go somewhere new and different.

The joke for all the Americans was to keep a straight face and hold up one finger, still trying to figure out why we went along with it

The joke for all the Americans was to keep a straight face and hold up one finger, still trying to figure out why we went along with it

All the amazing inbounds in my district!

All the amazing inbounds in my district!

The goal of this game was to get as many people are you could to stand on one newspaper, my team was disqualified but it was hilarious watching everyone try to fit. This was the winning team!

The goal of this game was to get as many people are you could to stand on one newspaper, my team was disqualified but it was hilarious watching everyone try to fit. This was the winning team!

The castle!

The castle!

The water was freezing! Everyone was soaked by the time we were done

The water was freezing! Everyone was soaked by the time we were done

Journals: Mariah - France

  • Mariah, outbound to France

    There's been quite a few times where I said to myself "I need to write my Rotary journal TODAY." I remember as a future outbound, I loved reading journals and I always wished the outbounds wrote more. Now I understand why some people don't have many journals. It's hard to sit yourself in front of a screen and essentially sum up your life in your host country.

    In my exchange I have had some of the most difficult moments of my life and of course some of the best, I wish I could sum up everything I've done and seen and how's it all made me feel. Exchange has pushed me so much as a person and I feel like I've grown so much thanks to it. I've also changed host families... Well actually I changed in January and it's been two and a half months, I'll switch to my third and final host family in April. Changing host families was really hard for me, I had never really gotten close to my second host family beforehand so there was a few days of awkwardness and getting to know each other before we fell into a comfortable routine. The first few days in their home I had a really bad case of homesickness it wasn't for home in Florida but for my first host family (Sorry Florida family I still love you) I had gotten so close to them during the time I spent at their home and it was hard to leave them after so long.

    My first host family consisted of my host sister Aude, who was 16 and turned 17 in January, little brother Guilhem, 12 who turned 13 recently, Diva the dog, the two guinea pigs and finally our parents who were 49/50 . Whereas my second host family was just my host mom and dad who are 72 and 75 and no pets. It was a big change going from a household with siblings and pets but my current host family has been very kind, I think it was a little difficult for them as well since they aren't used to having a teenager in the house anymore. Anyways it's been going well.

    Now, on to my French progress. I caught on to French rather quickly. My only issue is that I have an accent when I speak. Everyone understands what I'm saying so it's not a problem but people can quickly tell them I'm a foreigner. This depends on the phrase that I'm saying, apparently what gives me away in the way I say my r's. For those of you who will be learning French one day, the only advice I can give you about r's in French is to not worry too much about how you say them, as long as you're making an effort to speak the language people will appreciate it even if you don't always say things correctly.

    Other than that my Rotarian's just had a chance to really speak with me for the first time in a few months and all of them were so proud of how much progress I've made and so quickly. It was nice to receive some compliments on my language and some of them even said I didn't have a strong accent (Although I think that may have just been flattery)

    I've changed classes at school and also now have a bit of a different schedule. Before I was with the 2ende (equivalent of Sophomores) and now I'm with the 1ere (equivalent of Juniors) which is a bit of a larger class so I get to meet a few more kids my age. I also give English lessons to the kids in middle school and now whenever they see me they all say "Hello!" occasionally they mix up the languages and say "Hola!" instead which is always cute.

  • Mariah, outbound to France

    It's impossible to sum up a my life in France without writing the equivalent of a short book. I can never summarize all the ups and downs I've felt being here and all the different emotions.

    Exchange is something I will cherish for the rest of my life and I feel so blessed to have this experience. I don't know how I can possibly explain everything I've done in the time since my last journal without rambling.

    It's not easy to be an exchange student. Anyone who makes the decision to leave their home for a year to live with strangers who don't speak your language is brave. Even though it can be nerve wrecking, exchange will be one of the best years of your life. I've only been in France for two and a half months and everyday I wonder how I will be able to leave this country that I now call home.

    There certainly will be days where it's very difficult but there are many more days that will be amazing. It's strange to realize how quickly you can adapt to things that you've never done before.

    I must say to all future outbounds, even though it has been said to you a million times... STUDY YOUR HOST COUNTRY'S LANGUAGE. Nothing will be more satisfying than having Rotarian's or your host family telling you how well you speak in your target language. When I came to France I had two years prior of learning French in school and it is not even close to the same as actually speaking it in France. So try to spend as much time as possible studying and getting used to constantly speaking in your target language.

    Since I've been in France I feel like I have grown so much as a person in such a short amount of time. Being here has honestly been life changing and I will be forever grateful to Rotary for this opportunity.

  • Mariah, outbound to France

    This is my life so far and I love it. Can I stay forever?

    I’m going to try to keep this in chronological order but more than likely I’ll stray from the point. I had a pretty nerve-wracking flight to Paris that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but the moment I reached the Clearmont-Ferrand airport I was at peace. I and a few other exchange students were greeted by our host families and some Rotarians.

    We were all told to go to the international baggage pickup section but it took a while for everyone to notice. Thankfully I spotted the sign that said so and we made our way to grab our things. I’ve never gotten my luggage so quickly before, needless to say I was very content. Then the most interesting part came, greeting my host family and the other Rotarians…. In French. Thankfully, I had no problems at all with that and took many pictures then my host family and I made our way to the car.

    My host dad had to go back to work so it was just me, my brother, sister, and mom. Since I’m so tall they insisted I sit in the front. (Also one of first things I was greeted with was “Wow you’re so tall!” Although I can’t remember who said it first) At this point I was exhausted but wanted to talk with my host family, it was so exciting to finally meet them! Everything felt so surreal. I was actually IN France and it was even more beautiful that I expected.

    We had about an hour drive home and although my brain was barely functioning we managed to have a pretty nice conversation and I learned a lot of interesting things about the area. We also talked about how French men are very polite and them grabbing you two giant and heavy suitcases is normal and I should always let them, this was a bit odd for me but I loved it because at home I’m usually the one carrying the heavy suitcases and bags.

    I was constantly saying “What is that?” “So pretty!” “ Wow, France is incredible!” By the end of the trip my host mom said how it was amusing that I said that about everything. I really did and still do find everything to be so beautiful, from the mountains to the small towns. When I finally arrived home all I wanted to do was sleep my host mom advised against it because it would ruin my sleeping schedule and boy was I happy my family kept me up.

    My brother and sister showed me this card game that I still don’t exactly understand no matter how much I play it. My host brother never loses though, I thought my sister was joking when she said it but he’s really never lost in all the times we’ve played. I didn’t have too much jet lag and quickly got on the same sleeping schedule as everyone else. The first day my sister helped me unpack and I gave my host brother all the candy I had packed for everyone (He was very happy, he LOVES candy.)

    We had dinner and honestly I have no idea how to explain it without butchering the idea of the dish. It was potatoes and ham/bacon with cream kind of made into a pastry pie crust. It was absolutely amazing and at that moment I realized I was going to love all French food. This has proven true so far. In France, families eat just about every meal together if we can and there are no cell phones at the table. I really love this because it helps me with my language skills and made bonding with my family a lot easier. We also eat a lot of potatoes here which I didn’t expect but I love how they always differ in flavor and texture.

    Over the course of the next few days I visited some beautiful small towns and really got to know my host family better. My little brother loves candy and burgers and doesn’t enjoy vegetables so we often joke that he’s a little American, much to his dismay. He’s also a good sport about it though. My host sister is the same age as me and super funny and sweet! My entire family is perfect honestly. I feel like I couldn’t have been placed in a better first host family. It hasn’t been long but I love them all so much.

    Now, on to my French skills! The first few days I was a bit lost, I would hear and recognize words but they just didn’t seem to process into sentences. So I would repeat whatever confused me and that usually results in a fun game of charades. My favorite time was when my family was explaining that the cheese I liked so much was goat cheese and everyone baa’ed at me. I said sheep but my brother thankfully came in and he said goat.

    After being here a few weeks, I now understand most of the things being said and if I don’t, I’ll ask my host family to explain. I was shocked that I knew so much of the language after only about three weeks but I’m not complaining! The only difficulty I have language wise is expressing what I mean. Even though I understand so well, actually using the words I know to form a complete sentence is a whole other challenge. It gets very frus- trating from time to time when I’m at school or have something to say during a conversation but I just can’t find the words. I know this will get better in the coming months but for now I’ll just continue studying my pronunciation and vocabulary.

    The weather has been perfect since I’ve been here, not too cold, not too hot. It’s rained once or twice but it was more of a drizzle. We had a Rotary camp for the entire district the very first weekend I was here and it was super fun! The night before I went to the camp I slept at my counselor’s house but we went to a rock and roll concert, French style. The band and crowd was pretty small but it was really an interesting atmosphere. Lots of people were smoking, as usual and at one point I ended up playing some sort of limbo with strangers who were carrying stage equipment and turned it into a game. It was a really great experience overall.

    That same night before the concert I went to what I think was a Rotary meeting but I’m pretty sure it was a last minute thing and honestly I’m still trying to figure it out. I met my club president though and he was super nice! He immediately recognized my name because of the email I sent him (Thanks Scott!) Anyways at the camp for inbounds we played a bunch of different games and spent a lot of time just hanging out in general.

    We went to visit a very old and huge castle the last day of the weekend and it was amazing. The fact that things exist and can look like that after hundreds of years is incredible. I’ll attach a photo of it if I can find one. I was really sad when it was finally time to leave but also relived! I actually really missed my host family and was much relieved to get some sleep.

    The following Wednesday I started school. I was super nervous my first day and felt a little awkward walking into the school grounds with my host mom but I was quickly directed by students to a girl who spoke English which was a bit disappointing. She was very nice and ended up being in the same class as me but it often hinders my French learning.

    In my class there are only six students who attend including me. There’s another girl but she’s very sick and never comes to school because of that. I think that was my biggest culture shock, I’ve never been in such a small class before. The other years of high school have a lot more students, for some reason the first year is just a really tiny class.

    During the first week I sat beside Jasmin (The girl who speaks English) and whenever teachers couldn’t understand what I was saying or I didn’t understand them we all looked to Jasmin. Soon enough we were put on opposite sides of the class so I could progress in my French instead of having Jasmin helping me with everything. We now speak together in French rather than English so I’m happy for that. I can’t honestly say I love school but I certainly don't hate it. The teachers either treat me like a baby or expect the same quality of work as everyone else so it gets a bit confusing at times.

    Everyone in my class is very shy and it’s difficult to get them talking sometimes but it’s gotten a lot better and we’ve all bonded quite a bit. Lots of kids smoke often and I don’t think I’ll even get used to all the second hand smoke but it’s normal now. School lunch is surprisingly good here! I was very shocked, it’s like a whole meal and very healthy. I like it a LOT more than the typical American school lunches.

    School hours are also very long here so it’s a bit difficult to adjust to the class times and also the different class schedules every day but I’m getting the hang of it. Here, whenever a teacher enters the room we stand until they tell us to sit and that was very confusing my first day. I was dumbfounded and wondering why everyone was standing but after it was explained it’s become normal for me.

    Every weekend I do something different with my family; we’ve climbed up to the center of an inactive volcano, searched for mushrooms, and ate a bunch of wild raspberries all in the span of one day. Another weekend we went to Vichy and walked around the shops. We also went to this super cool market that my town had. It was sort of like a huge flea market. They had everything from wine to live animals. My host sister bought a pair of jeans there but nothing really caught my eye. I had a lot of fun petting the horses and my host mom joked that I should buy a small goat to take home for my mom. I also met up with my third host mom and her husband; we talked for a bit then were on our way.

    Every Wednesday I go to the library with my host mom and brother while my sister is at music lessons and pick up a few children’s books. It’s getting easier to read them and soon I think I’ll move on to more difficult reads. Overall I've never been happier and really enjoy everything about the culture (except the smoking!) I’ve never felt so indebted and grateful for something before. Without Rotary I would not be on exchange right now having the time of my life.

    I managed to get lost already. I’ve never taken the bus in Florida so on the first day I was supposed to take the bus. I missed it and had to call my host mom. The second day was even better though, on Fridays I get out one hour early and didn’t realize. Of course I followed what I was told and took the first bus. I ended up about 20 kilometers away from home and had to ask a strange teenage boy to help explain to my host mom where the bus I was on was going. Thankfully, my host mom found this hilarious and we still make jokes about it all the time.

    Now I’m a professional at taking the bus home and haven’t gotten lost since. I’m hoping I’ll manage to keep it that way and not get lost again! (Not likely.) Tomorrow I have my first real Rotary meeting with my club, I was rehearsing with my host family and my host mom said I sound like a commercial and proceeds to present the refrigerator just like they would in the commercials. I still can’t take my speech seriously but I got a good laugh from it. This is my life so far and I love it. Can I stay forever ?

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