nine months

I’m sitting in the back of my Czech language class doing what I normally do at school now, wondering why the hell I’m here.

School for exchange students is almost always boring, but I think now it is getting even worse for us. My school in the U.S. is finishing this week, with graduation scheduled for this weekend. Here in the Czech Republic, I still have about a month left.

The main thing is I can’t really do much. I used to try and keep up in class to a modest extent, but now I am gone so frequently with meetings and activities that knowing what’s going on is nearly impossible. I’ve also begun to shift my focus back to school in the U.S. I’m trying to remember how math works and English grammar and everything in between, so that I don’t completely bomb the ACT in September.

Being gone so frequently now has its pros and cons. The pros are that I get to see my exchange family which I have gotten so close to a lot more, and also get to see a few more places before I go. The downside is I’m away from my host family and my friends here, so even coming back home to the Czech Republic gives me a bit of culture shock each time.

All the weekends and activities also make it really easy to be negative. I’ve found myself overcome by bitterness in the past month, feeling like I don’t belong in this country after all. Yet, I think most of this is my own, self-induced fault. Nobody is trying to kick me out before it is my time to go. I have friends and family here, and I know my way around. I can speak the language a bit, and I have places I love to go and frequent. In the 40ish days that I have left, I am going to try really hard to remain positive, and remind myself of what an amazing time I have had while I’ve been here.

I got to spend this past weekend with my exchange family, this time with all of the kids who live in Slovakia as well as the Czech Republic. We didn’t sleep much, but had tons of fun. It was weird because some of those people I may not see again. Some will be going home before the next weekends that we have scheduled together. The finality of things like that is overwhelming, and makes me so scared to say goodbye. I have friends all over the world now, and there is never a 100% guarantee that I will get to see them again. That’s sad.

I am now entering my last month and two-ish weeks here. I can’t believe that it has gone by so fast. It feels like yesterday I was waking up in my first host dad’s car to see Ostrava for the first time. I’m going to see my exchange family twice before the end. I’ll turn 17 this next month. I’ll meet my host sister in my last host family for the first time. I’ll have to figure out how the hell I’m going to get all my stuff home, because I don’t want to let any of it go. It should be a good one.

I was really hoping that I would kill the entire 45 minutes that makes up this Czech lesson but I’ve failed pretty bad. I’ve got 22 more minutes to suffer through. I guess life could be worse.

The entire exchange family last weekend, in Košice, Slovakia.

The entire exchange family last weekend, in Košice, Slovakia.

Advertisements

eurotour

For those of you who don’t know, I just recently came back from a two-week long trip through France, Spain, and Italy. Now you get to hear all about it.

The journey began on the 25th of April, with a train ride to Bratislava. All of us crazy exchange kids reunited at the train station in Bratislava, before departing on an 18 hour bus ride. 18 hours on a bus is brutal, but we all managed to survive. The fact that we were on our way to Paris didn’t hurt.

Once in Paris we checked into our hostel and began our first day. We had a walking tour with a cool British woman named Nancy, and then spent the afternoon in the Louvre. The next day we had another walking tour with a German woman (whose name I forgot) but was really funny and clearly loved the area. She showed us some of the places famous artists of the past hung out before leaving us at a beautiful church on top of a hill overlooking Paris. (Also forgot the name of the church. Oops.) That afternoon we went up to the Eiffel Tower (but I personally didn’t go all the way up.) It’s a very cool structure, but on a windy day it can be a bit scary. Finally, we got free time. Some of my friends and I decided to go back to our hostel and we got to wander around the streets of Paris at night by ourselves. Nothing is more liberating than exploring a city you don’t know with your friends, especially at night. This is a trend that would continue. The last day in Paris was spent at Napoleon’s Tomb, Musée d’Orsay, and Notre Dame. We then set out on a 14 hour bus ride to Barcelona.

Really beautiful bridge we saw on our first day in Paris.

Really beautiful bridge we saw on our first day in Paris.

Louvre

Louvre

This is the church on top of the hill whose name I forgot.

This is the church on top of the hill whose name I forgot.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Now we are in Barcelona! I wasn’t really looking forward to Barcelona. I figured it would be a good experience, but nothing special. I was completely wrong.

Barcelona is an absolutely amazing city. Unlike Paris, you feel like life actually happens in Barcelona. While there are tourists in a lot of places, there seems to be normal city-dwellers as well. The history of the city is fascinating, and it is still happening today with Catalan Independence movements. On our first day we had a tour guide named Erik from the U.S. He had mentioned that he did work with the homeless and also did tours like ours. I decided to ask him about it near the end of our tour, and I really liked his outlook on life. He did the tours to make some money, helped people as often as he could, all while living in a city he loved. I can definitely see myself living like that in the future.

We got lots of free time in Barcelona, and my friends could probably tell you that I ran around that city like a child. It was so exhilarating being able to make our own decisions and choose where we wanted to go in such a bustling city. We relaxed on the beach, got lost in the streets, spent some time in a park, went to the FC Barcelona Stadium, and made a lot of wonderful memories. I also got to see my friend who is from the same city in the U.S. which was great. I miss Barcelona dearly and can’t wait to go back. (Hopefully with my brother next time.)

Christopher Columbus pointing towards the sea.

Christopher Columbus pointing towards the sea.

Me on the beach.

Me on the beach.

Sagrada Familia. The most awe-inspiring structure I have ever seen.

Sagrada Familia. The most awe-inspiring structure I have ever seen.

Messi!

Messi!

*virgin mohito

*virgin mohito

Finally, Italy. I’m just going to cram all of Italy into one small section. We were in Rome, then Pompeii, Florence, and finally spent a few hours in Venice. I was the most excited for Italy, and while it is a beautiful country, it wasn’t my favorite. I think most of my other exchange students would agree that a lot of this is because we were all becoming sick and exhausted at that point, along with our tour guides not being as exciting as those in the past. But, I still enjoyed Italy. We got to see all of the things that we had only seen in history books, which is a bit surreal. Venice was probably my favorite city that we were in, due to its insane beauty. The whole time you look around and wonder, “How is this possible?” I’ll let the pictures talk for Italy… 🙂

Colosseum

Colosseum

We got to climb up Mt. Vesuvius and then saw all of the ruins of Pompeii.

We got to climb up Mt. Vesuvius and then saw all of the ruins of Pompeii.

Florence :)

Florence 🙂

And one last snapshot from our brief time in Venice.

And one last snapshot from our brief time in Venice.

Finally, I want to thank all of the people on EuroTour. A big thank-you to Rotary for allowing us to have this opportunity, and for organizing such a great trip. Another big thank-you to everyone who donated money to get me on this trip. All of your support means the absolute world to me, and I’m so happy that I was able to have this experience. And last but not least, thank you to my exchange family. I am incredibly grateful that I got to spend those two weeks with all of you. We have all made lasting memories, and I can’t wait to see you all again soon!

It's always fun to have people ask us where our group is from because we get to reply, "Everywhere!" Love you all. <3

It’s always fun to have people ask us where our group is from because we get to reply, “Everywhere!” Love you all. ❤

mom

I would do anything for my mother. She is the person that has been with me my entire life, which is not an easy task. She has dealt with my stress, immaturity, anger, sadness, frustration, tears, triumphs, and pitfalls with such grace. I couldn’t have breakdowns on the kitchen floor with anyone else in the world.

I recently got to that point in life when you realize that your parents are people just like you. It’s a terrifying and liberating feeling. You suddenly understand that you have to be there for your parents the way that they are there for you. Exchange has taught me that I could be a lot better at that.

I am looking forward to seeing my Mom again. I have missed talking with her constantly. I have missed our homemade pizzas and her willingness to jump at every insane idea I have.

My Mom never doubts me, and I now have learned never to doubt her. She is the strongest woman I have ever encountered. She comes out of situations unbroken. She takes risks and is learning to speak her mind. She is my biggest cheerleader and I can’t wait to go home and once again be her’s.

I could talk about my mother for days on end. I hate seeing places I know she would love without her, but I’ll guess I’ll just have to work to take her around the world with me. The next time I see Van Gogh and Monet in one room she has to be there with me. The next time I run around a city like a child, I want her to be right beside me. I have faith that she will be.

Before I end all this, I want to simply thank you, Mom. I would not be the person I am today without you, and I am so proud to say that. Thank you for every single thing you’ve ever done for me (the list is far too long to post).

Mom, I love you more than you could ever imagine. I think about you every day, and I cannot wait to see you. Love you lots. ❤

❤ ❤ ❤

She's raised two great kids. :)

She has raised two great kids. 🙂