2004-05 Outbound to France
Date of Birth: January 23,
Hometown: Orange Park,
School: Ridgeview High School
Sponsor: Orange Park Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida USA
Host: Roubaix Sud Rotary Club, District 1670, France
|August 31 Journal - "As
we drove toward the Eiffel Tower I saw an old Ford Thunderbird which stood
out among the sea of identical cars. It somehow made everything seem alright
to see something so impractical in a sea of practicality."
|September 24 Journal and
"I love how here you can see people walking down the street with an arm full
of baguettes and find it normal. To me it is all some great romantic picture
that you only see in old movies."
|November 11 Journal and
"We collected mushrooms which is one of my host father's favorite hobbies. I
really like the mushrooms that we find in the forest, and besides, it is
about as French as French gets."
|November 19 Journal - "I
love that now other people are noticing that I understand more. People are
actually asking me questions now instead of asking the people around me
|January 9 Journal -
"There is no way that I can write all the little things that make this
exchange so amazing. This year is just for me and I will have my little
stories for all my life."
|February 10 Journal -
"My family and I were sitting at the table and we began to talk. We talked
for about two hours or more. I became myself. The language was no longer a
barrier at all."
|March 26 Journal and
Pictures - "The very last day was the day I had been waiting for the
entire time ... we were going somewhere that I had been dreaming of, Le Mont
|June 13 Journal - "It is
hard to see the other exchange students leave one by one. I am going to be
the last one to leave here and that just means that I have the most goodbyes
|July 27 Journal - "I
went to the bank to close my French account and I almost cried. As I watched
the lady cut up my card I felt like she was cutting up my heart and my life
in my new home."
Hi! My name is Michele McDonald and I am 16 years old. I
live in Orange Park, Florida with my grandmother, my older sister, my four
dogs, and my two cats. I like to do lots of things but I am not a very
big sports person. I never have been, but maybe one day I will be, that
is as soon as I find a sport that doesn't require a lot of physical
I love acting and being part of school
plays. There is nothing better than the rush that I get when I am on
stage in front of a crowd of people, and I know that all those eyes are on
me. When I don't get cast in a play, which happens quite a lot, I do tech
work for the play and it is almost as much fun as being the one on stage.
I also like to edit videos for people and myself. I am involved in all
aspects of drama.
One of my more recent hobbies is helping to restore and
show my family's newly reacquired 1923 Model T Ford. The car is beautiful
and growing up in a house where everyone loves their cars I cannot but
help to have the same feelings. I cannot wait to see how the car does at
Now I am just so excited about going to France. I have
never traveled anywhere. The farthest I have been in the United States is
Tennessee. I have never been out of the country so this experience will
be something completely different for me. I can't wait to go to France.
August 31 Journal
here in France, another country, another world. The trip here was a whole
other world to me too because it was my first plane ride. Getting on the
plane at Jacksonville was not that hard but the size of the plane was scary,
it was so small. The ride to Washington was short and made easier by having
Katie take the journey with me. Once in Washington the wait was short and I
got on another plane that was enormous. I thought I was ready for the long
plane ride but it was so much longer than I thought. The flight was like a
I think the hardest part was stepping off the plane and onto France. After
that, it was non stop. My host family had to get their daughter off to the
US minutes after I arrived so we all had to rush to the other end of the
airport. After all the goodbyes were said, I thought that I was going to my
new home but no. I was going to stay with my host aunt for three days. In
those three days I felt like I was in a daze. Was I really in France? Could
this all be true?
My third day there we went to Paris which is the biggest city I have ever
been in. As we drove toward the Eiffel Tower I saw an old Ford Thunderbird
which stood out among the sea of identical cars. It somehow made everything
seem alright to see something so impractical in a sea of practicality. I
loved everything about Paris and I shall have to return again to see more.
After seeing the city I took my first train ride which was fun and boring.
Now I am home and things are going alright. Yesterday I rode on the metro
for the first time and it was basically everything I expected, people
getting on and off.
I start school in a few days and look forward to forming a routine. Life
marches on in both worlds, the one I left and the one I am living. In this
world time just seems to move a bit slower.
Until next time,
September 24 Journal and Pictures
well, It was officially been a month that I have been in France. Life is
becoming life here. I am settling into a routine and that makes life easier.
I am happy with my new life, I mean, how could I not be - this is France. I
love how here you can see people walking down the street with an arm full of
baguettes and find it normal. To me it is all some great romantic picture
that you only see in old movies. I love it.
School I would say is the majority of my life here but the great part is I
don't have to really try at school like I have to in the United States.
Here, I can just go to the classes and listen to the teachers and try to
make sense out of the words that are coming out of their mouths. I even had
a test in history that consisted of four questions and the teacher just told
me to do what I could. I answered one of the questions in a very brief way.
When I got the paper back, the teacher said that it was good but she wasn't
going to grade anything right now. I must admit that I was a little
disappointed because I have yet to have any teacher give me an actual grade.
That is life here though.
Last week I went to the sea with my class to look at rocks or something like
that but I enjoyed just looking at the beauty around me. There was mountains
and ocean all in the same place. A totally new experience for me. On the way
to the sea I got to ride on my first double-decker bus. I thought that it
would be awesome but it was just another bus ride, like the bus I take every
morning to school that is crowded with kids and the bus that I return home
on. Buses are everywhere here.
family is great here but so big. There are seven of us in one house. It is
crazy to say the least. At least the house is big enough for us all, three
stories plus a basement. Of course my room is on the third story, so
probably three or four times a day I make the trip to my room which consists
of 43 steps, oh yes I counted them, not to mention the 67 step I go up and
down all day at school. Back to my family, there is my host father, my host
mother, my 16 year old host sister, my 12 year old host sister, my 10 year
old host brother and another new addition to the family, my host cousin I
guess. He is staying here to finish school because his parents moved to the
United States. Small World. Anyway, my family here is perfect, so different
than my real family but that is what makes this all more of an adventure.
I love almost everything here but I could wish for better on the weather. I
am basically a Florida girl and all my life I thought that I wanted to move
somewhere cold but I was wrong. It is about 40 degrees here everyday with
occasional rains. Needless to say, I freeze my tail off everyday. I am soon
going to buy the biggest coat that France has. It isn't really all that bad
but at least when I am cold others are too. Well that's it for now. I can't
wait until I can fully participate in everything here, the language is still
a barrier but a barrier that is coming down quickly.
Until next time,
My enormous new home
My new family,
the whole lot of us
The Eiffel Tower on my third day in France, what could be better?
The ocean, a lot different than Florida but still beautiful
My French friends at the ocean
More friends at the ocean
Me and Agathe, the
exchange student at my
school last year. We are in
the same class. Pretty nice.
Just a beautiful picture of
the French countryside. Like
I said before, everything
is just so beautiful here
November 11 Journal
I know that this journal is coming a little over a month but I
have been busy. I can't believe that I have been here over two months. This last
month has been the most interesting by far, mainly because of two weeks at the
end of October. My host family and I took the school vacation in Corsica. That's
right, that little island in the south of France that is known for its amazing
beauty, a.k.a., L'isle de Beauté.
The trip started out with a car ride that traversed all of
France, from the very north to the very south. It was a long ride, which
took all day long. I really enjoyed the ride though because I got to see the
landscape of this country that I am living in. It was so different than
Florida. There were mountains everywhere and my ears popped the entire way,
but I was willing to live with it. We stopped in Lyon to have lunch with
some of my host family's friends and then we headed off to catch our boat.
My host mother told me that we were going to be taking a
boat to Corsica and that we were going to be sleeping on it but I didn't
expect the boat that we got. It was basically a cruise ship and the biggest
boat that I had ever been on. I know that it doesn't seem like a big deal
but just riding on that boat made me happy, oh the little joys in life.
Well, we went to sleep on that boat and woke up in the
morning docked in Corsica. It was so pretty. I couldn't wait to see all of
it. We drove for about thirty minutes to my host family's house. The view
from the house was amazing. Looking straight out I could see the ocean and
then when I looked to the side I could see mountains. It was heaven for me.
We unpacked and then headed directly to the beach. It was so strange to be
able to wear a swim suit and actually be hot when I had been wearing a
sweater and a coat in the north. The next few days were passed at the beach
and I even got a tan. It was great.
Of course, nothing can be perfect. The next few days, it
rained and was semi-cold, but that didn't stop us from doing things. We went
out and collected chestnuts and then roasted them on a open fire. It was the
first time I had ever had them and I found out the they are really good. We
also went and collected mushrooms which is one of my host father's favorite
hobbies. I have to admit that I really like the mushrooms that we find in
the forest, and besides, it is about as French as French gets.
After about a week and a half of fun in the sun, or the
lack there of, we headed back to our little northern town of Chéreng. The
cold was a bit of a shock when we arrived home but now I am getting used to
it. I am not as cold as I used to be all the time. I like to think that
means that I am becoming French.
It makes me feel really good when people acknowledge the
progress I have made with the language. Almost everyone says that now I
understand everything and I always have to tell them no but I am getting
there. It is certainly a lot easier than a month ago and each day feels
better. I did go through a short time of being incredibly annoyed with
myself because I felt like I wasn't learning fast enough but that was when
things began to click.
Life is good now. I have friends at school and I can talk
to them which is great. I can take the metro into Lille all by myself and
feel completely secure because if I need help, I know that I can ask for it.
Things are good and I can't wait to see where I will be one month from now.
Until Next Time,
My host sister and me at
her 13th birthday party
The mushrooms that my host father, host brother, and I found in the
forest. They taste so good when they are all cooked up.
My host siblings and me after
a long tiring day of sun bathing
at a beach like the one behind
us. I know, the torture.
This beach was so beautiful.
The water was so blue, like something right out of a dream.
A nice little stream in the mountains was a good place to take a walk on
a day that was not so beautiful.
Not only is Corsica beautiful
but it embraces its wildlife,
like the cows that came into
our yard daily. My host father thought that it would be a good idea to
eat one for lunch.
The view that I got to wake up
to every morning in Corsica.
The view from the other side
of the house. It is so weird to
put mountains and ocean
together to me.
My host father showing off his find, a nice mushroom plucked from the
Like father like daughter. My host sister got in on the mushroom
searching in Corsica.
My host brother will go to any lengths to get a mushroom.
Our big ride back to
The port at Corsica at night is just as beautiful in the daylight.
There wasn't enough space in
our room on the boat for five people so we decided to stick
the smallest one in the closet.
At least he had an air hole.
November 19 Journal
I felt the need to write another journal because a lot has
happened in a short period of time. Last Sunday I went to Paris with two other
exchange students and one's host dad. It was really fun. We hit all the big
tourists spots. It was the second time that I have been in Paris since I have
been here and I know that it will be impossible to ever to be bored with that
I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was standing under
the Arc de Triumph or when I was looking at Notre Dame inside and out. I had
always dreamed of coming to France and seeing these things and to have done
this sort of thing so young, I don't know how I can ever do anything else in
my life to top it. It was so weird to look at Notre Dame from the same angle
and see it just as it is pictured on my French book back home. The feeling
of knowing that you are in a city that is famous for its beauty and history
is just amazing. Needless to say I am already making plans to go back. I
have to go back anyway because we went to the Louvre but we didn't go
inside. I can't have that.
Although Paris was great, I had a feeling the other night
that topped it by far. I am in the theater club at school and last week
there was a girl from Holland there. She is staying in France for two weeks.
She can't speak very good French but her English is amazing. She didn't
understand what the instructor was saying because of course it was all in
French so I had to translate everything for her. It wasn't that I understood
everything but I understood enough to tell her what was going on. I don't
think that I had realized how far I had come with my comprehension in
French. I was so proud of myself. I love that now other people are noticing
that now I understand more. People are actually asking me questions now
instead of asking the people around me about me. I feel like I have made a
lot of progress but I am still not where I want to be, but it is definitely
coming. For now, Life is good.
Until Next Time,
or as the French write it,
January 9 Journal
It absolutely amazes me that I have been here for a little over
four months. My memories from back home are still so vivid but at the same time I
am building a life here and the memories are a little bit surreal.
Well I just went through the big holiday time. It was
kicked off with Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, I figured that I would
try and spread the Thanksgiving spirit to the French. I went around all day
long and said Happy Thanksgiving to anyone I saw at school. It was funny
because everyone thought that it is just a holiday where there is a turkey
so I got the chance to explain the story about the Pilgrims, but honestly
they still believe it is our excuse to eat and maybe they are right. I
didn't do anything with my host family for Thanksgiving because they just
weren't interested in it but that doesn't mean that I didn't celebrate it. I
went to the host family's house of one of the American exchange students
with all the other exchange students and we celebrated Thanksgiving. We had
all the essentials, hand made cranberry sauce, corn, pumpkin pie, and the
turkey, of course. The meal itself was a miracle that a bunch of 16 and 18
year olds cooked it and it was edible, actually good. It just gave me a warm
and fuzzy feeling to celebrate a family holiday with my new group of
Then there was the time between Thanksgiving and
Christmas. It was a time of just sitting back and absorbing everything.
School became more and more like school back home. Teachers started to
realize that I understand more than at the beginning and therefore started
to make me do more work. I even started to do the tests in history. It is a
good feeling to know that I understand well enough to do the work but on the
other hand, that means that I have to do work. Why can't things ever be win
win; that's life. Apart from that, my language is improving and life is
becoming fairly simple. It is a much more reassuring feeling to get
instructions on how to do something and actually understand the words. At
least I don't look like a total idiot all the time now. Anyway, the month of
December was basically just a month of laying back and enjoying my time.
Then Christmas came and all the trimmings. Actually there
weren't a lot of trimmings because the idea of decorating houses with lights
is still fairly new here. The few houses that were decorated were considered
a marvel. I did have a hint of sadness because of the lack of decorations
because my house in the states is always decorated for Christmas but this is
a new culture and I adapted. I must say that I was kind of disappointed by
my host family's celebration of Christmas. We opened presents on Christmas
Eve and the morning after we piled into the car and headed off to Chantilly
to celebrate Christmas with the sister of my host mother, the same sister
that I stayed with my first three days in France. We ate a big lunch and
then everyone just kind of talked. I just wasn't very much in it. I honestly
think that it would have been better if I wasn't incredibly sick at the
moment but that was the hand I was drawn. My Christmas was memorable but I
wouldn't call it a great memory.
We stayed in Chantilly for three days. We didn't really do
much. My host parents did take me to the Chantilly Castle though. It is a
beautiful castle and I enjoyed the little visit. When we left to go back
home, it was time to start packing to go to my next host family. I had two
days to pack and the third day was moving day, early in the morning. I must
admit that I was excited to go to my next host family. My first host family
was nice but I never really felt like part of the family there. It was so
different from my real family with seven people in one house and only three
back home, it was a little overwhelming. I did get along with everyone in
the family but it just wasn't comfortable for me. I think I am better for
having a family like that first, I learned a new way of life that I would
have never experienced any other way.
Now I am with my second host family and I couldn't be
happier. I arrived on the 29th of December and two days after was New Year's
Eve. I had such a good time at their party. It wasn't very large, about 14
people, but the time was good. We finished eating dinner around 11:30 which
left us just enough time to ring in the New Year, after midnight is when the
real fun began. We played this game with pipes and styrofoam balls and we
shot them at each other. There was no point in it but it was just fun. After
we played games all together. All in all we stayed up until 7:00 in the
morning. Needless to say, the day after, we were all dead and we slept until
late into the afternoon. It was the best New Year's Eve that I have ever
This host family is perhaps the perfect fit for me. The
first thing that makes it great is that they have four cats and a dog which
makes it more like my home. They have a 13 year old daughter and of course
we get along great seeing as she was the one to ask her parents to host me
after meeting me at my other host family's house. The parents are great. The
mother is just a very warm person to be around and the father is funny and
enjoyable. The other night, my host father and I talked about tricks with
words, like words that are the same backwards and forwards. He is trying to
teach me all the slang so I can talk like a "real French person". It is fun.
Everything about this family is great for me and I couldn't be happier.
Well that is my month and a half all summed up. I feel
like the ones who read this are missing out on something. There is no way
that I can write all the little things that make this exchange so amazing.
They can't know what I know. This year is just for me and I will have my
little stories for all my life.
Until Next Time,
February 10 Journal
It has only been one month since I last wrote my journal but I
feel like it has been an eternity but at the same time I feel like it has been a
day. This feeling is impacted by how much I feel I have changed and grown in
the last month. I would have never guessed that one month could be so important
in my life.
I just recently had my birthday and now I am 17 years old.
Honestly, 17 is not much different than 16 but the birthday itself
represents something more to me. I have been here in France for almost 6
months. I celebrated my 17 years of life with a family that is not by blood
but has become my family by so much more. They gave me a little birthday
lunch that day. My host mother made me a cake. It was not a party or
anything like that but I was with my family and therefore it took on all the
characteristics of a family gathering back home. It was a feeling that was
I am also now a person who has seen more of the world than
when I last wrote. Before, I could say that I have been to the United
States and France but now I have the ability to say that I have been to
Belgium too. It is not such a large accomplishment when you look at a map
and see the distance from my house here to Belgium (about five minutes by
car) but it was my first time there. Belgium is basically the same as
France, same language, same types of people, but the feeling of crossing the
border is thrilling. The story of why we went and what we did there is my
favorite part. We went because my host mother just wanted to show it to me
and once there we ate a Belgian waffle. Walking along the streets, my host
parents found some chairs that they liked and so they bought them. As my
host father and host sister carried them back to the car, my host mother
said that they were like the street people who carry a chair around with
them so they can sit down whenever they feel like it. My story now is that
the first time we went to Belgium was to eat a waffle and buy chairs. I
have been back one time after that but the second time didn't hold a candle
to the first.
I have seen things here that I have never seen before
either. The day after my birthday, I woke up and looked out my window but I
couldn't see out. Snow had covered the window. I was so excited. I have
lived in Florida basically all my life so snow is not a part of my life. It
was beautiful. The car was covered with snow. Walking up the path to
school, I almost fell several times and I had to hold on to my host sister
to keep my balance. The snow continued for three days and then it stopped
but I keep hoping that it will return.
I have also met people here that I would have never met
before. I am American and therefore I speak English but because I have been
in France for almost six months, I have an ability to speak French as well.
This became the reason that I was contacted to translate newspapers for an
international youth tennis tournament. It lasted for nine days and I met
people from all around the world. I only really had one problem with it, if
a person does not speak French, they are expected to speak English. This
rule applies to kids who are 14 and 15 years old as well but they can speak
English. To me, I believe that this idea is wrong. I do not think that
people should be forced to speak English instead of their language. I
believe that those who speak other languages should try to learn others. In
a sense, the languages of the world are becoming obsolete and English is
taking over but this is not right. Now I realize all the English words that
have leaked into the French language and I realize that the world is losing
its languages. The experience only makes me want to work harder to become
less ignorant to the other languages around me.
Throughout this month, I believe that I have grown. I see
my language progressing at a rapid rate. Talking is not a problem now. Of
course there are words that I don't know but all they have to do is explain
them to me and I understand. My favorite experience occurred one night
after dinner. My family and I were sitting at the table and we began to
talk. We talked for about two hours or more. I became myself. The language
was no longer a barrier at all. I was opinionated and expressed those
opinions. It was very much like what my family used to do back home.
Progress in a language sneaks up on you. You don't realize that you have
progressed until you sit back and think about your life.
There is no possible way that my life can be the same
after this year. I will no longer be the person that everyone knew a year
ago. I have seen too much and I have experienced too much to go back to that
state. You don't realize the choice you are making when you decide to join
this program but after you have made it there is no turning back to the way
you were, at least not for me.
À la prochaine
March 26 Journal
Well, I have been finally able to sit down and take the time to
write my journal. I have to say that I have never been so busy before in my
life. I have been looking at my agenda and I don't have one weekend were I
don't have something planned. I guess that I should be grateful for that.
The end of February was consumed by the two week vacation
which I spent with my host family in Bretange or as the Americans might know
it Brittany. My host family's middle daughter lives there and we went to see
her as an excuse to do a little sight seeing around this beautiful land.
Bretange is known for its rain which we did experience a little bit of but I
have to admit that it added to its charm. We spent most of our days going to
various little towns and just walking around. They were so incredibly
beautiful. We walked along the ancient walls that once used to serve as
protection for the towns. It was like something right out of a fairy tale
scene each time (and we must have done this in at least three towns). The
day was usually finished off by a crêpe in a nice little crêperie, I mean I
am in France.
The very last day was the day I had been waiting for the
entire time, not that I wanted to leave but we were going somewhere that I
had been dreaming of, Le Mont Saint Michel. Bretange gave us a beautiful day
with lots of sun for this event. I was so excited I could hardly stand it as
we drove up to it. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. We went
all the way up to the top and looked out to see the ocean which had gone out
and was soon to be coming back in. It was like something right out of a
dream. I only have the utmost respect for the people who started building
this church back in the 700's. We ate on the rock and my host sister and I
ruined the French mood by ordering a hamburger and fries but we thought "why
not". After our day we left to come back to the north.
On our trip home, it started to snow (I am sure that
everyone is familiar with my love of snow now). It was so pretty and it was
snowing a lot. I was happy and in my own little world but eventually we
drove out of it. My host father said it was a good thing we got out of it
because it was snowing hard and it was dangerous. All I could think was that
I wanted more snow. Well, this little snow started out a series of snow
falls which went all the way to the beginning of March. I am told that it
never snows like this here especially in March so France was just being nice
Of course, with how much I love snow, I would never think
that it could do any harm but I was soon proven wrong. I had a trip planned
with one of my exchange student friends to go to England with her class but
the day before it snowed more than it had snowed here all year. It was
pretty and I really liked it and just kept telling myself that we would
still be able to go but at 10:00 the night before the departure we got a
call that said the trip was off because of the snow. I was sad but we made
the most of it. I stayed the weekend with my friend and we had snowball
fights, made snow angels, and I made my very first snowman. The weekend was
fun and the trip has been rescheduled and so I still love the snow.
My most recent interesting event was the Rotary weekend in
Paris with all the inbound exchange students in France, all 350 of us. We
took over a youth hostel and got hardly any sleep. We did some sight seeing
and saw the inner workings of the French Senate which I find incredibly too
beautiful for anyone to ever get any work done in there. After the visit we
all joined in the gardens to ask some senators a few questions. The
moderator was the channel 2 weather guy that I see every night and I got a
picture with him. I am sure that will be worth some money one day. The
weekend ended by a tour of Versailles which was indescribably beautiful. I
can now check another site off of my "Things to See in France" checklist.
The next day at school was hard because of my lack of sleep during the
weekend but I made it and I have no regrets from that weekend.
Well that about sums up my month. Just a few random pieces
of information. We had "Caranval" at school where everyone wears a costume
and I wore my Rotary Blazer. I figured it was strange enough to catch a few
eyes and it was a hit. It is good to know that it serves for something other
than its classic duties. Next week I change host families and I can only
hope that my next one is as amazing as the one that I am with right now. I
will not be writing a journal for the month of April because I will not be
at my host family's house the entire month. How lucky am I, an entire month
A nice beach scene
Just a photo of beauty
One of the many
fairy tale villages
The weather man and me
with some friends
Le Mont Saint Michel
My first snowman and me
June 13 Journal
It has been a while since I last wrote and boy has a lot
happened! For starters on the 2nd of April I changed host families. I wouldn't
have a chance to stay a while with them to get to know everyone because the day
after I moved in, I went on my class trip to Haute Savoie. For all those who
don't know where that is it is smack dab in the middle of the French Alps. Let
me just tell you, I was excited! Coming from Florida I don't see a lot of
mountains or snow for that matter so it was just another exciting experience in
my year. We stayed at a chalet which was not necessarily beautiful but the cool
part was that I got to stay with my class. We did some little visits like to a
cheese factory, très français, but my favorite by far was the day in Geneva,
Switzerland. The weather was beautiful and the day was just great. We saw the
Red Cross museum and we went inside the United Nations. I found that to be very
cool. The rest of the week in Haute Savoie it was raining and so the cross
country skiing which was planned was cancelled but I wasn't too depressed to not
have it. As we were boarding the bus to go home, it started to snow. I know the
irony. We we arrived back in the north, it was snowing in April!!! They all said
it was my fault which I found to be a good thing. But the trip overall was
great. I became closer friends with people I already knew and made a few new
friends. It was an unforgettable experience.
Well I arrived back in my host family's home that Saturday
and it was once again back to the unpacking and then packing because Sunday
we were leaving for their beach house in the Charante Maritime. Ok, not
really a beach house but a close to the beach house. We stayed there for ten
days. We couldn't really do much. The weather was not great. There was a lot
of rain and it was basically cold all the time so that meant no going to the
beach or tanning. We stayed at the house most of the time where I tasted
many new cheeses and found that not all French cheeses are horrible. I
discovered that I can handle the mild cheeses. Each time I said that a new
cheese was not bad my host family said that I was becoming even more French
and that made me happy. We went to see the reconstruction of the boat that
Lafayette took to go the US to help us out during the American Revolution.
We also went to an aquarium where I saw fish that are from Florida. My very
last day was a trip to Bordeaux where I took the train to Lyon to start my
bus trip of Europe.
My bus trip was great. I saw a total of 5 new countries
with a group of 50 exchange students all crammed into the same bus for 15
days. It was amazing. We started by touring Lyon which was pretty and then
we headed to the French Alps. I was so excited, I saw Le Mont Blanc and I
actually got to walk on it. We also went down into a glacier. It was so
super cool and cold for that matter. After all the mountains we went to
Germany. There we only saw a concentration camp, Dachau, which was a very
moving experience. From Germany we headed into Austria which I would have to
say was probably my favorite country. It was so incredibly beautiful.
Everything was green and the people were so nice even though I don't speak a
word of German. We saw Salzburg and then we went to Vienna. In Vienna we ran
into a group of exchange students, just to prove that we are everywhere.
After Austria was Italy and the beautiful city of Venice. I loved this
place. We did the classic tour on a gondola and just explored this ancient
city and all of its wonders. Italy was followed by Monaco. This city is so
rich but oh so very small. We saw the entire city on a 30 minute train ride.
It is beautiful and honestly ça fait rêver. Spain was next on the
list with Barcelona as the top city. I tell you that is a place that is
alive. They live far into the night and there is always something to do. It
was really so much fun. After Spain we headed back into France and all of us
were so relieved because we could finally go into a restaurant or store and
speak to the people. It was so annoying to always have to order things in
English in the other countries and sometimes we would accidentally fall back
into speaking French to the people and confuse them even more. Overall the
trip was something totally amazing. I made some really good friends and I
saw things that I had only dreamed of seeing. I loved it.
After my long month of vacation, it was back to school but
I was so excited to go back. I was missing my friends. One month away from
them all was just far too long. I had one week of full school and then I was
off traveling again. I went to England one day with another exchange student
and her class. It was fun. We went to Canterbury. I think I saw more French
people than English people however. My friend and I went into a book shop
and the lady who sold us the books ended up being French and we spoke to her
in French instead of English. Life is so ironic but cool nonetheless. We
went to England on a Saturday and I stayed with my friend until Sunday. She
said joking to her host dad that he should let us stay home from school
Monday because usually it is a day off of school but this year everyone is
working and giving the money to the old people's home and a lot of people
were striking. To our surprise, he agreed and planned a trip to Paris for
us. We were so happy. We didn't do the classic tourist stuff in Paris seeing
as we had already done all that. Instead we got our hair cut. Now I can say
that I have a Parisien hair cut and I must say that it suits me quite
well. it was a fun day that was totally random. Honestly how many people can
stay that they went to Paris on a whim?!
School was school but I found myself just hanging out with
my friends more and more. I knew that I wasn't going to have much more time
with them and I wanted to get everything out of my last few weeks with them
that I could. I did a report on the States, Florida and my life back home in
history class and I was shocked at how easily I talked. An hour passed and I
didn't even realize it. It is when you do things like that that you know
that you have really made it in your new language. The last day of school
was very emotional for me, no tears but close to it. The last two hours of
class were like a little party and I enjoyed just talking and goofing off
with my friends but I knew that goodbye was soon to come. At the end, they
gave me a big card which everyone signed and I can't believe that I was
capable of holding back the tears. I know that it was the last time I will
see some of those people but I don't think that I will ever forget them.
The next big thing that I did was I went to Paris with the
exchange student who was at my school last year. I went there because my
class from the US came to do a trip in France and Spain. It was so weird to
see them in France. France has become my place and to put them here was just
strange but we had a fun day together. I got to show off my French and they
got to just hang out in the most beautiful city in the world. It was cool.
And now for something rather recent. I just got back from
5 days in Normandy with my host family. We saw all of the big sites of the
war. It was sad but I think it is something that should be done. I was
shocked by the amount of American flags that I saw hanging from people's
windows and in the towns. it showed that what we did for the French was and
still is really appreciated. It was a good trip. although it was mostly
serious, we succeeded in adding a bit of fun in there. There was beautiful
sun the entire time and I got a tan, something almost impossible to get in
the north of France. It was a great experience and I would love to go back
to Normandy one day.
Well that about sums up my last few months here. To think
that I only have a month and a half left. I can't believe that some people
are already home. It is hard to see the other exchange students leave one by
one. I am going to be the last one to leave from my district here and that
just means that I have the most goodbyes to say. I know that there will be
tears and I am not afraid of them because I know that the tears represent
every hard thing that I conquered this year and that has made me stronger. I
know this is not the end, it is only the beginning.
July 27 Journal
Just when you finally get comfortable where you are and things
start to seem normal, the rug is pulled out from under your feet and things are
changed all over again. I am starting to prepare for my departure from France
which will take place in a few days. It is hard to believe and the month of July
just flew by me.
July was spent in Charente-Maritime with my third host
family and we went to the beach everyday. I got a tan and it was strange
that I went to the beach in France where I have to take a 10 hour car ride
but I never go to the beach back in Florida where it is so close. That is
the irony about this year, everything changes, you change and you may not
even realize it. The trip was good but it used three of my weeks of the
month of July and I returned back to the north with only one week left.
The thought of one week left threw me into a kind of
panic. I couldn't see how I was going to get everything done but now that
the first few days of my last week are gone I can see the end approaching
and I think that I will at least be ready with all of my affairs even if my
mind doesn't have a full grasp of the actual event.
The last few days are so strange. You have to end things
that you started. I went to the bank yesterday to close my French account
and I almost cried. It is not normal to cry over closing a bank account but
that signified the end. As I watched the lady cut up my card I felt like she
was cutting up my heart and my life in my new home. When we left the states
we had to finish some things but we could leave some things unfinished
because we knew that in a year we would be returning but in this case, I
don't know when I will be able to come back. It really does feel like an
The strangest part is that I don't know how to react to
the idea of seeing my family again. Throughout this year they have just
become that voice on the other end of the phone, just a voice, that is all.
I know that they are there and they will love me no matter what but I know
that I have changed. Have they changed so they still fit with my
personality? I doubt it but that was the risk of coming but honestly I am
happy that I have changed. I feel so much more independent now, how my
family will react to this new independence I don't know but I am willing to
I want to thank the Rotary for all that they have done.
Without them I would have stayed the same person I always was but with their
help I have been pushed to live a new life and I believe it is a better one.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this year. Those
people who say encouraging words through the hard times and even through the
good were vital to my year.
I know that I will come back because I have started a life
here and it can not just finish like that but the end of this year is hard.
It has given me so much. I have enough stories for a lifetime and I have
made friends that will last much longer than that. The end of the year that
has done so much to change my life is fast approaching and not even my
protesting can stop it from arriving.
Reste comme tu es maintenant ma vie, ne change pas, et