Mara, outbound to France

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I have learned so much in these past 9 months. Coming to France has opened my eyes so much to not only the French culture, and the language, but to the countless other languages and cultures I have been exposed to as well. I have not only fallen in love with France, but all of the countries that my friends are from and that I have learned about. I never imagined that I would be where I am now, in France, bilingual (AHH), and meeting some of the best people from all over the world.

I have definitely won the lottery with my host families. Each one of them has been so kind, and has made me feel at home, like their real daughter. I have gotten so used to my lifestyle here that I know it is going to be so hard to go back home and not live the same way. These 9 months have been the most rewarding, and the happiest I have ever experienced. The only part that is sad is that I go home in about a month. Just thinking about that makes my heart ache.

In April I went on EuroTour and got to visit Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. I met the most amazing students from other parts of France, who are now like my family. Every day was breathtaking, and those 12 went by way too quickly. The last day was the hardest because we had to face the reality that we may never see some of those people again. Of course we all hope we can, but it is so hard to say goodbye, without knowing when you can say hello again.

Just last week I got to visit Mia in Sweden, and that was also so amazing. I got to experience a little of her exchange too, and the Scandanavian culture. (The food was the best part). On these trips I have gotten to see the beauty in each country that I go to, and any stereotypes or preconceived ideas I had are gone. I honestly am in love with all of these countries, and wish I could just travel my whole life.

I also won the lottery with my district here in France. I go to school in the 4th major city in France (Toulouse), and even though we are only 20 exchange students, we have so much fun together. Whenever we have Rotary weekends we are all extremely happy to be reunited, and we have the best time together. We really are a big, happy family. 

I have been extremely lucky this year to have met everyone I have met, and to have been to all the places I have been. It is hard to imagine that it had only been 9 months, because it feels like I have been living here my whole life. At this point, I cannot even fully remember what my life was like before exchange. I will definitely be coming home as a changed person too. I would not go back and change this year for anything, and I wish I could stay forever.