Luke Shiomitsu

France

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
School: Buchholz High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Gainesville, Florida
Host District: 1780
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Tricastin


My Bio


Bonjour à tous! Hello everyone! My name is Hayato (Luke) Shiomitsu, and I live in Gainesville, Florida with my mom, dad, older sister, and two dogs. My parents are both from Japan, but I have lived in the United States for my whole life. Raised in a bicultural family, I am bilingual, and I am excited to become tricultural and trilingual (English, Japanese, and French!) through Rotary Youth Exchange. I am currently a freshman at Buchholz High School, where I love to study math, science, and French. At school, I am heavily involved with the Buchholz Math Team, French Club, and Orchestra. I am also a member of the Alachua County Youth Orchestra since the 7th grade. In my spare time, I find myself playing with my two dogs, Jack and Choco, and flying radio-controlled airplanes. In the summer of my 7th grade year, I went to a French immersion camp for two weeks, and from then on, I found myself constantly thinking about being a foreign exchange student. Through Rotary, I hope to connect with the French people and culture, learn a new language in the process, and present France to my friends and family in the United States and Japan. Words cannot express my appreciation towards Rotary for a once in a lifetime journey. I am looking forward to my year in France, and I am excited to eat delicious dishes in France!

Annecy is life. Period.

Annecy is life. Period.

We made sure that we didn't mess up which way the flag faced :)

We made sure that we didn't mess up which way the flag faced :)

I wish the exchange 15 wasn't a real thing!

I wish the exchange 15 wasn't a real thing!

Arrival in France!!!

Arrival in France!!!

I didn't know that my arms were going to hurt so bad later that day...

I didn't know that my arms were going to hurt so bad later that day...

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Udon for my new host family :)

Udon for my new host family :)

Hermanos!

Hermanos!

Oyster picking to prepare for Christmas?

Oyster picking to prepare for Christmas?

Bus trip squad goals.

Bus trip squad goals.

Meeting up with Miles in Spain!

Meeting up with Miles in Spain!

Making Gator fans, one family at a time.

Making Gator fans, one family at a time.

Notre Dame: a national tragedy.

Notre Dame: a national tragedy.

Chilling on the ocean...

Chilling on the ocean...

Birthday squad!

Birthday squad!

Journée déguisée at lycée :)

Journée déguisée at lycée :)

Picking up trash for a better environment.

Picking up trash for a better environment.

An annual tradition called "L'arbre de Mai!"

An annual tradition called "L'arbre de Mai!"

Journals: Luke-France Blog 2018-19

  • Luke, Outbound to France

    Questions, questions, questions...

    Hey guys! I am going through a multitude of emotions right now, so instead of lying on my bed doing nothing, I thought that I would be a little productive and update my blog post. Just thinking about returning to the United States is sending shivers up my spine right now.

    Today I just came back from my final Rotary weekend with the entirety Rotary D1780, because not everybody will be able to come to the succeeding meeting. In other words, people are leaving to get back to their respective countries, which makes me think about my return trip to the United States. I find myself getting scared of the day I get home, mostly because I don’t know or expect how to feel. At one side, I have my old friends and my family waiting to give me a heart-warming welcome, and on the other side, I have my French friends and family (including the exchange student fam!) that I will have to leave. They have made such an impact in my life that I don’t know if I can usher enough courage in order to board the return flight to the United States. I’ve made countless of French and exchange friends that I am reluctant to start saying my final goodbyes. At the Rotary meeting today, I found myself saying not “goodbyes” to my exchange friends, but instead “see you laters,” promising them that one day, I will see them again. I know I still have a little more than a month in this wonderful country, yet I am here contemplating about the return trip, when I believe I should not think about it. Questions, such as “What am I going to miss in France?” and “What do I miss from the United States?” are constantly circulating my brain. Thus, going to the inbound weekend today just reinforced the thoughts I had already had.

    At the moment, I found myself looking over my past blog posts and my camera roll, to read and look over what I had done for the past months. I often wonder if I have changed over my exchange, and if so, in what kind of way. It is hard to say because it is nearly impossible to judge oneself, but one thing is certain; I have learned countless of new and important things during my exchange. From learning how to water ski to learning how to dance the Cotton Eye Joe (Which I should have known before, shame on me), exchange has been a place for new opportunities. These opportunities, such as eating different plates depending on the season, or accidentally asking my host mother to have a marriage, etc. have made me a stronger, and a culturally aware person. I’m sure that even though I am not aware of it, I am starting to think just like a French person at times. All in all, I think I will understand better the scale of how much I have changed once I return to the United States, live with my family and meet my old friends.

    Exchange is a rollercoaster ride. Period. Some days are better than other days, some weeks are better than other weeks, and some months are better than other months. But one thing I am certain is that this year is not better than any of the first fifteen years of my life. Rotary Youth Exchange opened my world, and this year is definitely the best of my life so far.

    Perhaps to some people like me, the hardest fact of exchange is that we are obliged to return one day... So, with the short time I have left, I will have to try to live each and every day to my fullest, in order to leave no regrets in France. I know that I must leave one day, so I will spend the most time I can with those that I will miss the most when I go back to the United States.

    At this point in time, I am starting to think about the last gifts I am going to give to my host families, and the things I am going to bring back to the United States.

    In all honesty, even when I have written such a solemn post, exchange is an amazing experience. I have met new people in new places and had new experiences in what was a new country. I have spent wonderful times with my friends and host families, which I will never forget in my lifetime. Not once have I regretted going on exchange, although I have been through hard moments.

    With that note, I will live my exchange life to my best extent.

    P.S. I feel like I am losing my knowledge of the English language.

    P.P.S. I am excited to go to the Bus Trips in June!!!!!

    For those who are interested to knowing what I did during March, April, and May:

    Following my Bus Trips in February, I:

    - Went on a strike for the environment and picked up trash in the community.

    - Went skiing chez Patrick, which is in the Alps.

    - Ate at a Michelin starred restaurant!

    - Changed host families.

    - Met a Canadian on exchange with OSEF, who was hosted by the cousin of my host brother.

    - Went to do a geo-cache with my friend.

    - Made a small hole in my ear drum, which resulted at the doctors office.

    - Had a birthday party with my friends!

    - Went to Vendée for the second time, and went to the beach, which was extremely cold.

    - Turned 16!

    - Toured Paris for 3 days, because the family of my host family lives there :)

    - Watched the monter de l’arbre de Montségur, a tradition in my village to change a big tree in the village “castle” (This tradition is from the Middle Ages!!!)

    - Dyed my hair.

    - Made a Carrefour costume with my host brother out of cardboard and went to school with it.

    - Went to Ardèche weekend for Inbounds.

    - Volunteered at a middle school to teach English to students.

    Click HERE to read more about Luke and all his blogs

  • Luke, Outbound to France

    I’m absolutely stuck on what to write my blog on. I have too many things to write about; from changing host families to experiencing a new level of winter. However, I feel that if I list every single interesting “touristic” thing that I have done in the past three months, I feel like this will be utterly boring. So, instead, I have decided to take you guys through a typical day in the life of Luke.

    6:10 The dreading alarm rings. I unconsciously know it’s going to happen, I know it is my enemy, and sometimes I have to resist throwing my phone across the room. The “Happy days” are over. In other words, I am not, absolutely not happy to hear my alarm go off. I was still in the “Happy days” when I wrote my first blog post, but now, I am in the “Not Happy days.” As I rest in my bed for about another five minutes, it’s always a battle between me and sleep. If I accidentally sleep, my host mom will come to wake me up again, and to avoid that happening, normally I win the battle, go Luke! After waking up, the first thing I do is go to eat. It gets my day started, and I am still half-asleep while I eat. My host family learned that it’s never a good idea to talk something important in the morning, because I will 99.99% forget it. Future exchange students, I assure you, we aren’t like Superman. We’re still human beings, and we are prone to everyday hardships like any other of you guys. Breakfast usually consists of cereal, loafs of bread, or grillettes. If I’m lucky, there’s a cake or crêpe resting from the day before that I would definitely take. I eat with my host mother and host sister, while my lucky host brother gets to sleep a little while longer, as he goes to middle school. After brushing my teeth and washing my face, it’s game on. The second that cold water hits my face, I am forced to wake myself up, and this officially starts my day. I usually (*correction 50% of the time) pack my backpack the day before, which make things easier. All that rests is putting on clothes for the day, and we are off into the car to go to my bus stop. Notice that I am extremely proud of myself that I haven’t missed a single bus (Although I have been dangerously close) to get to school. I will most definitely celebrate if I can make it through the school year without missing a bus. After my host mother drops me at the bus station at 7:00, the bus arrives about two minutes later, and I am greeted by the bus driver. To anyone reading this, whether it be future exchange students, or their parents, or anyone, it is always important to be polite, especially in France, where people will not be friendly if you don’t start a conversation with a simple ‘Bonjour.’ And the boring wait begins...

    For about an hour...

    Just to get a school...

    Yup, that’s right. A full hour to study French, socialize with bus buddies, listen to French music, an hour with endless possibilities, two hours everyday including the return trip! Instead, I use this time to sleep, or in most cases, to try to sleep because I have trouble sleeping in buses. What a great use of time, Luke. As I enter a time warp of an hour, I am then beaten awake for the third time of the day, this time, by my best friend (Soon to be my host brother in April) who usually sits next to me on the bus, Damien. Once at school, we don’t really stop to talk to anyone, but instead we go directly inside the school building, due to the cold temperatures. Winter is at its finest, and you can tell when every breath you take releases a white vapor. In the morning, the temperatures are in between 0 to 5 degrees Celsius, and the highest temperatures that the day can reach is around 10 degrees. Once inside the building, most of our classmates are in front of the classroom, in which we have about 5 minutes to socialize before courses start. Guys greet other guys with a firm handshake or a handshake that you make up, whereas girls greet other girls with a cheek kiss known as la bise. Guys greet other girls by doing a “chèque” (Two taps on the hand) or by doing the bise if they feel comfortable with the other girl. By the time we greet our classmates, the professor arrives, opens the door, and he/she commences class. School is definitely not the best part of being an exchange student. It is exhausting to try to understand a class in a language that is not native. Classes differ each day, but each subject determines my participation level. For example, I fully participate in math and science classes, however, in French class, I struggle to listen (As we study difficult literature equivalent for reading Shakespeare in America). It really depends on the exchange student and his or her teachers if they have to participate in class or not. Like school in the United States, I prefer certain courses over others. One of the interesting things is that as much as I don’t fully understand French class, the teacher is very funny and makes the class interesting. In France, school starts at 8 and ends at 5, except for Wednesday’s where they end at noon. We usually have 10 minute breaks after every two courses, and an hour break for lunch. Other than the hour break for lunch, we usually have one or two hours a day for free time. During the free time, I usually do one of three things; go out into the city with my friends, go to the library with my friends, or roam around the school and halls with my friends. I can’t stress out the importance of having friends. I don’t think it matters what country you are going to, but friends are necessity in order for you to progress in the language. Not only that, they are a mean of support, they are trustworthy, and can help you overcome your struggles. I was extremely fortunate when I found out that my best friend is going to become my host brother! Anyways, going back to school, I probably talk more than I should, especially in classes I don’t understand, but at least I talk in French, so I don’t see it as a problem. Talking is very important as well for learning the language, and I always strive to find conversations to join on. A great place to talk and socialize in is the cafeteria. First and foremost, I have to admit, that the United States school food is lacking a lot compared to the French school food. I believe this is due to the fact that the importance of food is ingrained in the French culture. They have embraced this culture and have passed it down through generations, which we can all observe through the quality food. As I get back into the bus at 5:00 after parting with my friends, I once again start to sleep (But instead, for the past few days, I have been writing this blog on the bus). Getting off the bus at 6:00 I either go directly home, or I go to tennis (every Tuesday and Wednesday). Also, some Mondays, I go to orchestra from 7:30 to 9:30, and every Thursday, I go back to my first host family’s house because they take me running with my first two host brothers. On the days I do go home at 6:00, I usually stay on the couch in the living room, with my host brother, or simply in my room until around 7 to 7:30, when we eat dinner. My host father cooks amazing traditional French dishes, which is a great combination with delicious French bread. However, I have to admit, sometimes I do miss American and Japanese food, but that can wait because I can always have that when I get back. Normally after eating, brushing my teeth, taking a shower, it is already 8:30 to 9:00, at which time I go into my room to either study or watch some television series (Always in French or at least with French subtitles), and then... I sleep to wake up again to the alarm.

    This is an average day of an exchange student. It’s not really similar to what an average exchange student posts on their social media, like Instagram. Obviously there are fun moments, but life is not constantly made up of fun moments. I just came back from a Paris/Barcelona bus trip, which was probably the best week I have had so far on my exchange, as I got to meet up with Miles, a fellow exchange student from Florida in Spain. We were forty exchange students in France discovering more of our country and our fellow neighbor, Spain. When I came back from that Bus Trip, I ended up staying up the whole night not being able to sleep because I felt like the best times were over, and that I was going to return to a normal day. Mind you, in my opinion, the normal day of an exchange student is already unique and better than an average, repetitive day in the United States. I have 6 weeks until the next vacation, and I hope I will have experiences as amazing of those I had on the bus trip. I have four months left of exchange, and I am starting to have the notion that one day, I am going to have to return to life in the United States. But as of now, I will try to forget about that fact and live fun times with my new friends and families.

    Click HERE to read more about Luke and all his blogs

  • Luke, Outbound to France

    Coucou! Next week will mark my second month of being in this extraordinary country, France. It seems unreal that I am in this country even to this moment, and I sometimes have to close my eyes, re-open them, and pinch myself in order to make sure that this life isn’t a dream. At this point, I am more than sure that the hellish amount of paperwork and essays for Rotary back in the United States was completely worth it. Right now, I am in a 8 hour car ride to go to Cholet in the Northwest of France, but before I get there, I am going to rewind my whole exchange to the beginning.

    I still remember the day I left my home country as if it were yesterday. After breaking tears at the airport with my family, I flew to Atlanta, where I had a connecting flight to Amsterdam International Airport. Unexpectedly, the flight didn’t seem that long, because I made good friends with a German person, Tassilo, (I’m surprised I remember his name!) and I ended up talking to him for most of the flight. Upon arriving at Amsterdam, I saw a couple other exchange students going to France, and we ended up staying together to wait for our final flight. I flew into Lyon that day, and I knew that there was something going on, because I couldn’t understand what people were saying to each other. It’s frustrating, when you’re trying to understand what people are discussing, and you can’t catch any of the sentences or even the words. Nonetheless, I was welcomed by a warm-hearted host family, the Mignet’s , at the airport. The family consists of the mother (Marietta), the father (Tony), and three brothers (Adrien, Angel, and Alix). Adrien left for his exchange in Brazil, so currently, I live with Angel, who is 13, and Alix, who is 10. They’re an extremely nice family, and I could sense their generosity from the first day. Anyways, the big idea is that on my first day in France, I definitely had an unusual feeling that I wasn’t in the United States anymore. From the obvious things such as language, to the less obvious things, such as the buildings, cars, landscapes, climate, and much more, I remember telling myself and my host family the phrase: “I am in France!” And yes, I am in France, the country of food and love, and the food hasn’t disappointed even once. Especially the cheese and bread. Every dinner, we have a cheese and bread course (After the main meal) and the bread here is crunchy and savory, so it is super good. Also, there are more than a million types of cheeses here, that even if I try one type of cheese everyday, I would not have eaten all types by the end of my exchange. My favorite type of cheese here right now is Beaufort, and the Beaufort and baguette is a match made in heaven. The main courses are just at good as the cheese and bread, but it is always the desserts in France that gets the credit. And I can understand why. From the savory mille-feuille to crêpes and tarte aux pommes, the patisseries here in France are phenomenal. Food plays a big role in my life at this point, that this blog post could be all about food!

    But instead, I think it’s about time that you know where I live ;)

    I live in the Southeast of France, in the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, in the department of Drôme, and in the village of Montségur-sur-Lauzon. It’s a small village (1,200 people), and it is known for its Lavenders and truffles (the mushroom). Also, there is a small old castle that overlooks the village and has an incredible view. Old buildings, such as churches and castles are so common in France (And World War memorials), that nearly every village has one. I have already visited more than five castles and have seen numerous churches and buildings that have been dated back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. To add on, the climate is definitely different from Florida, and I prefer it here more than Florida, because there is absolutely no humidity here. Instead it is much colder, and there is much more wind in this region. In addition, it rarely rains here, and most of the time, you can’t spot even one cloud in the sky. But I think I am not prepared for the winter, where it apparently becomes super cold that it snows from time to time. But the exchange students who are going to Scandinavian countries definitely have it worse (Shoutout to Brad and Zach!), so I am not complaining.

    In order to save you guys from boredom, I will make a list of the highlights (In chronological order) of my time in France:

    - Arrived in France!!!

    - Visited neighboring villages (Clansayes, Grignan, Le Garde-Adhémar, etc.) and saw old chapels, castles and buildings during my first week in France.

    - Went to the accrobranche and had a blast with my host brothers.

    - Met my second and third host families and had a dinner with them.

    - Went to Ardèche, and my host family and I canoed down the river for five hours (the view was phenomenal). At the end, we had a picnic with my second and third host families.

    - Started school and was relieved to find out that my host brother of my third host family was in the same class that I was.

    - Started Tennis and track and field (with my host brothers).

    - Went to a Rotary meeting and was warmly welcomed by all the members (Also, the food at the meeting was amazing).

    - Welcomed three new animals to the family (1 pig and 2 hamsters).

    - Went to a festival with my friends and had the time of my life.

    - Went to Annecy to meet the exchange students living in France for the first time, and made a lot of friends that were going through the same thing that I was. Exchange students all have a connection, and we understand each other the best ;).

    - Visited Orange to see a famous old theater called le Théâtre Antique d'Orange.

    - Went to a mountain cabin with my friend three hours from my home, and spent a night there.

    - Hiked with my host family and my third host family in the mountains near the Mont Blanc.

    - Saw my exchange friends for the second time.

    - Went to the movies as a class.

    - Had a cross-country race, and my class was definitely the best ;) Also, if we win, we get a day of skiing as a class!!!

    - Went to the “American Festival” hosted by my village and the stereotype was that every American has a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

    - Went to Avignon to cheer on my host brothers for a track and field competition. Also visited the city of Avignon.

    - Currently going to the west of France (the city of Cholet) and next week, I will go again back to the mountain cabin of my friend (And host brother of my third host family) to spend a couple days there.

    School:

    School is getting a whole new section by itself, because my life right now is divided into two main sections: Life at school, and life not at school.

    Anyways, I have just finished my seventh week of school, as there is a two-week vacation (Called Toussaint) after the first seven weeks of school. School normally starts at 8 in the morning, and finishes anywhere from 12 o’clock to 5 o’clock depending on the day. On Monday, I finish at 4 o’clock, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, I finish at 5 o’clock, and on Wednesday, I finish at noon. Everyday (except Wednesday’s), I have an hour break to eat, and on Fridays, I have a three hour break, in which I will explain later what I do in the three hours. But before anything, I need to explain that school, especially the first day, is very awkward and hard.

    Walking down the halls the first day of school is extremely awkward. I was lucky that my host brother could help me around. Especially in class, I could sense the stares of the people. It’s hard in that situation, to go up to different people and talk to them. And unlike the United States, most of the people don’t come up to you to talk to you. But everyone in my grade level is new to high school, so that made it a little easier to talk with more people. On the first day, most of the new friends I made were through my host brother, but by the third week of school, I felt much more comfortable talking to other people, and I had talked to everyone in my class and made friends that were not related to my host brother.

    As for the courses, the first month, I didn’t understand a single sentence that my professor said. I caught a couple words and wrote down what everybody wrote, but the comprehension skill was not there. Nonetheless, I tried the homework, arriving with little to no success. Right now, the only classes I fully understand is math and English. The other classes, I’m struggling to understand, but I know that I am starting to catch more words and sentences that the professor is saying, so that is a good sign. In addition to my classes at high school, I have 4 hours of extra courses at middle school, in order to improve my French.

    In addition, some of my best memories so far are definitely made at school. Every Friday, my friends and I go out to the city, because we have a 3 hour break to eat. I usually go to Kebab with my friends to eat on Fridays. My class has gathered at the park during these 3 hour breaks, and we normally talk with each other and spend our time peacefully. Also, our whole grade level has gone to the movies and had a running competition, which are kind of like “field trips” in the United States. I am obviously biased, but my class, 2nd3, is definitely the best, and we are the most tightly-knitted group, compared to any other class in our school :). Perhaps I will go into further detail on the broad topic of school later. All in all, I absolutely love going to school right now (Not for the courses, but my friends) and there are new things to do everyday with the people in my class that makes it fun.

    To future exchange students (Or anybody interested in doing exchange) who had the patience to read my blog post:

    Firstly, congratulations for reading through this blog post ;). As a nice gift, I will give my tips for what I did and what I wish I had done when I was in the United States.

    1. You can never over-practice your language. Exchange will be ten times much easier if you have a basic understanding of the language before you leave for exchange.

    2. Get organized, right now. I wish I had learned that exchange requires so much organizing of life, because nobody is here to tell you how to spend each day and what to do.

    3. Learn your country, and after you know where you are going, look at a map. That way, when you are lost, you will know where you are, unlike me.

    4. Get cooking. Cooking with the host family is precious bonding time! So far, I’ve cooked dinner and made desserts for my host family.

    5. Get in shape. I’ve definitely walked 100x more than my time in the United States, and I’ve still gained weight because the food is just too good :)

    6. Get your news reel rollin’. People really want to know what is happening in your country, and it’s also cooler just to know some basic current events.

    7. Learn your conversions. The metric system exhausted me the first month I was here. Learn your conversions beforehand!

    8. Just apply (If you haven’t). Exchange will open your world to so many more things, and learning a different culture through exchange has changed my life.

    It is impossible to capture everything that has happened in the last two months, but hopefully I gave a good overview on what the first two months of exchange is like. I am enjoying every day of my exchange, despite all the hardships and occasional waves of homesickness, because I don't want to leave any regrets during my exchange. The first two months have definitely passed by too fast. All in all, I have had a phenomenal time in the first two months in this country, and I am just starting to understand the extent of greatness that the Rotary Youth Exchange program encompasses. It is truly a program that connects two cultures, and I am honored to represent the United States in promoting world peace. Merci Rotary pour cette opportunité génial!

    Click HERE to read more about Luke and all his blogs

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