I left home to live my dream, go to a different country, meet new people and live with different families, but I never thought that those families could become more than a host family. All the people that I met during my exchange were incredible. This year literally changed my life. It helped me discover who I really am. All the experiences that I went through this year will always be in my heart.
I just want to say thank you to everyone who was with me this year and thanks Rotary for making the exchange possible.
The time flew by fast, now I'm back in Colombia, sharing all my amazing experiences that feel they just happened yesterday.
Outbound Update 10/12/2015
Here is Janessa Avila's one month update.
I've now been here for one month and it seems everyone else has made a one month post so here I go. My experience here has already been so amazing. I've met such great people and learned so many things and it's really a beautiful place. I know it wasn't my first choice but I know now I wouldn't be happier anywhere else. The people here are so nice, the food is so cheap, and the temples are so beautiful. I also love the warm weather. I think one thing I really do miss is fresh vegetables . I never thought I'd miss a salad this much! I also miss cereal and peanut butter. That's really the only downfalls because the food here taste really good .This month went by way too fast and I hope I get to enjoy the next months as much as I did this one.
Amairin Dominguez in Switzerland
Alexis Perez in Finland
Jimena Moreno in Poland
Package of goodies from home!
Jose Castaneda in Italy
We are pleased to announce the arrival of 1 of our new inbound exchange students.
Doga Tekneci from Istanbul Turkey
Her contact information for members will be in the Membership Directory as soon as she gets her cell phone. Please keep her in mind for outings and family functions.
Our other inbound from Venezuela continues to have visa problems but we hope to see her soon.
Outbounds begin to arrive at their destinations
Alexis has arrived in Finland
Amirain has arrived in Switzerland
Jimena has arrived in Poland
What do Exchange Students do in Aurora to learn about our culture?
Go to Colonial and eat the Kitchen Sink!
Why Is Exchange So Important to Rotary?
Every year we hear from Aurora students while they are spending a school year in a strange country with who becomes their new family. Alyssa Debolt is in Belgium and her host family is doing their best to make her feel like home. Here is a post from Alyssa about her Thanksgiving in Belgium.
My amazing Belgian family that I love so much had a Thanksgiving for me. We got a picture with everyone there-my parents, my brother, his girlfriend and her daughter, my sister, her husband and three little boys, my grandma, and my American-French-Belgian cousin. They even hung up a big flag on the wall. We all sat together at the table and ate (the kids had their own). While it might not have been perfect American food, it was an awesome blend of cultures. I know my family stateside won't want to hear it, but it was truly the best Thanksgiving I've ever had and never before have I really felt the importance and sense of family that I have all weekend. P.S. My cousin and I started off the day by making pancakes for breakfast (we even shaped some of them).
That's me, my Mexican but lives in New York friend, and my main group of Belgian friends (although they're not all technically Belgian). From left to right it's Nicolas, me, Charlotte, Noa, Oliver, Lila, Remy, and Loredana. It's Friday when we got our Rheto (Senior) sweatshirts. My name on the front is misspelled as Allysa but we all laugh and it's a funny memory. They're the most incredible friends I could ask for and we didn't even become friends instantly. It took me a week or two to kind of find that group. I guess what triggered me joining them was one day in study I was trying to fill in all the countries on a world map and Nicolas started helping me then Lore did too and from then on I just meshed into the group and we've been friends since. (There's more to the story but that's the short version).
For most I think their best picture would be with other exchangers or them just doing something incredible. My best is my friends and family-feeling and knowing that here is exactly where I belong and that they all mean the world to me. It really sucks thinking that I'll be moving families in a month and a half-heck I'm crying about it now. And just in general thinking that I'll have to leave this life. But that's my best-my best is the love and relationships I've formed with my Belgians so far. I've done some other pretty wonderful stuff but I think assimilating and finding a feeling of belonging is the best.
In-bound 17 years ago Megan Hicks visited us once again from Australia with her family
Slovakian Exchange Student Juraj presented his country to our club recently. Juraj has had quite the impact on students at West Aurora High School as he had the opportunity to give a speech during the induction of the National Honor Society. Click on the link below to see his speech. Such incredible words, and this is why our club supports the Rotary Youth Exchange.
As the students begin to come home from their year on exchange they always have something amazing to say. Here are Alyssa DeBolt's thoughts as she begins the see you laters.
Exchange is a no-win game. You leave a life you've made for 18 years for 10 months but in turn you leave your life of 10 months forever. You have to be absolutely crazy and brave to put yourself through all this.
With single digit days left, I don't even know how to express everything I'm feeling. There's so much happiness, sadness, excitement, disbelief, denial... Happiness that I've had such an amazing year with some of the best people ever and made so many wonderful friends. Sadness that it all has to end and that I'm being forced to leave my life for another one I don't even recognize anymore. Excitement to see old friends for the first time in 10 months, to eat American food and to return to my volunteer position at the zoo. Disbelief that it's already time to go when it feels like I was just a clueless newie a week ago. Denial that I go "home" in 9 days to things I don't know anymore. I can't say I'm happy to go back because in all honesty I would rather stay in Europe. But at the same time there are things I miss that I'd like to get back to.
Everyone always says coming back is the hardest part and I'm understanding that even though I'm not back yet. How do you become okay with leaving? Or is it just not even possible? You're expected to leave your family and friends to return to your family and friends only with feeling the expectation that to be the same person. I can't do that. I'm not the same girl from Aurora I was when I stepped on the plane in August.
It breaks my heart to have the people I love most spread all the way around the world so I can't see them any time we want to or when I need their hugs. I'm not graced with a calm. stable life where everything is concrete and easy, but rather I am blessed with the best friends and family and a chaotic whirlwind full of travel, discovery, learning, diversity, languages and cultures and such a positive, broad view on life. For most people it's too fast pace and unideal, but I wouldn't and couldn't have it any other way.
Goodbyes don't exist in my world - only see you laters because goodbye implies that it's forever. The only things I want to say forever to are travel, learning, love and friendship. If there's anything I've learned this year it's that it doesn't matter where you are because it's your friends that make your world. So I guess all I can say now is thank you all for being a part of my life. I wouldn't be where, or who, I am today without all of you. ds. Sadness that it all has to end and that I'm being forced to leave my life for another one I don't even recognize anymore. Excitement to see old friends for the first time in 10 months, to eat American food and to return to my volunteer position at the zoo. Disbelief that it's already time to go when it feels like I was just a clueless newie a week ago. Denial that I go "home" in 9 days to things I don't know anymore. I can't say I'm happy to go back because in all honesty I would rather stay in Europe. But at the same time there are things I miss that I'd like to get back to.
Looks like there will be at least 6 students from the Aurora area going outbound in 2015-2016
Look below how lives are changing for our current in-bound and outbound students
Students enter into their final 2 or 3 months of exchange. All around the world there are Rotary Exchange Students trying to figure out how to say goodbye to their new families and friends. Thanks to social media we are no longer out of touch with each other. Learning other cultures helps us all gain an understanding of each other that transcends stereotypes and history. This is not only a new chapter in these student’s lives, but a new chapter in all who come in contact with them for the rest of their lives. Here are some pictures of this year’s Exchange Students and some of their adventures.
Alyssa has been all over Europe and taking in the sites as well as skiing.
Eric having a blast with other students at Krabi Island Beach
Sometimes accidents happen when you mix a bunch of crazy kids and a water gun party to celebrate Thai New Years.
Laura and Lorenz recently spent time in Arizona with Dave Siegfried and his family.
Our in-bounds recently spent the day at the President Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL
Laura and Lorenz at Brookfield Zoo
They do like to have fun!
It doesn't matter if you are in the U.S. or some other far away country. Our students learn from RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Academy). As one student put it, "it was a life changing moment for me". Now that is powerful.
Here are some pictures of what they have all been up to and includes trips to other countries, learning other cultures, Six Flags trip, Flying, Midevil Times and spending birthday's with a new family.
Look they found Waldo
Alyssa hanging out with Exchange Students from other countries in Belgium. Do not forget to catch up Alyssa by going to her blog at Alyssa's Blog
My School bus is the cool bus! Price for one ride: 18 cents! ?#?Thailand?
Eric Dominguez is in Thailand and I think he is doing just fine, as his dad Peter shares a story
I asked my son last night “How do you like school in Thailand”
To which he replies…
School? You mean the place where foreigners are treated like celebrities?
Again, all my worries as a parent are slowly but surely disappearing. — in Khon Kaen, Thailand.
Alyssa DeBolt checks in from Belgium with words of encouragement to her friends and classmates. You can follow Alyssa's blog at Alyssa's Blog
(ALL MY COLLEGE AND HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS)
Well...I'm seeing all the off to college posts by people...I'd have one myself except that's next year. But good luck, have fun, enjoy yourselves, study-but not so much that's all you do, meet new people, make new friends, talk to any and all foreign exchange students you can find-not only will you learn and feel more worldly, but you'll make them feel much better (trust me,I know), try new things, don't do anything you'll regret within the year, and be safe.
To my friends continuing high school, same things apply, especially the exchange students! Find them, Laura from Colombia and Lorenz from Switzerland, they're so awesome and I promise if you become true friends with an exchanger you have a friend for life. None of you slack off,I know it can be difficult at points,I was just there. You can always ask me if you need help Seniors, go kick butt and have an incredible year. It's your last-go out with a bang-not a blow anything up bang (confetti poppers are acceptable). Don't miss any opportunities.
But for everyone, HAVE FUN AND I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! And don't complain about being sad and only going a state or two away...you'll go back and see people on break, it's not that heart wrenching far away. Je vous aime mes amis. Have a wonderful year!