Hallo! My name is Callie Norton and I am going to Austria next year! No, not Australia (youíd be surprised how many people get them mixed upÖ) Iím sixteen years old and I am a junior at Ponte Vedra High School. I live in Ponte Vedra, Florida, with my mom, dad, older sister, younger brother, and dog. I know they are all very happy for me but no one can be as excited as I am. If you ask almost any high school student what they enjoy in school, my guess would be that friends are the number one answer. Well Iím no different. I love being able to wake up every morning knowing that Iím not the only one whoís dreading the day ahead. Iíve met a few new friends throughout high school (A.K.A. inbounds) that have definitely influenced my decision of becoming a Rotary Youth Exchange Student. I also have a few friends who are experiencing the same adventure I will be a part of next year who gave me that extra nudge. Without all the support of my friends, I would have never thought this would even be possible! And now Iím preparing myself to leave it all behind. Iím hoping that a few of the things I enjoy here, though, I will be able to take with me to Austria. For example, I am a very dedicated volleyball player. It would be great if I got a chance to continue playing while abroad. It could even help me make new friends!
My family and I live about fifteen minutes from the beach, which is great because we all love it! Austria is a lot different. It is completely surrounded by land! Plus, Austria is much colder and definitely has more mountains and hills than Florida. But everything I know about Austria, Iíve learned from books and websites and pictures. I want to learn from experience, up close and in person. I want to learn about the culture, the people, the language, the lifestyles, and everything that I canít get from a textbook. I also hope to help my future friends in Austria learn more about America and use what I learn there to help me throughout the rest of my life. Most importantly, without Rotary and all its hard-working volunteers, I wouldnít get such a life-changing opportunity. So thank you Rotary!
Callie- Outbound to Austria
August 31, 2012
Guten Tag! So I've been in Austria for a little
more than three weeks now and I'm loving it! It's so crazy to think that
it's already been so long sense I left Florida. Time flies when you're
having fun I guess. I've met so many amazing people and experienced so much!
I already feel like I've learned more than I ever could if I hadn't left the
U.S. It's crazy how much confidence and independence I've gained.
Almost everything here is so different: the cars, the food, the language,
etc... But I think that's the fun part. Some things I've had to learn the
hard way but, for the most part, everyone's been pretty understanding. I was
so nervous getting off the plane in Munich, but once I met my host family
for the first time I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. I feel like
my German is getting much better too! All I really knew before I landed was
"Where is the bathroom" and "I'm hungry" which seemed to get me through the
first day or so. But now I can carry on conversations and I don't have to
answer "yes" to everything I hear just because I don't understand it.
It's not always fun and games though... It can be really frustrating and
challenging when everything is new to you. Whenever I get upset about
something I have to remind myself that I've only been here for three weeks.
I don't expect myself to have perfect German or understand every aspect of
the culture. I still don't understand why we have to change shoes when we
walk into school. Even the toilet confused me at first (which, thank gosh,
only took me a few minutes to figure out). But I know, in time, with a
little hard work, I'll get everything worked out.
So here's to Rotary! Without you, I would have never had this amazing
opportunity to learn so much and taste the best chocolate I've ever had in
my entire life! Thank you!
Callie- Outbound to Austria
December 28, 2012
Servus! In my last journal, I wrote I canít believe it had already been
three weeks since I had arrived in Austria. Now Iím coming up on month 5!
Itís been over a year since I made the best decision of my life and filled
out the application to become a Rotary Youth Exchange student. In December
of 2011, I got a phone call congratulating me that I had been chosen to give
Austria a little taste of Florida. I didnít realize how much Austria could
change me when I got on that plane in August. It gets harder every day to
think that out of all the places I could be and all the people I could know,
I was lucky enough to land here. Iíve learned and grown so much over the
last five months and Iím excited to see what the next six will bring.
If you want a look into the typical life of an exchange student, we
basically eat chocolate, sleep, and chat on the computer all day. If you
want a look into my exchange life, reread the previous sentence. So one
thing Iíve realized is if you look at exchange as a whole, itís not too
different than the life of any teenager. What makes it so special is the
detail. My typical everyday routine consists of an annoying alarm at 6:00
giving myself just enough time to sprint down to the bus stop at 6:45. I go
to school and talk with my friends. I come home and sleep before volleyball
practice. I eat dinner and then check my Facebook before I go to bed. But
hereís what makes this so different than a typical day back in Florida. When
I wake up in the morning, I see hills and snow out my window. When I walk
into the kitchen I donít say ďmorning!Ē but instead ďMorgenĒ I ask the bus
driver for a ticket ďnach Ried, bitteĒ and ha ve to stand when there is no
more space to sit. I get to school and change my shoes and when the
Professor walks into the classroom we all stand until he says we can sit.
When I go and get a cup of coffee with my friend between classes, we talk
about making a daytrip to Vienna. Most of this may not sound too exciting,
but itís a lot different living it than hearing about it. All of the things
the people here have grown up doing is completely new to me. And figuring
the easy stuff is the hard part. Every day is a new surprise. Depending on
how you take that surprise can make or break your exchange.
I was excited to see how the people celebrated Christmas here. Almost
everyone in Austria is Roman Catholic so I wasnít expecting it to be too
different than my Christmas back home. Iím not catholic but I think, for the
most part, it would be the same. I couldnít be more wrong. First of all, we
got the tree about three days before Christmas and didnít decorate it until
Christmas day. I woke up at 12:00 on the 24th thinking it was Christmas Eve.
Surprise! Christmas comes a day early in Austria. We decorated the tree with
bright pink ornaments because my hostmom wanted to have an American
Christmas tree this year. But we also put real candles and sparklers on it
too! Iím surprised I didnít set the entire house on fire. That would have
made a good storyÖ We had a big dinner and then had to wait for the ďChristkind.Ē
In Austria, there is no Santa Clause. The Christkind is said to be Jesus in
the form of a child. On Christmas, He leaves gifts under the tree and rings
a bell to let you know He was there. But before we could open the presents
we sat in a circle to sing Christmas songs in German and tell a Christmas
story. When we finished, we joined the rest of the town in the church where
we had a Christmas service. We all then enjoyed some warm GlŁhwein or Punsch
outside. The next two days are also considered part of Christmas and are
dedicated to spending time with family. Even though we did so much for the
holidays, it didnít feel like Christmas at all. Maybe thatís a good thing
and Iím glad I got to see how another part of the world celebrates the birth
The break has been a little long for me though. I think I am the only
exchange student who can say I love going to school. Three days out of
school and I was already missing my friends. Iím not sure how Iím going to
live through the next week or so. At this point, itís hard to think that in
just 6 short months Iíll be on a flight back to the sunshine state. Iíve
heard from so many exchange students in the past but never really understood
that the feelings exchange students experience can be so confusing
sometimes. When I think about leaving, I think about all the amazing friends
Iíve made here that I have to leave behind. But then I think of all my
amazing friends I get to see again back home. Itís crazy how much sorrow and
excitement I can feel all at once. No matter how hard it has been or will
be, Iím so glad I made this decision. Iíve learned and changed so much. Some
things that seemed impossible a year ago are nothin g to me now. That
doesnít mean that everything is easy, but nothing is impossible.
So with that I want to thank Rotary 100 times! Itís hard to understand how
thankful I am to be able to do something like this and Rotary got me here.
So. Much. Snow.
GlŁhwein Standl in Salzburg
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna
So this is the last stretch of my exchange. In a little over three
months I will get to see my friends and family again, sunbathe on the
beach, eat at my favorite frozen yogurt restaurant, shop at target!! But
I always get super confused thinking about it. On one hand I am so
excited to see my beloved Florida again, but that also means I have to
give up the second home I made here in Austria. I know as soon as I get
on the airplane in Munich, I will never be able to come back to the way
things were during my exchange year. And that kills me. But thinking
more and more about it, only makes me realize how much Iíve learned this
year and once I go back, I can take everything Iíve learned with me. Not
only to better myself, but everything around me too. I canít exactly
explain what I have learned, but I can tell you what Iíve been up to for
the past few monthsÖ
A group of people I donít think I can survive without I like to call my
fellow exchange students. Itís really crazy how many are in my town. 7
of us for a town my size is unbelievable. But when all of us from all
over the country get together... imagine you have 100 best friends, up
for anything, and they are all confined in one area. I feel bad for our
supervision. But then you strap skis to their feet and give them a
mountain. Ski week!!! one of the most action packed weeks of my
exchange. For the 70 or 80 crazy exchange students there, only 5 had to
be sent to the hospital. I would say thatís pretty good. The week
started out a little uneasy. They separated us into 6 groups. 2 were for
the snowboarders and the other 4 for skiers: absolute beginner,
intermediate beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I signed up for
intermediate knowing I wasnít a total beginner but címon...the
"mountain" in North Carolina Iím used to skiing is n othing compared to
the Alps. I stared to get a little down on myself when I was always the
last one down the mountain thinking I wasnít good enough to be in the
intermediate group. Second day in and I find out they actually placed me
in the advanced group! I immediately asked to switch out but thankfully
I had a great instructor who reassured me I was doing fine and already
improving so much since the first day. The others in my group were
understanding and told me they had no problem waiting a few seconds at
the bottom of the slope for me to catch up. To make it even better, some
if the students in the group bellow us moved up. Then I felt about at
speed. And Iím so proud of myself for sticking it out in the advanced
group. Granted I was the slowest but thatís not really important... And
I learned so much too. We had ski class the mornings of the first four
days and free time afterwards. Free time was great because I could meet
up with my besties and caref ully go completely crazy. In this time I
ran into two other exchange students, almost skied of a cliff, wiped out
multiple times on the last jump of the "fun slope," attempted suicide on
the moguls, and even took a run in only a tank top. Altogether, I think
itís safe to say it was a successful week.
Right after ski week, my family came to visit and see a little bit of
Austria. It was great to finally see them again and it felt like nothing
had changed. They were still the crazy family I had left on the other
side of the airport security 8 months before. It actually felt like I
had never left. Six days was definitely not enough time to see
everything we wanted to, but it was just enough time to catch up and get
a break from the exchange life. I got to show them Ried, Linz, Vienna,
Salzburg, and Munich before we had to say goodbye again. This time
wasnít so hard for me though. I know my mom will disagree but three
months feels like nothing.
I think it will be very hard to leave. Iíve made some of my best friends
here and living on the other side of the world from them will not be
easy. But being so far will only make it so much better to see them
again. So even though I know I have a rough few months coming, Iím so
glad Iíve been giving the time that I have to make those friendships.
Learning a new culture, language, land, climate, and completely
different way of life was and is so much more than I could have ever
expected. I know it sounds cheesy but there is no other way I can
describe it and still there is no way to put these feelings into words.
So with that, Iím off to enjoy the rest of my exchange. Something I
wouldnít be able to do without Rotary. I couldnít be more thankful. Bis
zum nšchsten Mal!
Norton Girls in Salzburg
Skiing in Schladming