Destiny, Outbound to Poland

The biggest things that have happened in the past three months: On January 19th my good friend Jed finished his exchange and went back to Australia. The other exchange students and I were extremely upset; a piece of us was in another place now. But through this we all started to spend more time together and we got even closer. My Polish friends took me ice skating which for this Floridian was quite a challenge. My friends were super kind and taught me a few tricks to help me glide. I still fell a few times, but the most important thing is I got back up and tried again. (An important thing I have learned on exchange, don’t give up, try again). January 27th -February 3rd I went with Rotary on a skiing trip to Austria. It was the absolute best week of my life. How many people get to say they learned how to ski in the Alps? We had a ski instructor and at the beginning of the week skiing seemed so difficult; however, at the end of week I felt like a pro (sort of). I plan on going skiing with my family and friends a lot more in the states. The slopes were beautiful, and the hot chocolate was great. Every night the Rotarians would play trivia games with us about our countries. We made so many amazing and funny memories and it was definitely one of the highlights of my exchange.

In February 8th, we had Tłusty Czwartek which is Fat Thursday. It is a holiday where you eat as much Pączki as you can. It is believed that if you don’t eat Pączki you will be miserable for the rest of the year. Pączki are Polish “doughnuts” that have many different fillings (plum, apricot, strawberry, custard, and bacon). My friends and I had a lot of fun eating all the Pączki we could that day. Later that month three of my good friends and I went on a ski trip to Zakopane. It was so much fun and we all had a great time skiing together again. We even got to visit the city if Zakopane, and we got to see some beautiful handmade plaques and traditional Polish clothing.

At the beginning of March, I was asked to make a presentation about the different stereotypes of states around the country. All of the students were interested about what I had to say and they loved hearing about the United States from a natives view. I got to celebrate my host cousins first birthday with her and our family. There is a tradition when a baby turns one that the mother will lay 3 items in front of them. The items are money, a rosary, and a shot glass. The money means the child will be prosperous, ambitious, and driven. The Rosary means the child will be religious and spiritual. The shot glass means the child will be outgoing and very social. My cousin picked the money and we were all very happy for her.

Weather: It is still cold here. I woke up today and looked outside, it was like winter wonderland. Some days are beautifully sunny and quite warm 45-50 degrees; then out of nowhere it will start to rain or snow. But I remember I must be adaptable and try my best to stay prepared (always carry an umbrella). I think my new favorite thing is watching the snow fall. I love that I can look out my window and see the trees frosted, it’s beautiful. It’s quite a different view from Florida’s hot and sunny beaches.

Friends: I could talk about them all day. I feel like I have said this a million times but the exchange students are my family. We laugh together, cry together, travel together, and experience Poland together. The thought of leaving them breaks my heart, but it also makes me think about how lucky I am to have made such strong relationships with these people I have only known for 7 months. The exchange kids in my city are lucky because we have a group of 9 students. We all have shared so much about each other’s countries and I have learned about Japanese Canadian, Mexican, Taiwanese, and Australian culture. I know I will stay friends with these people for the rest of my life. In fact, we are already making plans to visit each other soon after exchange.

This past weekend, Rotary took my whole district to Kraków and Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Kraków is a beautiful city and my new favorite. We got to go on a tour of the Wawel Castle, it was breathtaking. The markets in the city center sell very traditional things like: headpieces, hand painted Easter eggs, and my favorite, Pierogi. They even had carriage tours around the city. In the middle of the markets there were people performing traditional dances in traditional clothes. The exchange kids and I were so happy to see so much culture being displayed. We all have a lot of love for Kraków.

The next day we visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp and Birkenau Death Camp. It was so crazy for us because we had all learned about the Holocaust and seen pictures of the concentration camp in textbooks before; however, actually being there and seeing it in real life was a whole other story. It was something really hard to accept and comprehend. To stand in the place where thousands were mass killed… there was just no words. But I would not trade my experiences for anything and if you ever go to Poland it is definitely something worth seeing.

I would like to thank Rotary so much for my exchange and for being able to experience so much in this year. I really do love Poland and I have loved growing as a person and becoming more independent. I would also like to thank my family for always supporting me and loving me. Dziękuję i do zobaczenia. Jeszcze trzy miesiące ...

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