Thursday, December 10, 2009
The definition of an exchange related headache? Listening to another language for an extended period of time, concentrating so hard to understand, you end up with a headache.
I suppose my time wasn't extended - only 2 hours, but it was enough to get my head throbbing, as I tried so hard to understand the excited, fast-spoken South American at the Spanish church I attended yesterday.
I have decided that, as a Christian, when I go over to Spain, I want to be connected to a church, and experience life as a Christian in another culture. I also wanted to experience a Spanish church in my own country as well, which had me looking up Spanish church services. This one was in Merrylands, and was so much fun. I got a little lost on my way there (thanks Google Maps!) and finally decided to take the logical route, getting me there a little after 9. I rocked up at the front door, to hear people singing in Spanish, and I was overcome with a great sense of joy, knowing that next year, I will be immersed in this beautiful language. The 'welcomer' welcomed me, and looking me up and down, knowing I wasn't Spanish, asked if I knew that it was a Spanish service, and if I spoke Spanish. I said that I was learning, and he showed me inside and I joined in singing songs to God in Spanish.
I think some of my favourite memories of travelling overseas have been where I have been connected to a culture through our shared faith. When I was in Tonga, on a 2 week exchange with my school, I felt a great connection to the people, and the way they viewed life. I loved going to their 2 hour+ church services, where I had no idea what they were talking about, because it was such an amazing experience, where I realised that language barriers do not stop people from connecting. When I was in Hong Kong, on another 2 week exchange with my school, we attended a church where we sung a well-known song in English, them in Cantonese. To be unified through songs of worship, the barrier that stops a large amount of communicating seems to fade away, and we are united in our shared faith. I think that that experience is something out of this world, and amazing, and I think everyone should have the opportunity to experience it.
But to experience singing in Spanish, understanding the words... that was just... amazing.
I pretty much had no idea about what the pastor spoke about - by the end of the service, I understood the main points he was talking about, but not in detail. But my head was bursting with concentration! After church had finished, the 'welcomer' came and chatted with me, and got me a coffee, and I walked around looking at the church and the different people, a cacophony of Spanish mixed with English assailing my senses. I saw what I think was a father and daughter, and we asked the normal, "¿Como estas? ¿Como te llamas?" etc... and we spoke for a couple of minutes just asking general questions. They finally moved on to English, asking if I spoke English, and I was like, "Yes!!! Yes I do! My brain hurts!" And they were quite surprised that I wasn't a Spanish speaker - they said my accent was great, which made me feel great. I also got to talk to the pastor, and he said that he had lots of contacts in Spain, and would easily be able to connect me with a church.
I felt like I had experienced my first taste of what Spain will be like - 2 short hours, and my head was ready to burst... Imagine a whole day, week, year. It's crazy, but at the same time, exhilerating and exciting to think of the challenges I will have next year. Whenever I get nervous or feel ridiculously underprepared, I always think to the end product. I will be able to speak another language fluently!
I think that learning a second language is so incredibly important in our lives, as it removes prejudice from our lives, and allows us to connect with other cultures. Learning another language removes our ignorance of other cultures, and other people not of our own race. Learning another language allows a deeper insight and appreciation of other cultures that we would not have had to the same degree if we had not learnt the language of the culture. Learning another language is extremely important for people today, in a world so full of segregation, discrimination and racism. Language is really important for removing prejudice and ignorance because diversity and differences should be seen as assets to be valued, and not the basis of discrimination. By understanding another language we are able to connect with other people outside our own culture and go beyond language barriers to create a community across nations and the world. Learning Spanish is great as it is spoken by such a large number of people, across a diverse number of countries. Having this ability to speak to someone across the world, from another socio-economic status and culture is an extremely rewarding one, which would not be as possible without the ability to speak another language.
I encourage anyone out there that actually does read this blog (If there is anyone that does leave me comments!! :P) to think about exchange, and about all the rewarding aspects of it. If you are worried about language, and how you aren't naturally a language person, I would suggest that you still look at different peoples blogs, and know that you can go on exchange to same language countries (in my case English- the US, Canada, the UK etc...).
These past few days, I have been incredibly blessed with a passion for exchange, language and an excitiment that cannot be rivaled. It shocks me that I leave in only two short months, but I really do feel like everything is happening. I have handed in my VISA application ($400 later!), am officially not a criminal ($200 for a criminal record history check??), and am hopefully on my way to finding out my host family.
I love exchange, and all the experiences it brings me. Someone once told me that exchange really takes 3 years: 1 to prepare (2009), 1 to actually go on exchange (2010), and one to evaluate and go through home culture shock (2011). And I've realised that it is so true - exchange does take 3 years, and I'm experiencing my first year right now. I cannot wait for the actual journey to begin, and for you to be a part of it with me, through this blog.
Monday, November 9, 2009
But I am loving exchange, and the fact that I'll be learning another language, gaining a new family, making friends. Ahhh so so so cool.
I think I have finally accepted that I won't be seeing my family and friends for a year. I think it sucks, but I think the adventure that awaits is much more thrilling than to not go and stay home.
I LOVE EXCHANGE!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I've been having a really busy couple of months.... I've finally finished school, but still have my HSC- final exams. I have two left to go, and then I'm finally free! Although I miss some aspects of school, I really do enjoy not being at school. These past couple of weeks have been pretty stressful with my exams, and my family also had a health scare with my Dad, but he is all fine now, which is great. Although I have so much to live for now, here, in Australia, my mind is never far from Spain, and what my experience will be like there. I SO want to know where I am going!! But, I got an email from Student Exchange Australia this morning, saying that I probs won't find out until a month or less to my departure.... AND I have a date for when I leave!! Here's the email that I got:
Hello or Hola as you will need to start using.
I wanted to send you this email for a couple of reasons. The first is so that I can make sure you and your parents have my email address. This way you can contact me regarding anything that crops up and you will always have my contact details even whilst you are away.
The second reason was to get your permission to send your email address onto the other students that will be going to Spain at the same time as you. I like to get my students in contact with each other so that you can talk to other people that are going through the same thing as you.
At the moment I am looking at flights for you and I wanted to confirm some dates. I have you down as a 12 month program. This means that your travel dates will be approximately 5-10th February 2010 returning 5th-10th February 2011. Naturally this is subject to change based on flight availability and visas being issued on time. This is an approximation to give you some idea about the coming months.
The big thing that I wanted to point out was host families and visas. First, host families, ideally we like to have you placed with a host family 1 month prior to departure. With Spain however we find that this can come a little bit later than that. There is always someone to be placed first and someone to get placed last and then everyone else falls in between. These things take time but I will always keep you updated as things are progressing.
Visas; I have sent out your visa pack, if you have not yet received this please let me know asap. The visa will take you some time to get together. Please be sure that you are not traveling on your passport at least 6 weeks prior to your scheduled departure as this will be needed for your visa. As I may have already said to you sometimes the visas can be delayed by the consulates and this may mean a delayed departure. Again this is not ideal but it is something that has happened and I want to make you fully aware of this.
Please feel free to contact me via email or phone if you have anything you need to discuss. The next step is flights and I will be sending out that information soon.
I'm so excited!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This is not to say that I want to not go on exchange, because I know that it will an awesome experience, and even if I do miss my friends, in the end it will be so so beneficial. But I just thought I'd post about how exchange is not something that is rosy, and all fun. Because it isn't. It's hard, and painful, but in the end so so so worthwhile those hard moments.
So, do I really hate exchange? Not really, but I do hate the aspect of not seeing my friends and family for a year.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I don't want to waste my last days at school, so I'm about to go to the shops to buy some fun stuff to celebrate the end of school with friends with.
My dad used to write me and my brothers a quote in an email every day to inspire us and encourage in our lives. He now sends this to quite a few people, and I find such joy in reading them. He recently wrote one on this following quote:
“Find occasions to celebrate your happiness. There is more to celebrate than anniversaries and birthdays."
I am going to celebrate these last few days at school! I hope that whoever reads this decides to look upon their life as a celebration, and can see what or who makes them celebrate life:
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
"...It may not be my wedding anniversary today and I might not remember what I did on my first wedding anniversary, however I do know who I spent that day, and chose to spend the rest of my life with. My wife Wendy and she is the charming gardener in my life that makes my soul blossom.
So who makes your soul blossom? Whose soul do you make blossom? How much gardening are you going to do today? Tell someone today that they are the gardener of your life and the impact that they have on you." (Excerpt from my Dad's quote)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
It was also really weird, I guess, because it was in the BIBLEBELT... so there was a church on every block, and everyone proffessed that they were Christians- so different to Australia!
So, what's been happening in my life since July? I have been quite busy with school. I had my HSC trial exams, which all went really well. I handed in my 3 major works! which was both stressful and vey satisfying, to finally have them all handed in. I officially have 8 days of school left... ever. It's so weird! It feels weird to think that in 8 days I will not be attending WCS, my school for 10 years, and that I probably won't see a lot of people I have seen daily for years. But then, it's also really weird that although I have finished school, I am going back to school in Spain.
Spain? I haven't really heard much from SEA, making me sad, cause I'd like to know everything right now! I have heard from a few people, who are have just left for Spain, who I will potentially meet. I am following a couple of their blogs, which you can find at http://becca-in-spain.blogspot.com/ and http://global-student-kaylee.blogspot.com/
I have my orientation on the 7/11 (7th of Nov) and I'm really looking forward to it.
I think that's it :)
Friday, July 17, 2009
I have loved being in America, and have loved seeing all the differences between here and home. I arrived in America last Wednesday, feeling horrible, after throwing up on the flight over, and feeling flu-ish. But felt better purely because the people were all lovely! They would go out of their way to make sure that we were accomodated for, that we knew where we were going and that we were safe. San Francisco was lovely. It was very sunny- being summer and all, but had a cold wind from the sea, that made it beautiful- just like a nice winter's day. On our first night, we were extremely jet-lagged, so we went to a Dennys, which is a chain of diners in America. There was a group of American teens across from the booth (yes, booth!) we were sitting on, and told the waiter that "collectively, we are ready to order". Just the way the Americans speak, is so nice! Every day, I am constantly blown away with how nicely they speak to each other, or to a customer. Though, this is not everyone, and we have experienced some cold, stand-off-ish people.
We did some fun stuff in San Francisco- we walked all around SF, going to the famous Lombard street, riding on the Cable Cars, seeing Pier 39... I loved the Sea Lions, and their cute faces and loud funny roars, and the delight they get from fighting each other. Close to Pier 39, we saw a bush on the path, which surprisingly, looked real. Only after staring at it for a few seconds did we realise that it was bunch of branches held together by a man, who shook the branches at any unsuspecting bywalkers. Oh it was hilarious! And everyone got such a laugh out of it. Everyone was in such a good mood. While we were watching it, though, a man came up behind us, and shouted in our ears, shaking us- and scared us so much! He said, "See! You don't need the bush!"
We also got the incredible opportunity to ride accross the SF Golden Gate Bridge and down into a small, cute, beautiful town called Sausolito. It was a beautiful ride, and has been a highlight of this trip. It was really difficult though, as I had Tonsilitis, and walking up a hill, let alone riding a bike made me want to curl up into bed and sleep for 14 hours. But, it was well worth the tiredness and fatigue. It was so beautiful, and was so great to look down from the bridge, and ride down into Sausolito. Sausolito reminded me so so much of England and the small towns in Cornwall. I just loved it.
Mum and I have been eating out heaps, which I'm getting a bit sick of, and in SF we shared all of our meals, and ate twice a day... with snacks for lunch. We have found American meals to be enormous!! Soemthing that I have been so excited for has been the hashbrowns, and I have had that for every breakfast. It is so good!
I also go the opportunity of visiting Yosemite! It was so beyond beautiful. It took us about 7 hours to get there, and it was a great drive. We stayed at this little hostel called the Yosemite Bug, and it was great there. We were in a dorm of 6 beds, and we shared with some scout girls. We were so tired by the end of the day, we just wanted to get to bed, but they didn't turn off the lights till like 12, so we didn't get the best sleeps. But we guessed thats just part of the Dorming experience! I loved going to Yosemite. It was much higher up than the valley, so it was a lot cooler, while still being sunny and hot. We went on some walks and looked at the half dome, and even got the opportunity to see a wild bear! It was a small one, but I was thinking the whole time, "where's his mum!" It was fun though, and mum, being mum, pulled out the camera and started taking photos of it. We went to the lower falls, and went climbing over the rocks for about an hour, and I think that was my favourite part of the day. I felt like I could do it all day. Yosemite is just such a beautiful place. The food was very expensive though- $4.99 for a small handful of 'fries'.
Something that bugs me so much, is the whole tax thing. The price tag says one price, but really, it's another. They just trick you into thinking your buying it cheap, and when you go up to pay, voila! It's a dollar, 2 dollars more expensive. I love that in Australia, when it says $19.95, it will be $19.95.
We have gone from a city by the SF Bay, to woodlands and beauty, to the desert. Albuquerque is fascinating. It is so different from what I expected it to be, and is so... deserty. I expected... it to be different. Mum had told me that it was full of Indian influence, and although I do see it, I expected it to be way less American, and more Spanish and Indian. We spent a whole day shopping, and I am so shopped out, I feel like if I go to another JC Penny or Macys I will die. Not to say that I haven't enjoyed it, because I have, but I would much prefer to go on a hike or watch nature than shop, which is something I can easily do in Australia. I have seen the Old Town and Santa Fe, which is just awesome. These towns really show the Indian influence. I found Old Town to be very very touritsty, and although I could see the influence, I felt that the tourist industry had wrecked the feel and integrity of the town. Santa Fe, however was so culturally rich. Everything was in both English and Spanish, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the Spanish, reading that, before I realised that there was an English translation available. There was Mexican food everywhere, and it was different, yet similar to Australian Mexican food. I have been really getting bored with American food, and have hated eating out so much. What I really crave right now, is a big, juicy salad sandwhich, with a roll from Blaxland Bakery, and some great Beetroot! I know that I've only been here a week, and I'm craving Australian food. I am afraid of when I go to Spain for a whole year! Will I begin to enjoy the food? Or will I forever be craving Australian food?
I have found it interesting- many exchangers say that they don't worry about the big things, rather the small things- whether you put your hand up to answer or ask a question, whether it will be ok to just eat food from your host family's fridge when you're hungry, whether you will be able to joke with your family, or if you have to wear shoes inside, or you have to take them off. I have found myself asking these questions to myself, here in America, as I am staying with a family friend here in Albuquerque. It is so much easier to answer those questions, because we do not have a language barrier to stand in between us, but I have discovered many differences between American and Australian cultures. Something I have found difficult, is the use of the word 'toilet'. In Australia we always use toilet, or we say "I need to pee". It is the norm- it is expected. Here in America, to say "I need to pee" or "where is the toilet" is rude. I have caught myself so many times starting to say these Australian things, only to have to change and say "where's the restroom/bathroom".
It's also unusual- so unusual... People riding motorbikes don't need to wear helmets! We (mum and I) cringe whenever we see someone without a helmet on, expecting them to crash and die at any moment. It's also unusual because dogs and pets are allowed in National Parks. I keep on thinking of how wrong it is!
Tomorrow I fly to Oklahoma, and join my brother and sister-in-law in the 40 degree heat. I wonder what differences I'll notice there, and how hard or easy I'll find it to adjust to this different country.
I have been here a week and a half, and have been blown away with the culturally different land I'm in. I am still in a Western country, an English speaking country, one that I've been before, and there have been times where I've felt beyond uncomfortable, or craving home. I can't wait, and also dread when I go to Spain, and accustom myself to that country, that will become my home. It's exciting, but also really scary!! But, I am so looking forward to it, that I jsut want to leave right now.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Don't you just love that feeling, when you have mail specifically addressed to you? Well, this was extra-exciting, as it was about exchange! It talked about me being formally accepted into the program, and the things to expect.
My pre-departure orientation is on the 7th of November- right in the middle of my HSC.. I'm hoping that it won't involve any preparation for it. I'm so excited- everything is coming together. My profile has been sent to Spain, hopefully to future host families, and I am getting sent an itinerary of when I go/return and stuff- though the dates won't be set in concrete.
But, apart from that... Tomorrow I depart for America!! I'm really excited- about hanging out in the diners, seeing the sites, revisiting some of the places I saw when I was last there. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with just mum, as I've never travelled with just her, but I'm really dissapointed that Dad couldn't come too.
I have a 14+ hr flight tomorrow, that I have mixed feelings about... Normally, I love the flights, but we're flying United Airlines, who don't have the personal in-flight entertainment... but it'll mean I'll get to read a lot! (Yay for English Texts!)
I'm really looking forward to saying goodbye to winter for a couple of weeks. So many people have been getting sicker and sicker, so I'm looking forward to some sun, and healthyness. Oh! Sun!! It's funny to think that one day, you crave winter, and the next, you crave summer. I'm totally craving some summer now, and it'll be nice to have a 3 week break from winter- not that our winter is even that cold, but it's just full of people getting sick.
Anyway, I should head off and get some sleep.. I'll hopefully keep this blog posted of some of my adventures in America...
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I just got a call about, 10 minutes ago, and the lady was like, congratulations!! So, I'm officially going, and I'm officially a scholarship winner! I was so excited!
And then, when the excitement wore off. I felt so scared- this is finally happening. I am going to a country I have never been to, immersing myself into another language I barely know, living with a family that I will hopefully one day call my second home... It's so exciting, nerve-racking and scary! I know that this will be a once in a lifetime experience, and I will grow and benefit in so many ways because of this, but I can't help but feel all these conflicting emotions as I count down the months to when I leave my family and my friends for a whole year!! It's crazy.
How do you prepare for something like this? I feel out of my depth, crazy, yet calm and confident- I know that I am doing the right thing, I know I that I'll be able to leave everything I call home. I know that this won't be a holiday. I know that this won't be easy. I know that this will probably be the hardest year of my life. But, I guess, in some ways, thats what I'm most looking forward to. To challenging myself, and living to the fullest and experiencing everything I can in that short year.
Ready? Ready to leave everything that I know, and call home? No. I don't know if I ever will be, but I will leave, and it will be the best decision I have ever made.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Oh! My parents also told me that I'm going to the States in July. I'm quite excited. I went in 2003/04 summer holidays, and it was awesome. I'm going to San Francisco for three nights, then travelling to Yosemite for 2 nights, which will be awesome cause its summer time, and we went in the winter. Then off to Albuquerque for a week and Oklahoma for a week :) I think I'm most looking forward to the Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper I'll see in Bartlesville Oklahoma... I studied him in art, and it will be awesome to see one of his actual works! If anyone has any recommendations about where to go, whilst I'm in America, make sure you comment this blog!
Until next time :)
Friday, May 22, 2009
It's so exciting :) I didn't think that my essay was that great, especially when I reread it a couple of days after I had submitted the essays. I'll get a call in a couple of days, to set up an interview, which will be conducted in Spanish, to see how motivated and skilled I am in Spanish... I'm kinda freaking out about it though- this person interviewing me is a native Spanish speaker, and it will be all on the phone- I won't be able to see her mouth, it will be purely listening... ahh!!
But, if I get accepted, I will receive a $3500 discount, which will bring the whole cost down to $6500...ish.
I've been reading some other blogs of other exchange students... it's been so lovely, reading other people's experiences of what I will soon to be experiencing too! And I realised, that I hadn't said why I wanted to go on exchange, and why I chose Student Exchange Australia.
Why do I want to go on exchange?
I have always always wanted to go to another school, in another country. I always watched movies thinking, I wish I could have gone to that school!! I have also studied Spanish for the past two years, and have loved the language. It's such a beautiful language, and I really want to become fluent in it. I also really want to work and travel overseas, and having a second language is really beneficial! The idea of living with another family, and experiencing another culture from a locals point of view, really appeals to me.
Why did I chose to go with Student Exchange Australia?
I always originally thought that I would go with Rotary, because that's all I knew who did exchange... I never realised that you could go with others!! But when I found out that I would be too old for Rotary, I was really crushed. But, after researching on the internet, I found that there were lots of companies that did exchange. I loved the idea of STS, but it was way too expensive, almost $16, 000 for the year. That left it down to SCCE, and SEA, and I went to both information evenings, and much preffered SEA, as they were more organised, and seemed more.... modern? I don't want that to seem judgemental, but they still used overhead sheets instead of powerpoint, and everything seemed so... dated?
So, that's where I am right now... Waiting for an email, and looking forward to/studying for my phone interview, en español!
Friday, May 8, 2009
So, pretty much, the interview was fine. I overstressed by a mile. She asked me the following questions:
Why I wanted to go on exchange
what I knew about the country I wanted to go on- geography, politics, culture etc...
what would be the most difficult part of exchange
what would be the easiest on exchange
what my friends are like
how I find making friends- hard, easy
If I've studied the language (Spanish in my case)
How I cope with setbacks
What happens if the family's different to mine
Living with a different religion, standards (few role plays)
If I've had any time overseas, and without parents
My academic hopes and career aspirations
When she asked about Spain, I didn't really know much- but it wasn't bad that I didn't know much about it. I think a really important part of the interview process is being honest with the interviewer. I was so so nervous! But it really was fine, and my interviewer was so lovely :).
So, I find out sometime soon if I am formally accepted, but she said I was a top candidate, which is pretty exciting!
It's quite funny, writing in this blog, because I'm not writing to or for anyone... So hopefully, by the time I'm in Spain, (Woo!) other people will be reading it.
Anyway, until next time :)
Oh, and anyone thinking of going on exchange should definitely look at the cultures shocked website- it's helped me heaps, and connects you to a whole community of exchange students :)
Monday, May 4, 2009
The things that I do know:
By May 15 2009 :
- I will be interviewed and have my application reviewed to assess my eligibility and suitability.
- Both essay scholarships I submitted will be read and assessed by Student Exchange Australia (SEA).
- A short list of candidates will be drawn up. (I'm guessing for this, it will be for the scholarship rather than the general exchange... Though, I could be wrong.)
- Will be assessed on my language abilities by a representative of the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA)
- Final decision will be made by Student Exchange Australia!