Titi Olano

 Austria

Hometown: Davie, Florida
School: Western High School
Sponsor District : District 6990
Sponsor Club: Miramar Pembroke Pines, Florida
Host District: 1910
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Ried im Innkreis


My Bio


Hallo, my name is Valentina and I am very fortunate to say that I will be spending a year of my life in beautiful Austria. Currently, I live with my mom and dad, Karen and Juan, and my two sisters; Valeria, the eldest, and Victoria, the youngest. We all are fluent in English, Spanish and French. I am so grateful to my parents for instilling in us that the more languages one knows, the more doors open. I have seen the benefits of becoming an exchange student through my exchange sister, Veronika. I believe she has been an incredible example of what an exchange student should be. To add on, I know that my past experiences have prepared me for this massive undertaking. A move from sunny Florida to mountainous Tennessee required me to adapt quickly. On a more personal level, some things I know will contribute to a more unique experience in my year abroad is my love for music and art. I delight in singing for others as well as playing the cello. Taking photos of the places and people around me is a hobby I love. Some other things I enjoy are roller-blading, bike-riding, horseback riding, skiing, and playing tennis. I can't wait to be able to do this with my future host family. I am very excited to take on this adventure and am hopeful to meet great people and learn of new cultures and traditions. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible for me and until next time; auf wiedersehen.

First family trip to Attersee

First family trip to Attersee

My host family picking me up at the airport

My host family picking me up at the airport

Die Schloss Hellbrunn (We came here for my 16th birthday because, coincidentally, they filmed the song "I am 16 going on 17" from Sound of Music in the gazebo in the park that belongs to this villa)

Die Schloss Hellbrunn (We came here for my 16th birthday because, coincidentally, they filmed the song "I am 16 going on 17" from Sound of Music in the gazebo in the park that belongs to this villa)

View of Attersee from a restaurant on the mountain

View of Attersee from a restaurant on the mountain

All the exchange students in Austria (at language camp, 52 students)

All the exchange students in Austria (at language camp, 52 students)

The Tuesday morning market in my town center

The Tuesday morning market in my town center

Hiking near Attersee (reminded me of Sound of Music)

Hiking near Attersee (reminded me of Sound of Music)

With my best friends halfway up the hike.

With my best friends halfway up the hike.

All the oldies and newbies at Planner-Alm.

All the oldies and newbies at Planner-Alm.

The world's biggest (working) organ. It is also one of the oldest. The organist of the church was buried directly under the organ in the church basement where they also buried all the other priests and organists of the church. (Monestary, St.Pölten).

The world's biggest (working) organ. It is also one of the oldest. The organist of the church was buried directly under the organ in the church basement where they also buried all the other priests and organists of the church. (Monestary, St.Pölten).

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!! (BORG Ried) That is my principal, my Geman teacher, and my dance teacher. You will meet her at Language Camp! She's very sweet.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!! (BORG Ried) That is my principal, my Geman teacher, and my dance teacher. You will meet her at Language Camp! She's very sweet.

The Rotary Planner-Alm trip. The total hike up and down the mountain was about 5 hours. The view at the top was worth it even though it was a little cloudy.

The Rotary Planner-Alm trip. The total hike up and down the mountain was about 5 hours. The view at the top was worth it even though it was a little cloudy.

An outing to Linz. This view is on a bridge over the Danube River/Die Donau.

An outing to Linz. This view is on a bridge over the Danube River/Die Donau.

My host parents took me to the biggest ice caves in the world! (Eisriesenwelt) This is the view from the entrance of the cave. They gave us oil candles to light the way in the cave.

My host parents took me to the biggest ice caves in the world! (Eisriesenwelt) This is the view from the entrance of the cave. They gave us oil candles to light the way in the cave.

My Austrian Dirndl

My Austrian Dirndl

	 I'm the little blur in the red jacket haha.. I was actually skiing with a family friend of my parents. Paul Siedl (15 yrs old) is ranked top 20 as an Austrian skier. He taught me a few tricks and this was off-piste and I fell into about 3 ft of snow!

I'm the little blur in the red jacket haha.. I was actually skiing with a family friend of my parents. Paul Siedl (15 yrs old) is ranked top 20 as an Austrian skier. He taught me a few tricks and this was off-piste and I fell into about 3 ft of snow!

The Christmas decorations in my town

The Christmas decorations in my town

My Austrian Christmas

My Austrian Christmas

This week, I went skiing with my family in a town called Gastein.

This week, I went skiing with my family in a town called Gastein.

I participated in a Christmas ballet production as an Oberösterreichische puppy which is German for Upper Austrian Doll

I participated in a Christmas ballet production as an Oberösterreichische puppy which is German for Upper Austrian Doll

The decorations in the street leading up to the GIANT Christmas tree and the Christmas market

The decorations in the street leading up to the GIANT Christmas tree and the Christmas market

	 This is on our way home from our skiing trip and we decided to stop in Salzburg. This photo was taken in front of the gate to the gardens of Schloss Mirabell where the filmed part of "Doe A Deer" for The Sound of Music.

This is on our way home from our skiing trip and we decided to stop in Salzburg. This photo was taken in front of the gate to the gardens of Schloss Mirabell where the filmed part of "Doe A Deer" for The Sound of Music.

When New Years hit in Berlin, I facetimed my mom so it was midnight for me and 6pm back home

When New Years hit in Berlin, I facetimed my mom so it was midnight for me and 6pm back home

My family meeting my now-host family

My family meeting my now-host family

My host family now! We went to a Bauernhof to eat a VERY traditional Austrian meal

My host family now! We went to a Bauernhof to eat a VERY traditional Austrian meal

Top Left: Wolfgang See; where we spent Mother's Day! *Bottom Left: Rudi and I in Salzburg! *Right side: my little sister modeling her new outfit my parents gave her!

Top Left: Wolfgang See; where we spent Mother's Day! *Bottom Left: Rudi and I in Salzburg! *Right side: my little sister modeling her new outfit my parents gave her!

We spent Easter Sunday in our traditional Austrian clothing (Dirndls und lederhosen)! Adults AND kids! On the left is my 3rd host family and on the right is my host families group of friends with all their kids! We also went Easter egg hunting w/ them

We spent Easter Sunday in our traditional Austrian clothing (Dirndls und lederhosen)! Adults AND kids! On the left is my 3rd host family and on the right is my host families group of friends with all their kids! We also went Easter egg hunting w/ them

When we met up with my sister, we were invited to a ball in Karlovy Vary

When we met up with my sister, we were invited to a ball in Karlovy Vary

My host mom and I went to go see a live jazz band with her best friends!

My host mom and I went to go see a live jazz band with her best friends!

Ski Week in Schladming with Rotary came shortly afterwards! This was the view we had from the balcony.

Ski Week in Schladming with Rotary came shortly afterwards! This was the view we had from the balcony.

Pickling my family up from the airport

Pickling my family up from the airport

Journals: Titi-Austria Blog 2017-18

  • Titi, Outbound to Austria

    So yesterday marks exactly 30 days until I go back home! It's incredible how much time flies by and it goes so quickly! I the last 3 months, I've switched host families (FOR THE LAST TIME!!!!!), see multiple live concerts, and show my family the city and country that I've been living in!

    For Easter, my older sister, who is living in Berlin, came to visit me! Her family was coming to a town near mine in Austria to visit some family and told her that she could spend some time with me, which was also really fun! My little 6-year old host sister absolutely loved her and to this day will ask me to send her some voice notes over WhatsApp.. We went to Vienna and Salzburg and we also went Easter egg hunting together! It was something we hadn't done in a long time and we were able to experience it again in a new country with a new family and with a new tradition.

    From the 10th-17th of March most all the exchange students attended ski week. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ski because the week prior to ski week, I had a bad accident that tore a ligament in my knee and caused a tear in my meniscus. After hearing this, the man that is in charge of ALL exchange students in Austria wrote me an e-mail saying that I was not allowed to go on the Ski Week. Thank God, I had a LONG talk with him, Walter Weidenholzer (who YOU, outbounds to Austria, will be dealing with) and I pleaded him to let me go. On top of that, I had already paid so I politely told him that the least he could do is allow me to spend some time with all the other exchange students. To everyone's astonishment, he agreed and let me go!

    My 3rd host mom, Carmen, is the youngest host mom I've had out of all 4. She felt to me more like a sister than a mom. We would frequently joke around about how she was teaching me to be the perfect house wife or perfect farmer's wife with all the foods she would teach me to make! Or we would do things like watch "The Bachelor" (Which we still do by getting together on Wednesdays and watch it), or she would ask me my opinion when she was doing some shopping! She would often invite to her "Girls' Night" with her friends!

    On March 23, my host mom and her 2 best freinds invited me to go to a live jazz concert! I LOVE jazz but I was contemplating not going for a reason that I honestly can't remember. I decided to accept the invitation and it was one of the most fun nights I had here on my exchange! We then went to Oma und Opa's house (grandma and granpa's house) where we ended up laughing and talking all night and sleeping in the same bed (because her husband had fallen asleep with my little host-sister in the bed where she was supposed to sleep)! She was so cool!! Just like a big sister!

    On the 13th of April, the coordinator for all American exchange students in Austria, Rudi Gruber, (the COOLEST Rotarian EVER), because we live only a couples houses apart, he invited me with his wife to go see an orchestra concert in Vienna! It was a cello concert with a cello soloist, and since I play the cello, he thought of me! Turns out, Sol Gabetta, one of the most famous cellists in the world, was the soloist in the concert! I almost flipped!! But before getting to Vienna, we stopped for a couple hours in Salzburg because his wife had a class reunion! Rudi and I went to eat some lunch in the city and then walked up to the fort overlooking all of Salzburg city! (See picture of Rudi and I up in the fort below!)

    On the 20th of April, my parents flew in to visit!! I picked my parents and my little sister up from the airport in Vienna and then we picked up our ex-exchange student from the train station (Hauptbahnhof) who was also coming to visit and spend time with the family. We stayed a couple days in the capital and I excitedly showed them around! It was incredible to me that the moment had finally arrived; the moment we had spoken of for so long! The moment I would be able to show them that I could ask for dirrections or order something in German, talk to the natives in their own language and have them understand everything i'm saying! The moment had come where I could tell them that it was all worth it. Everything they had done to help me get here was all worth it.

    We walked; we got lost; we ate some good food; we ate some bad food; we laughed; we cried; we cried laughing... We had the best time!

    They were able to meet 3 out of my 4 families!! With my last two host families, we went to each house and they prepared meals for us! With my second family, my host parents invited my real parents to go to a wine tasting in the city that only happens twice a year! They had already met quite a few people in town and when they got to the wine tasting, they said they felt like celebrities! EVERYBODY knew who they were! They told me that they had the most fun and that they HAD NOT expected ANYTHING like that! We then all went out to eat together and we all talked for a while!

    ***********My parents brought some gifts like: Simply Southern shirts and caps for the girls and Hollister shirts for the guys! For my little 6 year old host sister, they got her an outfit with a really cute design and some tassels (see pic below)!!***********

    Last night, I babysat my little host sister, and as usual, when putting her to bed, I would climb into her bed and read her a book in German. Last night, after I read her the whole book, she asked me if I could just lay there with her a little while longer because she knew it was the last time we would be together. She feel asleep hugging me. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the blessing to experience! Thankfully though, I'll be seeing her soon!

    Having said all of this, I cannot believe that in exactly one month, this chapter of my life will be over. In these last 9 1/2 months have been the months most challenging, most interesting, and definetely most rewarding of my life. Living on your own, in a different country, you learn about yourself and getting through difficult situations on your own; you learn about standing up for yourself and you learn to appreciate all the little details and moments that come your way.

    Till next time,

    Bis später alligator:)

    Valentina

    Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs

  • Titi, Outbound to Austria

    Okay, so it's been about 5 months since I wrote my last journal and only because I've been so busy. Through the last couple months, I have been through such an emotional roller-coaster.. Here are some of the things I experienced and think you, as a future exchange student, should know.

    Before I start, I would like to say that all of these feelings are normal and don't take away from all the incredible experiences and people I've been exposed to. These cons don't even compare to all the positives of being an exchange student. I'm just putting this out there so that if you are an exchange student sometime in the future, you can know that you are not the only one who has gone or is going through these feelings and you will get through this.

    No one tells you the difficulties of being abroad.

    No one tells you about the times where you just feel like giving up because you feel lonely.

    No one tells you about how much you'll miss your family.

    You really won't understand what being an exchange student is like UNTIL you experience it for yourself.

    Unexpectedly, I wasn't very homesick during the holidays.. I'm not sure why and I wasn't expecting it but I really did my best to embrace the new Christmas traditions that were very VERY interesting..

    **TIP #1: Sit down and ask one of your Host PARENTS about the traditions. This will show them that you're actually interested.

    I participated in a Christmas caroling charity and we went around Ried (where I live) for around 4 hours and sang a song in German and then people would donate. It was so amazing seeing how generous people are here! In the U.S., when I've raised money for charities, I would usually get a couple dollars from whoever would buy whatever I was selling. Here in Ried, the average a person would give was 20-80 Euros. It was seriously one of the most impacting things I've been able to experience here!

    After Christmas came New Years and I spent it in Berlin, Germany! The fireworks were beautiful and I met a lot of people and was introduced to new traditions.

    On the 6th of January I changed host families. I went from a 5 person family to a 3 person family. And instead of having older host siblings, I am now the older sister. My little host sister is exactly 10 years and 2 months younger than me and her name is Valentina as well. As different and challenging as it may be, I feel like being 6 months into my exchange, I have already gained so much more confidence and face my problems head on.

    Even though it's different and at times challenging to have a little sister, it's also very rewarding. For example: one of the first nights I was here (with my new family), my (host) mom asked me if I could read to my little sister and honestly I felt like this wasn't going to end well. I thought they were treating me like a nanny but now I try to read read to her as much as possible.. It's so awesome to read a book and understand it or actually be able to read it to where SHE can understand it. And it's also very helpful to have a little sister around because she's going to teach you a lot of words and they look up to you. She copies almost everything I do. It's sweet and it's amazing seeing the impact that you have on someone!

    As far as activities, I go to the gym about 5 days a week. For me, one of the things that scarred me the most was the whole GAINING WEIGHT part of exchange and it will happen. When I start realizing that i'm not eating the best foods or not feeling too good about myself, I start to change things up. I eat salads and meats.. Sometimes pasta because it's my favorite food and I go to the gym and work out hard. It's not a that big a deal for some people but I just like to keep it under control.

    I've also started ballet. We just did a show on Saturday and Sunday and I played an OberOsterreiche Puppe which is an Upper Austrian Doll. I've gotten to know a lot of people and made more friends!

    -Every Monday, I have Cello in the music school that I conveniently live right next door to. Then I go to the gym.

    -Every Tuesday, I go to the gym before school, I have 2 hours of singing classes at school where I am learning to sing classical music and then go to Rotary meetings which I LOVE going to!

    -Every Wednesday I have ballet.

    -Every Thursday I go to the gym and end up doing some sort of activity with my host family.

    -Every Friday I have 2 hourse of choir in school and usually go to the gym afterwards.

    Moving on to the more fun parts of exchange, FERIEN!!!!!

    Ferien are your vacations from school or your days off. Today, I just came back from a week of skiing in Gastein. It was so much fun and at first a little stressful but I survived. I took two days of skiing classes with a teacher and payed for four days worth of skiing tickets. My host parents graciously payed for the hotel and the food and all things of that nature. PLEASE REMEMBER TO SAY THANK YOU. Honestly, after spending their money on you and hoping that you had a good time, the least you can do is put on a smile, be helpful in every way possible and show them how grateful you are by also saying thank you. It's something a lot of exchange students forget to do.

    So, just a quick back track, for Christmas, I went on a Rotary trip to Salzburg so I got to see the beautiful Christmas Market. I also visited my home city's Christmas Market and my host family took me to the market in Linz before going to watch a Christmas orchestra concert. I later went to visit my host sister in Vienna so I also got to see the Christmas market there.

    I think before coming on exchange, the part I was most scared of (emotionally) was how I would feel not being with my family during the holidays. I missed my family but I focused more on what gifts to get my host family and asked loads of questions on what the traditions were like. And the Austrian Christmas traditions are SO interesting and fun. I will definitely be implementing them into my Christmas next year.

    New Years I actually spent in Berlin. One thing I was told is that in Austria, on New Years Eve, when the clock strikes twelve, everywhere around Austria, on the radio or live, Austrians will dance the Walz into the New Year.

    Also, early in February, I ended up doing my introduction presentation to my Rotary club. It was only photos and a video and I spoke and explained all the pictures. I opened my presentation by introducing myself and saying how happy I was to be in Ried and how thankful I was to Rotary because of how welcomed I felt. I've been told all the Rotarians loved it and were very happy that I was spending my year with them.

    On another note, one of the Rotarians in my club recently became a widower and it just so happens that he is my next door neighbor. I was just getting home from a school choir trip and my family had gone to one of our neighbors house as a play date for my little host sister. Before getting home, I decided to go back into town and buy some flowers and ring this Rotarians doorbell. He answered the door and I gave him my condolences and told him that I just wanted to see how he was doing. He invited me into his home and we sat and talked for about an hour. He told me of his childhood and about his kids and it was just so refreshing to have a conversation and listen to someone of another generation and see him smiling and laughing. It was really beautiful. I only say this because at first, I was debating whether I should actually go up to him or not; whether it was an invasion of privacy; whether he was going to be cold or not; whether it was going to be awkward or not... In the end, it really paid off. Everytime we see each other whether he's going on his daily walk through town or I'm getting home from school, we greet each other and have a nice conversation. All in all, it's nice to be nice.

    I think that concludes most of what I've been up to for these first two months of 2018..

    Till next time,

    Bis später alligator:)

    Valentina

    Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs

  • Titi, Outbound to Austria

    Dear readers,

    Since my last journal entry, a lot has happened. I'm sitting here in class, trying to understand what the teachers and students are saying. I've always been that student in class that worries if she gets anything lower than an A so, coming into a new class setting, with a new language, as the new girl, I was so scared of what would happen if I didn't do my homework or didn't pay attention or didn't take the exams; I didn't know what the teachers were expecting of me or what I should be doing. However, sitting here, I can honestly tell you that the way the head mistress explained it was so clear: "You did not come here for the schooling. You have come here to engage with new people, new ways of life, new cultures." This year, you do not need to stress about when your homework was due, or whether you have a test or not.

    Besides, your peers, the teachers; they are all really impressed that you're willing to even sit down and pay attention to what they have to say (even though they know you aren't understanding a third of what they are saying). It's impressive; to put yourself in a situation like that; to go through the fear of starting a new life in a different country where you don't know the language. It is an experience that is so important to learn; especially early on, surrounded by people who want to know more about you.

    *****TIP #1: LISTEN. When you're in class, listen. Or at least pretend to listen because your teachers will like you so much more if they see that you're actually trying to learn. It earns you respect. You'll be surprised how many words you can actually pick up.

    Now, of all my classes, I really try to understand and pay attention in Music, English, German, Gym, French, Choir, Singing, and Religion because I know I can handle them. Also, it is very probable your English teacher will ask you to answer some questions or help them out. However, I am taking online classes but it's honestly a decision you have to make. Take into consideration how much time you think you will have on your hands and how diligent you really are. There is no shame in not graduating on time. If that is one factor holding you back, take it from me, this year is well worth it. Who cares if you graduate a year late?.. You get to live AN ENTIRE YEAR ABROAD!

    This exchange is a definite challenge. It is a process. It is slow and at times painful (emotionally, mentally, sometimes physically -believe me, hiking is NOT ANYTHING like what it looked like in sound of music.. You SWEAT. A LOT. And your muscles feel like they might give in at any moment. You walk like you have noodles for legs while an Austrian 5 year old passes you by). Don't feel discouraged if there are other exchange students that speak German better or more fluently. Remember that there is always someone that is better than them too.

    *****TIP #2: Speak to your friends IN GERMAN. Your exchange friends; your school friends; your parents' friends'. SPEAK AS MUCH GERMAN AS YOU CAN. When you do this, your friends will kinda take a step back and realize.. "hmmm, this exchange student ACTUALLY WANTS to learn German."

    As dumb as you may feel, because, believe me, I feel really REALLY dumb sometimes, do it. You don't sound as bad as you think you do. If you want to get to a state where you can tell jokes fluently in German or speak to your friends without them turning their heads like puppies trying to understand what you're attempting to say, YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE. And starting somewhat kindergarten-ish is where we all start.

    It is so vital in this year that you take this seriously and completely submerge yourself into the German language. German TV; German music; German traditions... because if thats not the reason you are doing your exchange, I'd reconsider your decision.

    As annoying as this may sound, the best way to learn german is by SPEAKING it. Whenever I would watch videos on how to learn German quickly (which I have learned the hard way is NOT an overnight process), the point people most emphasized was actually SPEAKING GERMAN.

    *****TIP #3: Even if you're sentences are as simple as "Was machen wir?" "What are we doing?", your friends will respond to you in German and WANT to include you in their plans because they won't be thinking "Man, this is going to be AWKWARD.. I don't speak good english, she doesn't speak great german... lets just avoid that and NOT invite her."

    *****TIP #4: DON'T BE AFRAID OR EMBARRASSED TO ASK QUESTIONS! This is how you will get better. Ask your friends after you've said something in German: "Did that make sense" or "Is that how you would say it?"

    *****TIP #5: Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. That is one of the most important pieces of advice my mom ever taught me. Whenever someone speaks to me in German, and I ask them to repeat it, they will usually say it slower or break it down, and even though it sounds perfect to me and I'm like "FINALLYYYYYY!" a lot of other students will find it hilarious! Or when I use a word incorrectly like if I were saying "When I AM four..." they think thats really funny too.Laugh with your classmates when they laugh about the way you speak or the words you use because they'll be like "Heyyy, she's cool! We can joke around with her.." instead of "Oooooooh, maybe we shouldn't have said that..".

    When they laugh, I laugh. Even when I don't understand what they're saying, I'll laugh because someone else's laugh makes me laugh.. Theres A LOT of laughing.

    *****TIP #6: Say YES to everything you're offered. Believe me, in my first month here, I can honestly tell you I've gone to more places than some people go to in a lifetime.. Restaurants, towns, castles, villas, mountains... The places I've been blessed enough to visit have shown me that, oh my gosh, there is so much of the world that we don't see. So many cultures we don't know of. That reminded me of how important this opportunity is.

    You will be blessed enough to see places you can't even begin to imagine; places you thought would have stayed in the past; crumbled away; places you thought never have existed; places that look like they've been plucked out of a universal set from the Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast movies...

    *****TIP #7: Try to indulge yourself as much as you can in the culture. Just a couple days ago, I got an Austrian made Dirndl! Surprisingly, a lot of the youth use them in festivals like Volksfest and Oktoberfest.

    *****TIP #8: Listen to German and/or Austrian music. My favorites so far have been Julian Le Play and Cro. Cro is EXTREMELY popular here and for good reason.

    Start listening to your host countries music! If you tell an Austrian that you love music, the music they refer to is CLASSICAL MUSIC. They will ask you who your favorite composers are and they wouldn't mind you dropping a couple Austrian names into the conversation.

    All of this is a learning process. I'm sorry if my journals are long. I just really appreciated it when I got to hear oldies (past exchange students) share their experiences and give us tips. I'll share some of my experiences in a different journal entry!

    Till next time,

    Bis später alligator:)

    Valentina

    Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs

  • Titi, Outbound to Austria

    Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs

    To start:

    I can't believe how blessed I am to be writing about being ABROAD. I knew this moment would come, but I didn't really KNOW; it never really sank in.

    A piece of advice I would give you: breathe in when you give your parents the last hug before you go through TSA because it's the last memory you'll take with you of them. Also, pre-write your family members birthday cards. I forgot to do this but it's a really nice surprise because it takes 3-4 weeks for postcards or just cards in general to get back to your family...

    Here are my tips and my experiences so far-

    *****TIP #1: DON'T BE NERVOUS to the point where you're scared to meet your family for the first time. Be a good nervous; remember that they're nervous too. You're not the only one.

    Today marks 22 days since I arrived here in Austria. I live in a smaller town called Ried Im Innkreis. It is located in Upper Austria and it's 1 hour away from Linz, 1 hour away from Salzburg, and 2 1/2 hours from Vienna.

    *****TIP #2: Learn all the 9 states in Austria. They'll really enjoy that.

    These past 22 days have been the most eye opening. From small differences like the different breakfasts to the big differences like the constant German, these last 3 weeks have been filled with excitement and unexpected surprises. One of the best pieces of advice my dad gave me was "Do everything there that you won't be able to do here." So when my host family offered me dance classes, my answer was "HECK YES!!". Hiking; YES. Walk around town; YES. Orchestra concert; YES.

    *****TIP #3: Be ready to walk A LOT.. In your city, at language camp...

    Language Camp:

    Language camp was so much fun! You meet a lot of new people. Try and get to know them. Believe me, you'll want to get to know everyone and they want to get to know you too; just take the first step. I can honestly say that i've met my best friends at language camp. With some people you just click and with others, well, they grow on you. Friendships take patience... Give it time. Also, don't lose communication. I'm not the best with communicating but be the person who texts "What's up" or "What are you up to". That's something these past three weeks have taught me.

    **PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS. YOU'RE BEING GIVEN 2 WEEKS OF EXPENSIVE, INTENSIVE GERMAN CLASSES AND THEY REALLY HELP. I came with 6 months of German but after language camp, I feel like I don't have to think as hard as before. Words tend to flow more..

    *****TIP #4: People forming into groups is inevitable so don't dread it but don't confine yourself to two or three friends.

    *****TIP #5: Don't complain too much. That's something language camp taught me. No one likes to hear someone who's like "Thank God it rained because I REALLY didn't want to do that..."

    I am so thankful to God and my parents for giving me this incredible opportunity. I think it still hasn't hit me that I am away for a whole year but I also have a feeling that this year will go by sooooo quickly.. I feel really blessed to have a host family that treats me as one of their own. My advice to you is pray every day for your family and don't get discouraged if they don't seem loving because it might be that they're nervous and don't know your comfort zone or your boundaries or don't know what to say. God knows the desires of your heart and whatever you ask in faith, you will receive.

    Till next time,

    Bis später alligator:)

    Valentina

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