Dani Sanchez Pereira

 France

Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida
School: Cypress Bay
Sponsor District : District 6990
Sponsor Club: , Florida
Host District: 1710
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Lyon Croix Rousse


My Bio


Bonjour! My name is Daniela Sanchez (my friends and family call me Dani) and I am 16 years old from Pembroke Pines, Florida. I am a senior at Cypress Bay High School, and I'll be spending the next year as an exchange student. Words can not express my level of happiness and gratitude for Rotary Club for granting me the opportunity to become an exchange student. A little background on me and my family. I was born in Barranquilla, Colombia but when I was only 11 years old, my family moved to the United States. I visit once a year my relatives and call both, the U.S.A and Colombia my home. As I mentioned before, I am a senior at Cypress Bay where I am highly involved in extracurriculars such as DECA, National Honor Society, French Honor Society, 4-H, UNICEF, Political Awareness Club and more. When I go to college, I would like to study Political Science and Business Administration and hopefully become an ambassador or a representative for the United Nations. Whenever I am not studying for an exam or staying after school for a club, I like to explore new places in my community: museums, restaurants, artistic events. I love to be a tourist in my own city! I also love to spend time with my family and friends. I am more than excited to start this next chapter in my life. To become an exchange student is one of the greatest dreams I had. I hope to expand my knowledge of the world and learn about different cultures in the following year abroad.

Arrival at the airport

Arrival at the airport

Rotary meeting at my school

Rotary meeting at my school

D1710

D1710

My senior class at the Brandenburg Gatte

My senior class at the Brandenburg Gatte

Our first haute-cuisine experience

Our first haute-cuisine experience

D6990 reunion with Vale, along with my friends, on our last day in Berlin

D6990 reunion with Vale, along with my friends, on our last day in Berlin

Volunteering with other exchangers at our elementary school

Volunteering with other exchangers at our elementary school

Visit to Potsdam

Visit to Potsdam

A traditional German meal

A traditional German meal

Colmar with my host mom

Colmar with my host mom

A walk to remember in the Alps

A walk to remember in the Alps

Christmas class picture

Christmas class picture

Tourists in our own city

Tourists in our own city

Always cheesing in Place Bellecour with friends

Always cheesing in Place Bellecour with friends

Gold Beach in Normandy

Gold Beach in Normandy

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel

Volunteering with Rotary Club Lyon Confluence

Volunteering with Rotary Club Lyon Confluence

l'Abbaye de Cluny

l'Abbaye de Cluny

l'l'Atelier des Lumières: Gustav Klimt

l'l'Atelier des Lumières: Gustav Klimt

my dream school, Sciences Po Paris(I'll come back for my masters soon)

my dream school, Sciences Po Paris(I'll come back for my masters soon)

with the iconic Parisian landmark, the Eiffel Tower

with the iconic Parisian landmark, the Eiffel Tower

One of those days we pretended to be tourists around Vieux Lyon

One of those days we pretended to be tourists around Vieux Lyon

American pals ready for Prom

American pals ready for Prom

My last last day of high school

My last last day of high school

My best friends at the RYE Gala

My best friends at the RYE Gala

Grenouilles(frog legs)

Grenouilles(frog legs)

The exchange students taking over Europa Park

The exchange students taking over Europa Park

l’Ardèche

l’Ardèche

My best friends from school(mes Frenchies)

My best friends from school(mes Frenchies)

Visiting la Bourgogne with friends

Visiting la Bourgogne with friends

Only Lyon at Confluence

Only Lyon at Confluence

Reunited with my parents once again in Barcelona, Spain

Reunited with my parents once again in Barcelona, Spain

A piece of heaven on earth: churros and hot chocolate

A piece of heaven on earth: churros and hot chocolate

Mes parents d'accueil dropping me off at the airport

Mes parents d'accueil dropping me off at the airport

My second family at the airport

My second family at the airport

Journals: Dani-France Blog 2017-18

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    We tend to look at the end of exchange as tragic and unavoidable, as a nostalgic closure to our lives abroad. However, it shouldn't feel like a burden as we are experiencing possibly the best moments of our youth. I intended to live each day to the fullest along with my friends and host families, to make every moment count and to leave off that plane without regrets: the could haves, would haves, should haves and what ifs. Fortunately, it was exactly what I achieved in my last days and I couldn’t have been happier.

    Earlier in June, I had the opportunity to meet my parents over at Paris for a couple of days. It was an amazing feeling seeing them at the airport, hugging them once again and just spending time together. While they didn’t have the opportunity to see Lyon, I still got the chance to show them around Paris and all of its wonders: Montmartre, Saint Germain, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre just to name a few. I felt comfortable guiding them around the city and ordering at restaurants; not only was I confident in my language acquisition, but in the skills, I’ve learned throughout my journey. I was able to guide them through the metro easily during peak hours, warn them about pickpockets, handle an airline strike and many more. Something, I wouldn’t have been able to do a year ago in South Florida.

    As for the rest of the month, I spent the majority of it running around Lyon. On a regular day, I could be found at the airport waving goodbyes, hanging out in Place Bellecour with friends, shopping for souvenirs in Vieux Lyon or finishing my bags at home(and more than once, doing all four). It was the most hectic month of my exchange; Inversely, it was the most heart-warming time for all. I found myself in a never-ending emotional roller coaster: joyful and happy, and equally melancholic. I enjoyed every walk past my favorite patisserie, every afternoon spent at the park, every morning spent chez Jocteur eating croissants and pain au chocolats, every day and night spent taking the bus. The thought of each moment possibly being the last one tortured me on my sleep and the question that occupied most of my time was: Where did time go? How fast does time fly?

    All three of my host families, along with my closest friends from D1710 and school, accompanied me the morning of July 1st to the airport. The morning of my departure was rather dull. I was checking weight restrictions, passport and other documents needed, making phone calls and so on; but by the time I arrived at the airport, I found myself in a sea of tears. I was sobbing uncontrollably and in the limited time crunch, I waved not a goodbye but rather a “see you soon” to my friends and families; soon, let it be a year, two, ten or twenty but anytime soon. I felt heartbroken at first, but as time cleared my head I felt lucky, so lucky to be loved by those people present throughout my exchange. I felt extremely grateful for the moments I shared along with them and I couldn’t have imagined spending the past ten months, 301 days, along with anyone else.

    My transition back home to South Florida has been another roller coaster on its own. I’ve been home for two weeks and while adjusting back to speaking another language has not been a struggle, there are certainly some. I am learning once again my family’s routine and trying to adopt my own. I didn’t know for the first week where something as simple as coffee or sugar was in my kitchen. I am also preparing for a new stage in my life as I am moving out, so I found myself back home unpacking only to pack once again for my first semester in college. Needless to say, not all is as complicated as it seems. I’ve also had the joy of going to the beach once again, having arepas and empanadas, reuniting with friends and family and so on. Perhaps the most difficult part of moving back home is letting go of exchange, letting go of the life I created in one year. There are mornings when I wake up only to find my phone buzzing with messages asking to meet by Hôtel de Ville or to grab a snack by Cordeliers, and I couldn’t help but wonder how would my day differ if I was in France.

    In the midst of this exciting year, I had the opportunity to grow as an individual. Well, how do ten months abroad differ from ten months at home? I guess it has to do with a variety of factors. For starters, a new location that brings the best of my curiosity that allowed me to explore freely my surroundings; it helped me ask questions as to where and why, to bring my inner philosopher and explore more. Another reason could simply be the fact that I spent the past ten months with other teens, who were as highly motivated and equally as curious through exchange. While there are millions of reasons as such, the most significant to this growth has been a new perspective and attitude that have led to a better experience. As exchange students, we go through similar experiences: rotating host families, traveling alone, experiencing the holidays far from our loved ones and so on; but what truly differs us from each other is the point of view that each one embraces. Some may see a birthday alone as saddening and tragic while others look at it as joyous to celebrate another turn around the sun.

    To the future outbound, enjoy every second of your exchange. Please value every lesson learned, every laugh and tear shred, every spelling error, and every compliment. Don’t forget that it’s normal to make mistakes and that each one only helps you become stronger. Always remember that you are only once on exchange: you will only be at this gorgeous country with your classmates and friends, living with your host families once and you will cherish this moment for the rest of your life. Lastly, be thankful to those who made this experience truly one of a kind: host families, teachers, Rotarians, volunteers and any other that made your experience valuable. A simple “thank you” can go a long way and it takes two seconds to express your gratitude!

    I want to thank my sponsor district 6990, as well as my host district 1710; the club of Hallandale Beach-Aventura for sponsoring this dream of mine and the club of Lyon Croix-Rousse for hosting me in France. Most importantly, I want to thank all of my families who supported me on each step of the way. It has been the most amazing year of my teens and I am truly thankful for the past months.

    As Stein once said “: America is my country, and Lyon is my hometown.” Or something like that.

    Bisous et merci encore pour ses dix mois plein de joie et du bonheur

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    Ever since Spring Break came to an end, I’ve felt like time is slipping away faster than any other month. These past few weeks of May and early June have been a roller coaster of mixed emotions: nostalgia for our first days, joy for my experience abroad, sadness yet curiosity to see what the future holds. Perhaps is the fact that school is almost over for all the seniors in my class, exchangers are already waving their goodbyes or simply that time is truly passing by and I can only do my best at making sure every minute counts.

    Since my last blog post, I’ve changed host families once again. It was difficult to switch from my second host family since I developed a strong relationship with them, and the thought of starting with a new family scared me (especially towards the end of my exchange). I grew into the routine of my second host family: going grocery shopping with my host mom on Saturdays in the marché, playing cards and board games Sundays, taking the school bus with my host brothers and so on. While my relationship with them is one I will always remember, I have one equally as amazing with my third host family-the Massonnat. My last host family is reconstituted, meaning that both of my host parents were in a previous marriage and have now joined their lives together with their kids. I still have a full house with three host siblings: Julie (14), Jean Felix (13) and Melanie (17; currently in Argentina). I never had a sister before so it’s great having a girl right down the hall to do makeovers, fangirl over Riverdale and watch movies when bored. What I truly love the most from my third host family is the feeling of being at home, since day one. I feel comfortable talking to them about anything and we even play our French version of Carpool Karaoke with classic songs from Téléphone, Indochine and Jacques Brel. In one month, I have created amazing memories with my third host families that I’ll always cherish

    Following my bucket list, I was able to scratch off going to a soccer match from the Olympique Lyonnais in the Groupama Stadium(thanks to the help from Rotary!). D1710 invited all exchange students and future outbounds in early May to see the soccer match of the OL versus Troyes. I went all out like a true lyonnaise with my t-shirt and scarf, supporting the OL along with my friends and it was a success! We scored three goals and Troyes went home with none. It was a fun memory plus it was my first time attending a soccer match, let alone one in Europe. Plus, we had a tour backstage of the stadium including the player’s lockers and press conference rooms.

    On my last month, I’ve also been on the road quite a lot. My school offered the exchange students to accompany the sixth grade class on their field trip to Freiburg, Germany. We spent a day visiting town, sightseeing and taking pictures all around while we went to Europa Park on our second day. It’s a theme park, just like Epcot center, with all the European countries and even the giant ball. I was so excited to go to a theme park again! We went on the roller coasters and water rides all morning and spent the afternoon visiting the “countries.” My favorite part was probably riding the Silver Star with my friends and singing midway through the loops(I think the people in the cart with us were probably freaked out but oh well). A week later, my host family took me to the region of Ardèche, two hours south of Lyon, for a family reunion; all the family of my host dad came together for a weekend to celebrate birthdays as well as going aways. We were over twenty all together, everyone sharing their stories for the last months and their projects and it was a cute moment together with the family. We visited the region together: l’Aven d’Orgnac, la descente de l’Ardèche, Uzer and checked out the farmer’s markets in the towns nearby. L’Aven d’Orgnac is a set of caves where limestone forms and creates beautiful statues all around; those 700 steps down were absolutely worth the view. While I enjoyed the visit, my best memory from our trip was around the table. I love the importance France grants to spending time together at the table, as a family. It was great because everyone gets along to share a meal and there’s no rush to leave. Between l’Appero(earlier than an appetizer, consider it a pre-appetizer with chips and drinks), l'entrée(appetizer), le plat(main dish), le fromage, le dessert et le ‎café and soon after, le gouter-each meal could last anywhere between three to six hours and it seemed like we never left the table!

    Towards the end of May, D1710 organized a “Rotary Gala” with its inbounds,outbounds and rebounds to celebrate the beginning and end of an adventure. It was prom for exchange students since girls were dressed up to their toes while guys in suits and ties; and just like prom, an evening to never forget. We took dozens of pictures and even waved our goodbyes to our friends leaving the morning after. It suddenly hit me that my exchange was coming to an end that what once were my “firsts” will become my “lasts:” last grenouilles, last bus ride, last day of school and so on.

    As of today, I am enjoying my first day of summer break. This year in France, I was part of Terminale (Senior year) and just like in the States, senior year is memorable for many reasons: it is the last year of high school, last time waking up by 7AM for class, last time seeing your childhood friends together, Prom and graduation and many more. I had the chance to finish high school once again and just like a year ago, it was a wave of emotions. We spent our last days dressing up and my senior class pulled a prank monday during recess by turning the parking lot into a beach, YES NDBeach. Most students dressed up as Tacky Tourists and walked around school like it was a beach (we even had a water fight and picnic) with maps, sunscreen, Crocs and anything else you could imagine. Yesterday, we also dressed up in costumes and had a parade all around school before having a BBQ/ shaving cream fight. It reminded me a lot of my last days in Cypress Bay and it was equally a success. Monday was also our last full day of class, before final exams start, and I couldn’t help but get in the feels-What about the first time I walked in that room not knowing anyone and now leaving talking to most? I didn’t speak that well French and came to class with no supplies and now, I was leaving with a heart filled with memories of my classmates and friends.

    I still have twenty two days left of my exchange, twenty two blank pages in a book coming near to an end. I can’t anticipate what the future holds,but all I can assure you is that I don’t want to regret any missed opportunities. So here it goes, to the last few weeks abroad and what the holds: Que du bonheur!

    Until next time,

    Bisous bisous

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    Mes chers amis, it has been nine months since I arrived in France. It has been an incredible learning experience, one that was never in my plans, that will soon come to an end in twenty three days as I return back home. It is surreal how fast time flies, especially these past few weeks, but I can only live each day to the fullest. These past few months have been busy all around and equally as amazing as the others; between attending Rotary events, traveling and changing host families for the last time. So, I’ve decided to make two blog posts to fully capture my emotions and souvenirs. Allez-y!

    After Winter Break, March came by with a busy schedule and a couple of pleasant surprises. For starters, the beginning of a highly-anticipated season, Spring! I loved winter and all of the activities around snow: cheese raclettes, skiing and raquettes but I was excited for spring. As soon as the calendar marked March 21st, there was a change all around in between the flowers blooming and the days becoming longer; while there was no much change in the temperature(I still have to wear sweaters occasionally), it was amazing seeing a new season. Spring in Florida is meaningless besides the arrival of grasshoppers and all sorts of insects, since the weather is relatively stable year round; however, in France, it means a change of diet and lifestyle. We went from eating fondues and raclettes to salads and fruits, and my families began planning more activities outdoor: walking in les Monts d’Or, paddleboarding in la Saone, water skiing in le Rhone and so on. This change in degrees also reflected in the activities around friends! Since the days were longer, my French friends and I would hang out more after school: sharing a goûter at the park, sightseeing around the city or having a picnic. In one way or the other, the season helped me build a stronger relationship with my Frenchies and I am extremely thankful for their friendship and help all year round.

    Towards the end of the month, I had a couple of excursions around my region.My school principal invited the exchange students from our school earlier in March to visit l’Abbaye de Cluny: one of the largest abbeys in the world founded in 910 by the duke of Aquitaine. However, it was significantly destroyed by the first French Revolution in 1789 and only its ruins remain today. It was a very interesting visit! Not only did we get the opportunity to see how monks lived, but also enjoy the town of Cluny- a charming village that was one of the most important capitals of the Christian community by the end of the XIth century. My host parents also took me to visit the medieval town of Perouges, about thirty minutes away from Lyon; it’s a town in the mountains, located in the department of l’Ain, that preserved its original architecture from the Middle Ages. The town and its residents have a charm from the era, all wearing costumes and engaged in their craftsmanship: welding, baking, pottery and so on. It was like a renaissance fair year-round in Perouges, and completely unexpected near a city like Lyon.

    Another month, another two-week school break after Easter: Spring Break. The first half of my break, I spent it in no other than the city of love. I have dreamed of visiting Paris for as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl watching “Ratatouille” and “Gossip Girl;” it was a dream come true thanks to my second host mom. My host mom and I spent five days in the heart of Paris, in the Latin Quarter, visiting as much of the city as possible. We went to all the tourist attractions (as well as some local favorites): les Champs-Elysees, Eiffel Tower, le Louvre, l’Arc du Triomphe, Galeries Lafayettes, la Sorbonne, etc. While my host mom wasn’t a Parisian, she knew the city by heart and it was always a dream of her to study law school so she offered a different insight that no other tour guide could. My favorite part was a visit to a very unique art expo in the onzième arrondissement“:l'Atelier des Lumières.” It was in an abandoned factory that was renewed into a temporal exhibit of Gustav Klimt, a famous Austrian artist from the Vienna Secession modern art movement. What made it completely different from any other exhibit is that you get to truly live in it: there are projections all around the room of his most famous pieces along with pictures of Vienna and the pieces that inspired Klimt at the time, all under the melody of an Austrian waltz. This trip also brought me closer to my host mom and we got the opportunity to talk through the days of our goals, dreams, likes/dislikes and so on. As Rick said in Casablanca “,We’ll always have Paris.”

    For the other half of my break, I spent it following my Lyon Bucket List. Yes, I have a bucket list with things to do before leaving this beautiful city and while some may be touristy others are silly. Here’s a look of what I have accomplished so far:

    -Pretend to be a tourist and follow a random itinerary for a whole day(we even asked strangers to take group pictures of us and asked for directions, 100% worth it)

    -Walk up the hill of fourviere and down la Montee de la Grand Cote

    -enjoy a brioche bread with pralines in Vieux Lyon

    -eat at Steak and Shake Lyon(disclaimer: I was craving a milkshake and we haven’t had a real American burger in nine months so this was necessary)

    -visit the confluence of the Rhone and Saone river.

    Make sure to follow part two of this blog post to stay up to date on what I’ve been doing since the end of Spring Break and how my last days living à la française have been so far.

    À bientôt,

    Bisous Bisous

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    “What does it feel like to live so far from your family and loved ones in an unknown country for a year?”Certainly, it feels like the best decision of my life to this day. I have been in France for six months so far, living each day à la française. These past few months have been incredibly amazing yet quite hectic; between changing host families, attending Rotary meetings, traveling and more-it has been a struggle keeping up with my blogs, Désolée!

    For starters, I changed host families by the end of Christmas break. I was aware that at some point I’ll be switching host families, but I never expected the day would actually come. However, all my fears went away as soon as arrived in my second host family, the Chanclou. I went from being a single child with my first host family to having a full house with two younger siblings: Gaspard(11) and Gregoire(16). It’s a different family dynamic that I love; I can just go down the hall to bother my host siblings, play board games or just take my dog for a walk anytime.

    Earlier in January, I had the opportunity to be part of a gastronomical experience at Guy Lassausaie’s Restaurant for my host mom’s birthday. Lassaussaie’s restaurant is a two-star Michelin restaurant, known for their twists on classic dishes and amazing cheese offerings(SO GOOD). It was delicious after all it is no secret that France is well-known for their food and Lyon for being its gastronomical capital: saucisse, pralines, cheese, baguettes, croissants and the list goes on; I feel like a modern Marie Antoinette just trying all the desserts! It won’t come to a surprise to all if I arrive in Florida with a carry-on filled with my favorites.

    February arrived with an amazing surprise: a two-week winter break. I spent most of the first part in the city, hanging out with my friends and so on while the other in Normandy and Brittany with my family. My host dad grew up in Laval in the region of Pays de la Loire so we went up to visit his family for the weekend and later on throughout Normandy to check out the museums and beaches from D-Day. We started in Mont Saint-Michel-an ancient abbey, prison, and fort just off in the English Channel; the architecture was amazing plus all the history in regards to the building was so interesting. We spent the rest of the week between Caen and Bayeux visiting WW2 memorials, Omaha Beach, and respective museums. My favorite visit was the American Cemetery and Memorial off by Colville; it’s a place that I feel everyone should visit once in their life. It has a memorial filled with stories from letters exchanged between soldiers and their families, as it served to put into perspective the impact of the war. This trip served as a giant history lesson come to life and is one of my favorites so far. Normandy will always have my heart with their breezy beaches, Camembert, and cute towns!

    During winter break, I also had the chance to go on a hike up the Alps with my host dad and brothers. It was a struggle for sure climbing for three hours in the middle of the snow, but the view at the top was just breathtaking! It was all covered in snow plus it was a clear, sunny day in the mountains-which made it even better. Once at the top, my host dad said something so simple yet meaningful: “you look at the mountain two different ways from the bottom and at the top once you climb it.” To all my future outbounds, the same applies to your exchange: you will have two perspectives once before leaving and another during your exchange. I remembered all the excitement and false expectations from a year ago(no, you won’t travel to Paris every weekend since your exchanger budget won’t allow it so) and how now I have a grown into a more mature, passionate individual. Exchange has been the best learning experience so far, one that I am extremely thankful for every day. The friendships made with my classmates and exchangers, the countless times getting lost on my own and all the memories made so far have a dear place in my heart. I can’t wait to see what the next four months hold in store abroad in France.

    Until next time,

    Bisous Bisous

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    It’s surreal the fact that a little over four months have passed by since I stepped off a plane in Lyon’s Saint-Exupery airport and met most of the people I now considered my family. In the past 128 days, I’ve discovered more about the world and myself than I ever did throughout high school. December was probably the biggest learning adventure to this point that felt like a never-ending roller coaster, so this blog will probably be one of the longest.

    The holidays started off on the right foot with a very merry Thanksgiving. I offered to cook a Thanksgiving meal for my host parents, who absolutely loved it. Over the course of two afternoons, I made my first Thanksgiving dinner as I was jamming to Christmas carols; I prepared everything from the stuffing and cornbread to the apple pie. I also managed to share a little more of my American culture with my classmates through a slice of apple pie as I explained the importance of Thanksgiving and how my family celebrates it at home. It was a success and to my surprise, I didn’t burn any of the dishes nor the kitchen! Following Thanksgiving week, I had an excursion to the region of Beaujolais, one of the largest wine-producers. We visited the Hameau Duboeuf Wine Museum where I got the chance to receive a “wine-education;”learning from the production to the maturity of wines. It was an amazing visit for the day and I got the chance to learn more about wines, a French jewel.

    December was the most wonderful time of the year. It started off with a family road trip to Alsace to visit the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe- Colmar. There is truly a no better way to get in the holiday spirit than by visiting one: the lights going through the houses, the shops selling ornaments, the smell of vin chaud and the sound of kids singing Christmas carols-all the signs calling for Christmas! On my trip, I also got the chance to sample some local delicacies: white chocolate brioche, Flammekueche(a tart with ham, cheese, heavy cream, and onions) and tons of Choucroute Alsacienne. Plus, I had the pleasure to scratch off my bucket list escargots(snails) and grenouille(frog legs). I was a little scared to try off grenouilles since I imagined an actual frog on my plate but I embraced it and ended up loving them.The next weekend, I celebrated like a true Lyonnaise la “Fête des Lumières.”Lyon was one of the few cities untouched by the Black Death; therefore all residents, as a way to thank Virgin Mary for saving them from the plague, light up candles by their windows the night of December 7th. The event evolved into a beautiful light festival that takes place the same weekend where all the major plazas and buildings light up giving its name as the “city of lights.”Friday, I celebrated with my host family by putting candles around the house and making crepes while Saturday, I visited most light exhibits with my friends. Because of all of the terrorist attacks that have occurred in Europe these past five years, security has been reinforced everywhere so it was quite difficult moving around in one night. However, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the lights displayed in Place Bellecour and throughout Vieux Lyon- a night to remember for sure!

    Just when things couldn’t get any better, Mother Nature sent an early Christmas present: SNOW. It was so beautiful and unexpected; the weather channel has been announcing it for weeks but nothing happened. A Monday morning, my host mom woke me up and guided me to the balcony for a surprise: everything was covered snow! Since it was a surprise for all, the buses stopped working and so did the metro, therefore, school was canceled. I spent my day listening to “White Christmas” while drinking hot chocolate- just like in my favorite Christmas movies. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I got the chance to enjoy the snow for real at the French Alps with my host family and their friends. I was so excited that the night we arrived, I ran out the door to play with the snow; I did my first snow angel, played my first snowball fight and went down a sled in my winter wonderland.

    While I had a wonderful time all throughout my exchange, this month was certainly the hardest. It started with the obvious winter blues that come with the holiday season; there was less sunlight, more rain, fewer degrees and so on which made it difficult at first to go out. I remember looking at the weather in South Florida and on multiple occasions wishing I could be at the beach rather than home with my sheets. With more free time at home, social media was the way to go so seeing pictures of all my friends heading back home to their families, hanging out in my hometown certainly didn’t help. I remember at Orientation thinking how it could never happen to me as if homesickness was a myth and not my reality. I had to embrace it: I was homesick and I had to do something to snap out it. I didn’t want to stop my exchange for some fuzzy feeling so I had to come back and fast, resiliency. For starters, I began accepting the weather: carrying an umbrella, wearing coats and sweaters-this made it easier to actually enjoy my city. I also stopped checking social media as often, giving myself some space to profit each one of my days to the fullest. Last, I stopped comparing home to France and it is the latter one that had the biggest impact. All I could think at first was how my Christmas tree at home was prettier, the weather nicer in Miami, the season somehow jollier and the food warmer. However, it was all in my mind and so out of context. I focused on all the positive things, realizing that there would probably be one Christmas out of eighty-something that I won’t spent at home. Besides, how many people get the chance to say they spent a French Christmas? Not many so it was all about looking at the positive side. In reality, my Christmas day was wonderful with presents from my host parents and a delicious lunch-dinner with tons of seafood, escargots, turkey and so much more. I celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my host dad’s family in the region of Calais, northern France. We also visited Arras and their Christmas market-which check plus, I got to ice skate with my host mom and spent the following weekend at the French Alps with my family and their friends.

    To start off the year on the right foot, I got the best compliment any exchange student could hope for at my Rotary meeting. As I was talking with a Rotarian, he stopped me to congratulate me on my French saying that I sound just like a local; I was overly joyous! Like they say it, at the end “vouloir c’est pouvoir”-meaning when there’s a will, there’s a way. Learning your language pays off: every hello and goodbye, every awkward small talk and all other efforts were finally rewarded.The merriest season of all came to an end but as 2018 starts, I can only hope for a more fulfilling adventure.

    Until next time,

    Bisous Bisous

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    Two months have passed by already in France! It has been a roller coaster with various highs and lows this past month that I wanted to share. The first weekend of October, I went along with other exchangers from my school on a field trip to the region of Auvergne. It is a completely different setting from Lyon, as it is mostly rural surrounded by mountains. During our stay, we visited the Michelin museum and sampled the regional cuisine. However, the visit I enjoyed the most was the Puy du Dome- a large lava dome located in central France. It’s a natural gem, one of France’s best-kept secrets, that shares an incredible view of all the volcanoes in the area.

    Next weekend, D1710 organized a presentation for all inbounds and exchange candidates in my high school. We all had the opportunity to present our country, culture, and customs to the candidates and their parents. During the picnic, you could see diversity at its finest: all the students representing their country with their flags, hats, music and so on; on one side you could see the Mexican exchangers with their sombreros and on the other side Brazilians dancing samba and funk. While we all come from different origins, we share a passion for exploring and an endless curiosity for the world.

    I feel comfortable in school as I am following thoroughly my courses and developing friendships with my classmates. I didn’t want to take classes off my schedule so my days are relatively long compared to those in the USA. A nerd at heart, I began participating in class and taking quizzes just like my classmates in which I am doing surprisingly well!

    Every seven weeks or so, France grants a (much needed) two-week vacation for students. The first half I spent it in one of the most interesting European capitals, Berlin, along with my senior class. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz, the Reichstag Building and so much more. During my visit, I also got the chance to meet up with another outbound from my district back home along with her friends. I had a great time catching up with her and meeting other inbounds in Berlin. It was an interesting trip filled with great memories that brought me closer to my classmates who are now my friends. The rest of my break has been well-spent hanging out with my friends, being a tourist in my own city, catching up with my friends and family and so on.

    For the first time since my arrival, I had symptoms of “homesickness.” I was shopping with my host mom and we enter a home-decor store filled with Christmas decorations and I couldn’t help but wonder about my family’s traditions during the holidays. To all future exchangers, it’s fine if you miss home from time to time, however, it is important to not let those feelings overshadow your exchange. After arriving home, I talked it off with my host mom who told me it was fine and we talked about Christmas and how our traditions differ. I felt better instantly and she encouraged me to share them with my host families and friends. I am currently planning my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, for my host parents and friends! I’ll keep you posted on the next blog post on how I managed to (hopefully) find turkey and not burn my house while preparing dinner.

    As November arrives, the leaves fall and the temperature drops. I’ve woken up to zero and one-degree Celsius when I usually wake up to twenty-five in South Florida. It’s funny to notice the differences and what seems normal for some just shocks others. I tell my friends how I used to go to the beach for Christmas and New Years and their eyes suddenly grow, astonished, as they are used to wearing three or four layers and sitting over the chimney. There is the beauty of exchange in the “exchanges” of opportunities, experiences, opinions and so on.I will switch my bathing suit and sunblock this year for a beanie and a sled as I head over with my family to Northern France. I am so grateful for everything that I have been able to experience these past two months abroad and I am excited to see what else the next couple of months hold.

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

  • Dani, Outbound to France

    Click HERE to read more about Dani and all her blogs

    It has been a wonderful month in France and so many wonderful things have happened! Since this is my first journal submission, it will be quite lengthy. My journey to Lyon included three flights: from Miami to Detroit to Paris and at last, Lyon. I had the chance to meet five other exchangers from the USA and Mexico on my flight to Paris and meet others around Charles de Gaule Airport as I walked around from my district and all around France during my layover. By noon of August 29th, I arrived safely to Lyon Saint Exupery and met my host parents. To my surprise, as I am picking up my bags, I was greeted with hugs and giggles by my host parents, ROTEX and some other exchangers who arrived earlier. After checking in with Rotary, we head home to lunch and spend the afternoon unpacking and going over the rules.

    My first host family is the Wojtasik. I live with both host parents yet I have three host siblings. The oldest, Marine, is married and lives just fifteen minutes away so I always see her during weekends and play with her one year old daughter. My first host brother, Ben, also moved out and lives with his girlfriend while my second host brother, Antoine, is in Brazil. All have been extremely kind to me and treat me like I was their daughter. I have the opportunity to see my first host family grow as both of my host siblings are expecting! Besides having a loving first host family, I have neighbors that feel like family. My host parents and neighbors are close since their sons are best friends. I have two host mothers (if we include my neighbor in my first host family), five siblings, and one grandmother.

    I live in Lyon, right across from the Saone river and L'Ile Barbe. Lyon is the third largest city in France yet it doesn't feel like it. The streets are relatively narrow and everything is within walking distance so it's easy to move around. I, a true history nerd, love living in a city that exploits my curiosity. I have spent my past weekends exploring Vieux Lyon, visiting the Fouvriere cathedral and watching the sunset at the Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre. I have free and unlimited access to all museums and discounted prices, thanks to a card offered by the state called Pass Region.

    My school is Notre Dame de Bellegarde located in Neuville, around thirty minutes by bus from my house. I am in my senior year, Terminale, in the economic and social sciences route. I was always warned of the French curriculum yet I find it similar to the one back home. I am taking economics, history/geography, philosophy, statistics, English, Spanish and political science. I took various AP courses before so perhaps I am used to rigorous academics yet I am not used to long school days. I start every day at eight in the morning and finish every day by five. However, I have a one and a half hour lunch break so I have the chance to relax a bit. I go to school with fourteen other exchangers from different organizations who I have grown to love like my family. We are all from different origins and nationalities, different programs, and ages yet we have an excellent group dynamic. My school's principal is a Rotarian and has introduced a program to help exchanger's language abili ties. We have phonetic classes twice a week to improve our pronunciation and French class with six graders three times a week. At first, I found it pointless to take classes with six graders since I am a senior but I've had the opportunity to learn from my grammar mistakes. In addition to the program, we have multiple excursions within the Rhone-Alps department. Last week, we visited the Rock of Solutre. We hiked to the top to find a gorgeous view of all the vineyards and farms around and had lunch in a nearby vineyard. In a couple of weeks, I'll be in Berlin with my class for a week during the Toussaint vacation    (I'll keep you posted on the next blog post)

    Here are a couple of tips that I've learned from experiences/others:

    -"Language is Freedom:" a direct quote from my country coordinator and the most accurate phrase of all my exchange so far. Since I studied A LOT my language before leaving, I feel more comfortable talking. I still make mistakes but, I am able to talk with my host parents and classmates, participate in class, go out and understand my surroundings. Therefore, it's important to always study your language even after your arrival. I am so glad I am studying a language I love and loving the language I am learning!

    -Don't ignore popular culture: My host parents were so surprised that I recognized movies like "Amelie" and "Welcome to the Shti," that I knew about bands like Telephone and BB Brunes and so on. It's popular culture that makes the difference and the one that bonds you to others; singing along with your classmates to rap or relating to a movie in a conversation has actually served as the best way to meet people.

    -You can't anticipate exchange: I used to be the person that would plan ahead so meticulously during trips to Disney, the "mom" in the group walking around with an itinerary for rides. With the exchange, I've learned that there are some things you can not anticipate regardless of how much you plan. I went on the wrong bus and ended up lost in the metro station while meeting my host sister, I've walked in circles for hours looking for a place and so on. While I am still a planner, I now embrace the present with open arms and curiosity.

    -Don't hang out with exchange students only, even worst only Anglo-Saxon ones: I know it's comfortable talking in English during Rotary meetings and that wonderful feeling of meeting other Americans that miss Chipotle and Chick Fil A just as much as you do. Yet, you have to stop. I have learned to dance Brazilian funk, mumble some Thai words and so on because I've explored outside of my bubble. Besides, hanging out with natives eases the process and it helps out being friends with classmates. I am not close with them yet but my classmates ask me to hang out with them on weekends and I learn slang from the best.

    -YES will probably used the most: I know from ROTEX that this was an obvious one, but be open to try new things. As soon as Rotarians/my host parents offer me

    I couldn't be happier with all the things that have happened, good and not so good, and what is next to come. I am so thankful for this opportunity granted by Rotary and their YEP program! Here's to new beginnings, delicious food, and great friends that feel like family all in one month.

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