I write this now on the aeroplane on my way home to New Zealand. One year on, a brand new me is home bound. These experiences I have lived for the last year have shaped me as a person, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.
I experienced my 18th birthday in Quebec, and while it was sad to have such a milestone away from my natural family, it was an opportunity for me to immerse myself into the québécois culture. I received kisses on both cheeks from the French Canadians, birthday greetings from people at school I’d never before seen in my life and had my earlobes pulled by the Spanish. Having the exchange students in your town sing to you in more than 10 different languages is quite an amazing experience, and felt truly blessed to be spending such a special day with such special people.
Many of my favourite times here were the trips I did with exchange students. The connection we make is something indescribable to others, and I have made some of the best friends of my life. Together we got soaked by Niagara Falls, hiked the Grand Canyon and took control of the stage to perform native songs for a group of Americans in the tiny cowboy town of Williams. We felt like stars in Hollywood, we walked the strip of Las Vegas, were dazzled by the lights of Times Square in NYC, and surfed with turtles only meters away from us on Oahu island, Hawaii.
With my family in Quebec I was eaten alive by Mosquitos in the beautiful region of Lac Saint Jean, skied and hiked various mountains and danced and sang all week long at ‘le festival d’été de Québec’ (Quebec summer festival). I stayed in a Mongolian yurt, was convinced to have a spa surrounded by snow, and ate more than my fair share of maple syrup. They were there when I laughed, and were there to comfort me when I cried. They are truly my second family now. They taught me about Quebec, and I taught them about New Zealand. They laughed at my French, (which at times was terrible!), and I laughed equally at their English.
My last few weeks in Quebec were filled with emotions, I’m not even sure how to describe. Neither of my two languages have words able to truly explain this to someone who hasn’t lived it first hand. They were weeks of reflection, on how this was everything I could have ever wanted and more. But they were also weeks of realisation that this is all over, and no matter how hard we wish, we can’t have any days back. The goodbyes were the hardest things I’ve ever had to say, understanding that truly there’s a chance I might never see these people again, however we know that no matter where we go in life, no matter what different paths we take, we will always have a small piece of one another with us.
Thank you to my families, both in New Zealand and in Quebec. Thank you to my friends, again both the kiwis and the foreigners. Thankyou to the TSB community trust, and to all the others who contributed to my fundraising. And lastly thank you to AFS and the AFS trust. You made this year, this wonderful year, everything I ever wanted it to be and more.
You can take the students out of their host countries, but you can’t take the new culture out of the students. This isn’t a year of your life, it’s a life in a year!
AFS Quebec 12/13 - Je me souviens!