Vina Aggabao

Poland

Hometown: Pinellas Park, Florida
School: St. Petersburg Collegiate High School
Sponsor District : District 6950
Sponsor Club: St. Petersburg West, Florida
Host District: 2230
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Bydgoszcz Brda

 

My Bio


Cześć! My name is Vina Aggabao, and I am seventeen years old. I was born in the Philippines, and came to America when I was nine years old. I live with my sister, her husband, their two daughters, and two dogs. I am a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, and President of our Interact Club. I’m also a National Honor Society member and one of the four representatives of Junior Achievement for SPCHS. In my spare time, I like to spend time with family and friends, as well as working out at the gym and training for obstacle course races. Moving to Florida at such a young age, I had no idea what to expect. I barely spoke English, did not have many friends, and I was really shy. So I focused on school, did my homework, practiced speaking the language, and before I knew it I started loving the American lifestyle. I got good grades, made new friends, and got out of my comfort zone when I started playing volleyball in and outside of school. I realize that living a new life in another country is hard, but I know it gets better in time. I want to become an exchange student to grow as an individual, and learn on my own without the guidance of my family. Becoming an exchange student is a privilege, and I would like to thank RYE Florida for giving me the opportunity to live abroad, and take part in this life-changing experience.


Exchange students from America looking mighty fine in our blazers

Exchange students from America looking mighty fine in our blazers

While touring the Malbork Castle

While touring the Malbork Castle

First Polish ice cream with my sisters!

First Polish ice cream with my sisters!

11 nationalities, 10 months, 1 family

11 nationalities, 10 months, 1 family

Bydgoszcz Buds

Bydgoszcz Buds

With our snowboarding instructor

With our snowboarding instructor

Journals: Vina - Poland 2015-2016

  • Vina, outbound to Poland

    A little less than two months left of exchange and I'm struggling to figure out how time flew by so fast. I've heard it a million times, "Time flies" but I've never really taken it into consideration until now. Before I started writing this journal, I visited the homepage of RYE FL, browsed through the pictures of my fellow exchange friends, and remembered how just a year or so ago, I was sitting at home doing my research about exchange, and wishing that my adventure would start already. Now here I am, writing to you from Poland with only two months left of exchange. It's a bittersweet feeling, a mix of happiness that I will be returning to a new life in Florida, but also sad that my great big adventure is ending. Not that living in Florida isn't great because it is, but the reason being that Poland is also home, where I have a family whom I love dearly and friends that I will stay in contact with for years to come, as well as speaking the language I've come to love.

    So before I end this short journal, I want to answer a question I get asked often, "Why exchange?" Now, of course there are a lot of reasons why someone would be crazy enough to get on a plane and live in a foreign country for a year. The answer is different for everyone. But as for me, I wanted to go on exchange because I wanted to find myself. I wanted adventures, figure out what I want to do with my life, and I found just that. Explaining my reasons would probably take awhile to explain, because even I'm still processing it all in my head. But that's the great thing about exchange, others don't have to understand it, as long you do. 

    Exchange is life. It's challenging yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone, finding out what you want in life, and so much more. It's singing with your girlfriends while walking down the street feeling like you're Adele or Beyonce, it's dancing randomly in the middle of the square because you got dared to, it's messing up a sentence and having people laugh but know it's okay because you know you're trying. Exchange is the best thing to ever happen in my life, and I've loved every day of it, even the good and bad days.

  • Vina, outbound to Poland

    Hello, 2016!

    It's crazy to think I've been here for 6 months. Sometimes I still find myself looking back at my first few weeks here and how I struggled so much missing my family and friends, wishing I was nowhere but home in the comfort of my own bed. It's so different now. I've developed a closer relationship with my family, made new friends that I know will last a lifetime, and adventures. I've traveled to different cities, went on hikes to see some of Poland's finest views, and even learned how to iceskate and snowboard!

    So what's new after 6 months? Well, my Polish is definitely a lot better than before. It's not perfect but it's better. I can understand more of what my family and friends are saying, and from time to time can have a solid conversation in Polish. Sometimes I still struggle with my sentences but my friends have complimented me on how much my Polish have approved. It's one of the most rewarding feelings.

    In January, the Bydgoszcz group and I went on a trip to the mountains to learn how to snowboard! It was one of the best weeks I've had, learning and failing with my buds, but still laughing in the end. Encouraging each other when we got frustrated. It was nothing but good vibes. On our last day, we were able to go up on the highest mountain and snowboard all the way down. Who knew? A Floridian on the slopes. It was scary, exhilarating, and fun I would do it all over again. I also learned how to ice skate, which is another thing I've accomplished.

    Future exchangers to Poland, be prepared for a wild ride. Not everyday will be a great big adventure, but it is your job to make it count and memorable. You don't have to go out every day or weekend to feel like you're getting the most of this experience. Even staying at home to spend quality time with your family is enough. Some of the best laughs I've shared with my family were during our card games or even during dinner. Be open to changes while on exchange, it's all about growing and learning.

    To see my Homepage click HERE


  • Vina, outbound to Poland

    Dzien dobry! I have been in Poland for about 5 weeks now and so much has happened it’s still hard for me to believe I’m really here. I just want to say that Poland is beautiful and breathtaking. There are so many beautiful places to see, history to learn, people to meet, and new food to try you won’t run out of things to do! To say that I got lucky doesn’t do justice for everything I have already experienced.

    In 5 weeks, I have visited beautiful towns/cities: Ciechocinek, Malbork, Torun, Warsaw, and of course, exploring my city Bydgoszcz. I have completed my 10 day language camp, visited the Malbork Castle which is the largest castle in the world, cruised on the Vistula River, seen the fascinating light shows in Torun, visited Old Town in Warsaw, and went to the Mrozu concert here in Bydgoszcz (he’s a popular Polish singer)! I also went to Bulgaria for a week with my host family where I spent my 18th birthday. Yes , in just 5 weeks!

    Some of you future exchangers are probably wondering how the school is like here in Poland so let me help you out. Liceums are the high schools here so you will most likely be in the first year class which isn’t really a problem because you won’t understand much of what they are saying. A lot of the students speak English but may be shy to approach so you will just have to try to talk to them first. They may seem closed off, but once you start trying to talk to them in Polish they will help you out because they love the fact you are trying to learn their language! Just keep trying and eventually you will understand more.

    The classes are 45 minutes long for each subject and you will stay with the same students when you go to the next class. We also have 10 minute breaks in between classes to eat lunch, then after the 4th class you will have 15-20 minute breaks. Our days end on different times depending on our schedule, so on Monday – Wednesday I get out at 15 :25, Thursday at 17:25, and Friday at 12:30. I really like my school, it’s in the middle of the city not too far from my home and there are lots of nearby shops and cafes to check out. I have also made a lot of friends in the first few weeks in school. It may seem intimidating to approach the students, but you just have to get over that fear and talk to them! Before you know it, you will be making plans to go to the mall or cafes or cinemas!

    Now, let me talk about my host family. I absolutely adore them! They have been so loving and caring since I got here that I don’t even want to think about when I have to move on to my next host family. My host dad, Marcin, and sister, Marcelina speak English pretty well, and my host mom, Agnieszka is still learning. She teaches me Polish while she’s learning English. I also had another sister, Julia, and she went on her exchange to Australia while I was at my language camp. In the short 5 days we spent together, we have gotten really close and I’m happy to be able to call her my sister.

    My host parents work a lot during the week, but we eat dinner together to talk about our days and what happened at school. There is always something new to talk and laugh about. On weekends is family time which I love because no matter how busy we are during the week we still find time to spend together. My host grandparents are also the cutest! You are never hungry around them and they are all so loving and caring. My grandmas here will give me random hugs and kisses on the cheek and it just makes me feel really loved.

    Going on exchange has been one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. Yes, it is scary to leave home, start a new life in a new country and not know the language, BUT it is also growing up and stepping out of your comfort zone and saying to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m really here.” Not in a “shocked” way, but more like an “I’m glad I made the right decision”. If you are considering going on exchange, I’d say go for it. And if people ask you why, reply with, “Why not?”

    Thank you for reading my journal and a big thank you to Rotary, my sponsors at St. Petersburg West Rotary club, and of course, my loving family back home. I wouldn’t be on this adventure without all of your support and for that I am forever grateful.

    So I will end this first journal with one of my favorite quotes:
    “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” –St. Augustine
    Greetings from Poland! Until next time!

    To see my home page and photos click HERE

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