Grace Schneider

 Croatia

Hometown: Ponte Vedra, Florida
School: Nease
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset, Florida
Host District: 1913
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Dubrovnik


My Bio


Bok! (or Hi!) My name is Grace Schneider. I enjoy sunsets and long walks on the beach...just kidding, well, kind of! I have both of those readily available to me on a daily basis in my beautiful home, Ponte Vedra, Florida. I am currently a sophomore at Nease High School. I live at home with my mom, dad, two younger sisters, and very small dog. My first time out of the country will be the 10 months I am spending in Croatia! I love learning new things and exploring and could not think of a better way to do it. I am quite the social butterfly and will pretty much do any and everything so long as I have a friend by my side. When my friends and I aren't exploring our way around town, I can be found in the pool swimming laps or curled up with a good book. I am so excited and thankful to Rotary Youth, not only for the challenge and opportunity to learn a lifetime of new lessons, but also for the ability to ramble on and on in not one, but TWO languages. I love to laugh and can most often be found with a smile on my face. I can only hope this journey will bring laughter, smiles, and much more along with it! Kisses from Croatia , thank you, and goodbye!

The people I am lucky enough to spend everyday with (my class)

The people I am lucky enough to spend everyday with (my class)

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

A sunset within the Old Town

A sunset within the Old Town

2017 / 2018 Croatian Inbounds

2017 / 2018 Croatian Inbounds

A view of the Old Town from my school

A view of the Old Town from my school

Amsterdam with my Dad!

Amsterdam with my Dad!

Rijeka with the "Broatians".

Rijeka with the "Broatians".

Christmas cookies for the class, made by yours truly.

Christmas cookies for the class, made by yours truly.

Who I spent the most time over winter break.

Who I spent the most time over winter break.

Exchange Student lovin' in Austria!!

Exchange Student lovin' in Austria!!

Birthday Celebrations!

Birthday Celebrations!

Izlet (class trip)

Izlet (class trip)

Sunrises in Italy with the best

Sunrises in Italy with the best

Family Time

Family Time

Paris!!

Paris!!

Goodbyes are hard.

Goodbyes are hard.

Journals: Grace-Croatia Blog 2017-18

  • Grace, Outbound to Croatia

    1 month and 4 days back home.

    Although my year abroad has come to an end, I wanted to upload one final blog post now that my life at “home” has returned to normal.

    Let me catch you up

    Since my last blog post in March a lot has happened. The last few months of my exchange were extraordinary and filled with enough joy to compensate for any early morning or late night I suffered during the year.

    Towards the end of March my class took a weekend trip to Rijeka, Croatia. The trip, while short, provided lots of laughs, memories, and bonding. I will always remember the time we spent together in those 3 days as one of my favorite memories.

    My family came to visit me immediately after my class trip, we spent a few days in Vienna and then one week in Dubrovnik. It was a bittersweet, action packed reunion. I really enjoyed showing them around my city, and introducing them to everyone in my life, however the reality that I would be heading home sooner than later set it in…hard.

    Immediately after my family left, my class took a weekend trip to Rijeka, Croatia. The trip, while short, provided lots of laughs, memories, and bonding. I will always remember the time we spent together in those 3 days as one of my favorite memories.

    In early May, I flew to Paris to see my mom for 4 days. Paris, a city I have dreamt of visiting since age 10, did not disappoint. We packed in enough museums, monuments, and baguettes in for 7 days (or more).

    At the very end of May, I went on Euro Tour!! For 15 days myself and 70 other exchange students travelled throughout France and Italy. Although I spent enough time on a bus to last me a lifetime, and had very little sleep…I would not trade those 15 days for anything. The highlight of the trip was visiting Monte Carlo for 4-5 hours during the F1 Grand Prix!! I did not live near exchange students during my year, so the time I enjoyed with them on Euro Tour meant very much to me.

    In between all of the travelling and reunions, I simply enjoyed myself with my friends. While all of our coffees and card games made it that much harder to say goodbye, I could not be more thankful for them.

    It’s Over??

    Almost 2 years ago when I began the journey of becoming a Rotary Exchange Student, I never imagined the ways in which it would change my life. I remember sitting through meetings and orientations finding it hard to believe that my year would be as unforgettable as those who came before me…boy was I wrong.

    The 10 months that I spent in a city and country I had barely heard of, have been the best 10 months of my life. It is impossible to appreciate the beauty of certain moments, while you are experiencing them, but the memories you’re left with are just as good, if not better. My year was hard. I didn’t wake up every day over the moon excited, or go to bed each night happy, however reflecting on the good times and the things I have gained completely negates every bad emotion I felt throughout the year. I won’t ever forget how difficult the low times were, or how strong they made me, but the pros outweigh the cons from this year 100 to 1.

    I could type 50 pages on every laugh, sunset, or cat that made this year as amazing as it was, but I will keep those for myself. This year I travelled, I learned, I grew, and most importantly…I loved. When I look back 1, 5, and 20 years from now the thing that will always remain in my heart, are the friends I made. I miss them every day, and could not be more thankful to have met them. They taught me acceptance, a new language, and perseverance. They were the rainbow at the end of every thunderstorm and the brightest lights on every sunny day. I did not realize I had it in my heart to love 12 people I met only 10 months ago, but they made it easy. I owe them my year, and hope they enjoyed their time with me as much as I enjoyed mine with them.

    Now that I am home, everything looks a little different. I feel as though I can conquer any obstacle life throws at me, and I appreciate all the little things about life that I payed no mind to before.

    Exchange gave me strength, maturity, love, memories, opportunities, and above all happiness, and I would recommend to every person in the world if I could.

    I will forever be thankful for this incredible experience. I will forever think of Dubrovnik as my home. I will forever want to travel and explore. I will forever love people from every corner of the world. Most importantly, I will forever know that happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

    Thanks for coming along for the journey,

    Catch ya on the flip side,

    Gracija

    Click HERE to read more about Grace and all her blogs

  • Grace, Outbound to Croatia

    Long time no blog…oops!

    6 months and 7 days in…

    How’s life?

    Things have certainly slowed down on exchange. Winter, currently wrapping up, left the Old City oddly quiet, and lacking many tourists. School remains painfully boring, but I continue to numb the pain via coffee after coffee with friends. I grow closer and closer with my classmates every day and the thought of leaving them looms on the horizon threatening to send me into a bout of tears daily. I joined a swim club afterschool as a way to stay in shape, and kill some time. On Fridays instead of swimming we go to the GYM…a true first for me.

    And now the highlights of past 4ish months…

    Austria, Christmas, & New Years

    10ish days before Christmas the other exchange students and I traveled to Salzburg, Austria for a snowy, wonderful weekend with the Austrian exchange students. My countdown for the trip began ages ago. Expectations of border crossing, exchange student reunions, and true cold weather grew in my head. The weekend proved everything I dreamed of and more. I reunited with 2 Floridians, but came back with at least 10 more wonderful friends (Austria’s’ large Inbound group contrasted wonderfully with our tight knit, lovable 12 in Croatia). Given copious free time, I made many great connections, walked many streets, and bought (one too) many souvenirs. The most wonderful part, however, came in the form of a heavy snowfall just 2 or so hours before we left…although I see snow almost every year, standing in Europe with a view of the mountains, surrounded by people I shared a fantastic weekend with gave the weather an especially magical touch. The trip, forever treasured in my memory, ended far too soon, and I admit, a few tears were shed on the scenic train ride home.

    Following a tough first act…Christmas proved somewhat difficult. I come from a family of many loud, crazy cousins…this year, I shared a large Christmas lunch with only adults. Without stockings on the mantle or presents underneath the tree, loneliness can only begin to describe my holiday, and in all honesty I felt quite relieved as it passed. The experience surely did not fulfill imagination, but I came out of it with a lesson in making your own happiness. I baked extra sweet Christmas cookies for the class, leaving them amped up on sugar and nursing aching stomachs, and spent Christmas Eve and the second half of Christmas Day with friends (Christmas here felt a lot more social than Christmas back home…this I enjoyed…sorry mom (; ).

    Winter break for my school lasted forever and a day. At home, nearly 25 days off of school existed only in my dreams, however the real deal here felt like torture! Ideas for daily entertainment escaped me, and I saw my friends every few days or so, but mostly spent the time alone. The unproductive, solo winter break did not prove completely useless however. After not seeing most of my friends since the end of school, coming together for New Years Eve made for a fantastic night. The Old City sported large, glowing “2018” signs for nearly a month, and when the big day finally arrived we kicked it off with a midnight fireworks display (hopefully setting a precedent for a bright new year).

    New Host Family

    The biggest change since my last blog came in the form of a new host family. While most students change families one or two times, I originally had no plans to. Luckily and surprisingly for me, circumstances changed. My first host family had no children aside from myself, now I have two younger sisters…just like home! The three of us all go to different schools, but see each other for meals and spend the evenings working our way through the entirety of Netflix. Not only did I switch families, I also switched locations and routines. I now live in a suburb call Zupa, located about 15 or so minutes from the Old Town. This means longer bus rides, which I don’t mind, and earlier mornings, which I ESPECIALLY mind. I have reached the conclusion that no human should need to wake up before at least 7:30…or at least I shouldn’t.

    February Fun

    Every month on exchange brings new experiences, but January felt like torture. However, the long dreary month finally ended and gave way to a fantastic February. I spent every weekend either busy with friends, or traveling and could not have enjoyed it more.

    The first weekend took place at home, where I celebrated one of my best friend’s birthdays. We talked up the big day for weeks, and when it finally arrived we could not have asked for more. Almost all of my friends came together and we spent the evening laughing, dancing, and eating cheesecake.

    The next weekend I traveled to Zagreb, where I spent Saturday hanging out around town with some exchange students, and on Sunday our entire group traveled to Rijeka, another city, for Maskare. Maskare, a big parade / carnival to mark the end of winter (although it is still cold!!), happens throughout the country and reminds me a great deal of Halloween meets Gasparilla (celebrated in Tampa, FL). We choose Rijeka as our destination to celebrate, because it houses the biggest festivities in all of the country! The weather turned out for us, and we spent the sunny but chilly day eating classic carnival food and watching a long but entertaining parade.

    The third and best weekend of the month I traveled to Amsterdam for a reunion with my dad. Getting there took many hours and a great deal of energy, but it all payed off as I stepped through baggage claim and saw him for the first time in nearly 5 months. We walked everywhere there was to walk, saw everything there was to see…and ate enough as well. I loved the look and atmosphere of the city so much, and already have hopes to return. I especially enjoyed seeing everyone on bikes, although it made me a big nostalgic for my beach cruiser back home. I tried new things, visited countless museums, and spent time with family…but the best part of all was, of course, the hotel bed (on our Rotary trips we stay in hostels..which always treat us very nicely, but could never compare to the Hilton).

    Two other awesome things happened this month. For one week or so the Game of Thrones cast came to Dubrovnik and filmed their final season in Kings Landing!! Despite many hours spent sitting outside designated filming areas…no famous people crossed my path, oh well at least the security guards can’t ever forget me! A happy ending to the month fell from the sky for the last few days, snow! Although none stuck to the ground or caused any snow days, it still proved a rare, wonderful sight!

    The Hard Stuff

    Homesickness hit me pretty soon after arriving in Croatia. I spoke briefly about it in my past blog, and not much changed. I expected some relief, or at least a break, sooner or later, but have had no such thing. My wealth of free time often leaves my mind wandering and wondering…what is my family up to? Do my friends miss me like I miss them? When oh when will I have Chick Fil A nuggets again? Of course each exchange gifts us with unique ups and downs, surely others have it worse or better. However I never expected to feel the way I do about my exchange. The truth (in my case) about homesickness unfortunately seems that it plans to impact me the whole 10 months, somedays in the worst ways and others only minimally. As negative as it all sounds I don’t let these feelings hold me back. I don’t wallow in my sad feelings and memories, no matter how badly I want to, I force myself out of the house to see friends or watch a sunset. It works for me from time to time, but certainly not always. The important thing to remember remains that I don’t want to look back on my exchange and see I spent all of my time missing home AND in my room, I have to make memories while I still have the chance. I get by with the help of all my wonderful friends here, and my supportive parents and best friends at home. It has made me a much stronger person and I know one day it will all pay off.

    Cats also help

    Until Next Time

    Although based on my track record thus far you probably think I will never blog again, I hope to add at least 2 more posts before this crazy ride ends. Sending many thanks to all those who deserve it and a late Happy Holidays to anyone who reads this.

    Catch ya on the flip side

    xoxoxox

    Click HERE to read more about Grace and all her blogs

  • Grace, Outbound to Croatia

    2 months and 16 days into my exchange...

    Where am I?

    I live in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Seen in Star Wars every once and a while, and known for its role as Kings Landing in the HBO series Game of Thrones. Now, when I say I live IN Dubrovnik I truly mean it! Not a 30 minute drive away, or in some outer suburbs. I am lucky enough to be a long stroll, or quick bus ride away from the center of the city - the Old Town. Within the city walls there lie many museums, restaurants, and most importantly...cafes! I spend most of my time either in the city or cutting through it on my walk to school.

    School?

    Yes I go, though I am far from a straight A student. My school day runs from 8am - 2pm one week and 2pm - 8pm the next. I take 15 classes total, but only 7 everyday...that schedule was difficult to remember. I spend my days with my class of 17 students, 5 boys and 12 girls. We have every class together, every day, except when we break up into our language classes (the 3 options being Italian, German, and French). I originally worried that seeing the same people every day would cause me to grow bored or irritated. In reality, I am beyond thankful to have the opportunity to grow so close to my class. Since my first day of school they have treated me with so much kindness it is hard not to want to see them all the time!

    What do I do outside of school?

    Not much, in all honesty. Of course I spend time with my friends and explore around Dubrovnik, but I have come to the realization that my life here has more similarities to my life at home than I had expected. The main difference being that I now have a much nicer background.

    Rotary?

    In all of Croatia there are 12 Rotary Youth Exchange Students. Our group lacks diversity, but makes up for it in energy with 11 of us being from North America (we have 10 Americans, 1 Canadian, and 1 French student) we all got along well right off the bat. We have taken two trips so far. Our first in early September stopped in Krapina, Varazdin, and the beautiful Plitvice Lakes. More recently, our second trip took place in some historical cities in the Eastern region of Croatia - Slavonia.

    All fun and games?

    Yes and no. My life here is extraordinary and amazing - but has taken some getting used to. Packing up and leaving home seemed easy until I landed in a new place with all new people. I miss my mom, my friends, and Chick-Fil-A. I try and remember that this wonderful experience will be over in the blink of an eye and I’ll be home soon enough, but homesickness has become more than something I prepared for at Rotary Orientation. I feel homesick almost every day, but I don’t view my familiarity with homesickness as a bad thing or the end all be all of my exchange. I see homesickness as more of a new challenge to overcome, and an obstacle that will ultimately help me as a person. Worse than homesickness though, I underpacked!! So take my advice and bring all the clothes you think you’ll need if you go on exchange because, you never know where the nearest shopping mall may be.

    All in all these 2+ months have been quite the experience, and I look forward to find out what I will be writing about next. Until then - xoxoxo

    Click HERE to read more about Grace and all her blogs

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