Laura Cebulski

Greenland

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Ponte Vedra
Sponsor District: 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach
Host District: 1470
Host Club: Nuuk

 

My Bio


Hello! My name is Laura Cebulski and I am currently a sophomore at Ponte Vedra High School. I’m so excited that I will be spending my junior year abroad to Greenland! I live at home with my mom, dad, my sister, Sarah (19), and two dogs. I was born in Beijing, China and then adopted when I was a year old, and lived in New York until I was 10. My family and I moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 2010 and I have been living here ever since. In my spare time I work at a local grocery store, and when I’m not working, I like to hang out with friends, watch movies, go shopping, cook, and spend time with my family. On the weekends, my sister and I volunteer at a local animal shelter. It’s very rewarding to see the dogs and cats find loving homes. I love the outdoors and can’t wait to experience all the beauty that Greenland has to offer.

I have wanted to be a part of the RYE program since the beginning of my freshman year and am thrilled to be a Rotary Youth Exchange outbound exchange student for the 2016/2017 year. I cannot thank Rotary enough for giving me this once in a life time opportunity. It will be so exciting to experience a completely different culture, learn a new language, and gain friendships that will last forever. I’m also looking forward to trying new things when I’m abroad. Again, thank you Rotary for everything that you’ve done to make all of this possible.

Journals: Laura – Greenland 2016-17

  • Laura, outbound to Greenland

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    It’s almost my six month mark and I’m already halfway through exchange. It feels as if Christmas break was just yesterday. Now it’s already February; time is going by way too fast. It’s hard to believe that almost six months ago I got on a plane and left everything I knew. A lot has happened in half a year, nevertheless two months since I wrote my last journal. I never realized how hard it is to keep updated with these. Before leaving I told myself that I would update on the website every month yet here I am only writing my third journal. So much happens on exchange, sometimes so fast I can’t even keep up. Taking the time to sit down and write about what you’ve been doing is much harder than it sounds. 

    I’ve moved in with my second host family late November and they’ve been amazing. Having two little siblings around the house has been an experience in itself. Back home I have an older sister so my house is usually quiet; here it’s the total opposite. They may be loud but I’ve come to love them and their energy. Living here has been a blessing with getting to class. I live about a ten minute walk away from school as to where I had to take the bus to school at my first family. Living here also puts me closer to the city center so everything is only a walking distance away. I miss my first host family so much but living in a new house has given me new experiences and more people I can now call my family. 

    Christmas break has been one of my favorite times since being here. The first day of December is when everyone started decorating their homes with lights and decorations. If you look almost every house has a bright yellow star hanging in their window. In the winter the sun comes up at 10am and sets at 3pm so they really light up the city and it adds a warm feeling. In greenland and Denmark they celebrate Christmas on the 24th, not the 25th like in the US. I woke up on Christmas Eve and had a nice breakfast and got ready to walk to the hospital to watch santa fly in on a helicopter to bring presents to the kids in the hospital. The whole town showed up to come see him. It was nice to do something different on Christmas. The rest of the day consisted of relaxing with family and eating. In the afternoon I went with my first host mom and the other exchange student here to a Greenlandic church service. All of it was in Greenlandic so I didn’t understand a word of what they were sayi ng but just being there and listening to them singing was something amazing. Another tradition here is that they open presents in the evening and before that they sing and walk around the tree. Christmas day was my lazy day consisting of being with my host family and friends. A few days later was the 31st. New Years Eve was celebrated with a party and a whole bunch of fireworks. When 12 o'clock hit fireworks lit up the sky. My friends and I walked around the city and watched the never-ending show. Experiencing a whole different culture’s way of celebrating the holidays was such an eye opener. Yes this year was very different from how my family back home celebrates Christmas, but that makes it all the more special. 

    Two weeks after Christmas came my birthday. I was excited to turn 17 and go celebrate with my friends. The day started with my host family waking me up by singing a Danish birthday song, a tradition here. We had a nice breakfast and then I got ready for school. School was boring as usual but I got a break 10-12 so it wasn’t that bad. After school my friends took me out to a Thai restaurant in the City. All the friends I have here made my exchange. Without them my life here wouldn’t be the same. These people are some of the best I’ve ever met and it breaks my heart to think about leaving them in a few months. 

    Being here has absolutely been amazing, it still feels like I’m living in a dream. My birthday marked the halfway point of exchange. I have four more months here in Greenland and I’ve already started crying. I got a little homesick during Christmas break but I got over it pretty quick. It’s weird, I miss my life back home and am looking forward to the summer but at the same time I’m so sad about eventually leaving and want to stay here forever. Before leaving I thought exchange was going to be easy and that I wouldn’t get homesick at all. What I can say now is that no matter how much you might think you won’t miss home, you will. Exchange is filled with hard times, good times, and better memories that you will hold forever. The moments I spent here is something to treasure. Through the good and bad I’ve loved it all. If I had the chance, I would relive this year all over again. I wouldn’t trade the time here for the world. Thank you so much Rotary for giving me this chance to represent America and have the best year of my life.

  • Laura, outbound to Greenland

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    I’ve done so much these past few months, but what I’ve come to realize is the more that happens here, the harder it is to put into words. Greenland is no longer just my ‘host country’, it's my home. The place where I feel most content. Where everything is no longer new and days are in routine. Where I have family and friends that would do anything for me. Where I can come home, throw my backpack down, and fall onto my bed after a long day at school. Where I’ve had some of the best memories, but also where I experienced possibly the lowest point in my life. October was when homesickness really hit me. A few days after hitting my two months of being in Greenland I was really missing Florida. Missing my family, all of my friends, school, driving wherever and whenever I want, food that I’m used to, being familiar to where I live, and just Ponte Vedra in general. I was missing my normal life. Memories that I would d o anything in that moment to go back and relive just one more time. What you eventually learn on exchange is to not regret anything. I’m so grateful for everything that has happened here, the good and bad times. Having good memories that I will keep with me forever, and the difficult ones to help me learn and grow into an improved version of myself. 

    Days are going by quicker and quicker this time of year. Weeks no longer feel like a whole seven days. Crazy that 2017 is right around the corner; meaning that I will have been here for almost half a year. Don’t take things for granted; time is too precious to waste. Before going on exchange ten months seemed like such a long period of time for me. Long enough to build a brand new life for myself in a completely foreign country. Right now that is the complete opposite. I feel like time is slipping right from under my feet. The thought of leaving in June makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t begin to explain how fast a year goes by. Last November I got a call that changed my life. The call from Jeff telling me that I was accepted to be a Rotary Youth Exchange student in 2016/2017. The vivid memory of me crying on my bedroom floor with so many emotions running through my head feels like a whole lifetime away, but at the same time as if it was only months ago. I would'v e never expected what was to happen in the upcoming year. Now in math class in one of the coldest places on earth. A country where some don’t even know that society exists, sitting at a desk writing my RYE Florida journal. Some wish for more money, more love, I wish for more time. That’s the whole idea of going abroad though, you go in knowing that eventually you’ll have to go back and adjust to your old life. That may be the biggest challenge of exchange. 

    I could sit here and tell you every detail of what I have been up too since September, but that’s what any person that has gone abroad will do. Exchange students will always spill their life of ‘I did this’ and ‘I did that while I was away.’ They don’t always tell you what’s going on in their head, what they may be feeling at that exact moment. When I applied over a year ago, they asked me why I wanted to go on exchange. At the time I said because learning a new language and being immersed in a completely new culture sounded amazing and why would I pass up that opportunity. Being away from what is normal to you and starting somewhere completely new will help me grow as a person and become more mature. I knew I would change as a person, but the four months I’ve been here has completely altered the way I think and act. Meeting people that don’t share the same native tongue, same views and opinions, same experiences, same way of th inking is one of best things that you get to experience. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, breaking out of the bubble you live in and getting out to see the world; truly something to cherish. Don’t get me wrong, the culture here in Greenland is something beautiful. I love trying new foods and experiencing how they do things here, from different holiday traditions to the small details like how they eat food with a fork and knife at all times. Greenland’s culture is something I will always appreciate, but the biggest thing I’m going to treasure most is how my way of thinking has changed, how my way of living has changed, how I have grown as an individual. The person I was starting in August is different than who I am now in November. 

    Exchange has been a whole bunch of ups and downs, though I have learned to love both. I have come appreciate the happy moments here in Greenland; me and my friends laughing until we can’t breathe, or seeing my language slowly start to improve over time. As well as appreciating the times where I’m in my room crying from how much I miss my life in Florida; what I would do to be able to give everyone back home a big hug. From the beginning this hasn’t been easy. The anxiety of finishing my application in time to the stress of final interviews. The long waiting of hearing if I had been accepted, and then again to find out what country I got. Spending the next 7 months learning a completely new language that I have never seen before and waiting for the day I finally get to get on a plane and finally start my exchange that I have worked up to the past year has all been worth it. If exchange was easy, it wouldn’t be as valuable as it is. The crazy and amazing memori zes you'll have make all the difficult times worth it. All the hard moments you go through is what makes exchange exchange. I wouldn’t change anything about my life here or the things that lead up to it.

    To my friends and family, I miss all you you so much and I’ll see you soon. To my fellow exchangers, I hope you’re all enjoying your countries and having the time of your life. To any future outbounds, I wish you the best of luck, this will be the best year of your life. To Rotary, words cannot express how grateful I am for you to give me this once in a lifetime opportunity, thank you for all your hard work.

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    Laura, outbound to Greenland

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    I just hit my one month in Greenland and I can’t believe how fast time is flying by. A part of me feels like I just arrived, yet another part feels like I’ve been here for months. I’ve already fallen in love with this amazing country. It hit me the moment I stepped off the airplane that I’m finally in Greenland. After waiting for eight agonizing months, my exchange has finally started. I have had many culture shock moments since I’ve arrived. The people are so friendly here to strangers, very different from America, the food is amazing even though half the time I don’t know what I’m eating, and the nature here is out of this world. Oh yeah, and the climate difference is very noticeable. Just the other day I had to walk in 50 mph winds while it was raining and only about 35 degrees (2 celsius); not my favorite kind of weather. Looking out my bedroom window I have the view of Store Malene, a mountain that I have not yet climbed, and also a nice view of icebergs cruising across the ocean. This past month has been amazing! I still feel like I’m living in a dream and I don’t want to wake up anytime soon. 

    Unfortunately I don't have one of those horrible travel stories to tell. The worst for me was a three hour delayed flight in Minneapolis but I’ll take it after hearing the stories that some people had to go through getting to their host countries. I met up with Noah, another exchange student to Greenland at the Keflavik airport in Iceland where we flew from there to Greenland. The flight to Greenland was one I’ll never forget. The view leaving Iceland was beautiful. During the flight Noah and I talked about our summer and about how excited we are to be in Greenland for the next year. After about an hour of outside just being ocean, we started to see some icebergs here and there. It's weird to see that it’s a common thing to have icebergs floating past your backyard. Soon enough we started flying over Greenland. The view was absolutely incredible; seeing the mountains covered in snow blew my mind since it was only the beginning of August. The pilots of the plane were nice enough to let passengers go to the cockpit and check out the view. Looking out there makes you realize how big the world actually is. I haven't been out of the country for over fifteen years, and just 2000 miles away was a country where there's snow all year. After another hour we landed in Nuuk where the view just kept getting better. 

    Walking out of plane is where I got my first wake-up call. Staring right in front of me was what I thought was a giant mountain. Coming from Florida, you can only imagine how big just that one difference was. It was about 45 degrees (7 celsius) and cloudy. I was shivering the entire walk into the airport. Noah and I met up with our Youth Exchange officer, Niels and he drove us around Nuuk. Traveling for 25 hours with little sleep and not eating too much food the past day really got to me. As we were driving I was about to fall asleep but kept myself awake to see where I’m going to be living for the next year. I loved every second of the drive, everything was so different from Florida. I knew from there that I was going to have a completely different experience than what I’m used to. I got dropped off at my house where I would be staying for a few days while my first host family was still on vacation. The dinner that night was hard to sit through because all I wanted to do was sleep, but I survived. We had bread, meat and cheese which was very good. I got to bed at 9pm and slept until 10; much needed sleep.

    The next day my host mom, host sister and I went around Nuuk. The more I explored, the more I fell in love with the city. The rest of the day I spent relaxing and spending time with my host family. That night Noah texted me about climbing Lille Malene and asked if I wanted to come. Being an exchange student, I had to say yes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Noah spent most of the summer hiking through Norway so he was used to high elevation. Me, the girl coming from Florida had no idea what a mountain actually was. The first 10 minutes I was chugging along thinking “oh this is not bad, it's going to be easy!” I was so wrong!! The next hour and a half was pretty much Noah having no problem, and me having to stop every five minutes to catch my breath and let my legs have a break. My whole body was in much pain. When we reached the top of the mountain, all the struggles I endured were worth it. All the fog that was once there burned off, giving us a view o f the whole city and more. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment. We could see all of Nuuk, Store Malene, Sermitsiaq, and the mountain ranges in the distance. The hike down the mountain was harder than going up. After countless amounts of me falling we made it down. Noah had the brilliant idea of jumping into a nearby lake to cool off. After everything I said yes to that day it wouldn’t hurt saying one more. We made our way to the lake where there were only a few other people across pitching up tents. Noah jumped in first saying that it wasn’t too cold. After a few minutes of thinking I jumped in. Right as I was about to hit the water, I realized how bad it was actually going to be. I swam as fast as I could to the edge; my body was so cold I couldn’t feel anything. We laid out in the sun to try to get warm and then after took the bus to see the school we would be attending. There we met with the principal and one of the counselors. The main building of the school is fairly new and modern, but not as big as PVHS. About 400 kids go to this school; that's smaller than my entire grade in Florida. Everyone was really nice to us and showed us around the main building. After touring the school we went home to get ready tomorrow. 

    The next day was my first day of school. I was nervous about the language and not knowing anyone except for Noah. For the first day Noah and I were put into the same class. Since Noah lived in Norway for a few years, he spoke Norwegian and understood a little Danish. For the day he was my translator, and thank god he was there or I would have been so lost. My first day wasn’t bad. Everyone was super nice and asked questions about what living in America was like. The interesting part of that day was my ride back home. I took the bus but didn’t know when to get off. I got off at the wrong stop by mistake; my house was at the top of a hill and I got off at the bottom. All I knew was that to get home I had to go up. Halfway through my walk it started to rain, making the whole situation even better. After about 45 minutes of taking random roads and getting even more lost I finally made it back. I never made that mistake again. Over the first month in school I’ve made a f ew really close friends. Here and pretty much all of Europe you stay with the same group of people all day and all throughout high school. Our class is very close with each other and we all get along which is really nice. School is hard to understand but I get a few words here and there which I am calling progress. I usually just sit in my class and try/fail to understand what they might be talking about. 

    After a few days of staying with my temporary family, my first host family got back from vacation and I moved in with them. It was hard to say goodbye since I didn’t get to stay with them for a while but I was excited to meet my first host family and to not be living out of my suitcases. My host family is so nice and kind, I already feel like apart of their family. The family is quite busy during the week but we do stuff together on the weekends. I can already tell it's going to be hard to move families in the winter.

    I've only been here for one month and I’ve done and experienced so much. I’ve hiked up mountains, been sailing by icebergs, drank straight from lakes and rivers, jumped into freezing lakes, been fishing, tried foods that never in a million years I would think about trying, made lifelong friendships, tried to walk in a 50mph wind storm, went hunting, and much more. I’ve tried musk ox, reindeer, dried seal, fish eggs and other various seafood, mussels, delicious desserts, and pigs liver. Most of the stuff I tried I liked, but some I wouldn’t have again. Nuuk is slowly becoming my home and I’m so happy that I took the opportunity to go on exchange!

    I’d like to thank Rotary for all they’ve done for me and all the other outbounds. You’ll hear everyone saying how without them this wouldn’t be possible, but it’s true. If it wasn't for all the work and time they put into this, 8000 teenagers from all around the globe wouldn’t have the opportunity to live in a completely different country for a whole year. Thank you to Jeff and Paula, my district counselors, thanks to Cyndi my country coordinator, thanks to my Rotary Club back home, my family for allowing me to do this in the first place and for supporting me and loving me, my friends for being there for me, and everyone else who is with me for this journey. I love and appreciate every single one of you and thank you for all your love and support! If my first month has gone this well, I can’t wait to see what the next nine months have in store.

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