A couple of weeks ago I went on another fabulous trip Ė this time to the
wonderful Bahamas with the exchange students in the district. We had an
amazing time there, were hosted by Bahamian Rotarians that told us a lot
about Bahamian culture, and of course, let us try Bahamian food such as
conch fritters. We also did something that I know is a dream for a lot of
people around the world Ė we swam with dolphins. It was absolutely
amazing. Iím so thankful to my Rotary host club and to the Rotary clubs of
Grand Bahama Island that took care of us and made our trip unforgettable.
I have never ever before had as mixed feelings about anything, as I have
now about this year coming to an end. I am ridiculously excited to come
home and see my friends and family again Ė but that means Iím leaving a
whole new life Iíve built up during one year, here in Florida.
As Iím writing this, I only have two days left of school and thatís it.
This morning we had a huge crying-party in my dance class while saying
goodbye to our dance teacher and each other.
Iím getting my yearbook (how American is that?!) signed by as many as
possible Ė I want to remember this year and the people I met, forever.
Now, after almost 10 months of being a foreign exchange student, Iíve come
to the conclusion that it was actually harder than I had expected it to
be. I had never before been in a situation where you know NO ONE, and have
to build up a whole new life from scratch. Iíve always seen myself as a
social and relatively outgoing person, so I wasnít really that worried
about school or making friends or anything like that. Now when itís almost
over, I can say that I was right and didnít have to worry, however, it
took longer than I thought it would do. Not only do not you know anyone Ė
youíre not even from the same country as them. Which really does make a
difference Ė we DO talk differently, dress differently, laugh at different
kinds of jokes, see life from different perspectives.
What I learned from that is how important it is to never give up. A
challenge means something hard but doable, from which you can learn
something really important.
Well, now I sound like itís already over. But it is NOT Ė I still have so
much fun to do before I leave. Next up is a cruise with my host family,
and then graduation (I canít wait Ė I have a feeling thatís gonna be the
most ĒAmericanĒ experience of them all. Since Iím in my schoolís chorus,
weíre gonna sing, and of course ĒStar-spangled bannerĒ, and Iíll be
wearing the American graduation cap and gown.) and a bunch of other
I havenít written a journal
in a very long time. There has been a whole lot going on, not that that
would be an excuse, but an explanation.
I have had a great time Ė time is passing by extremely fast and I canít
believe thereís not even three months left until I go home.
In February I switched host families Ė something I think is a great thing
to do, even if you love your first host family. This way you get to know
even more people, and you get to see another every-day life. Basically,
you just get to experience even more!
In the end of February I went on an absolutely amazing trip to Hawaii. We
were a group of approximately 25 exchange students and we had a great
time. We learned how to surf, we visited a pineapple plantation, we took a
very, very long walk up to the top of the Diamond Head volcano, from where
the view was breathtaking. We snorkeled, we saw whales, we visited Pearl
Harbor. It was absolutely amazing, and Iím so grateful to Rotary and to
Belo USA for giving us this opportunity to travel around and see so much!
What I loved most about the trip to Hawaii was that I got to see America
from a totally different angle Ė and it really amazes me how many
different kinds of places this country has. Palm trees, mountains,
volcanoes, skiing resorts, deserts, tropical forests and so on.
A couple of weeks before that, I got to experience the American version of
Valentineís day! It was a lot bigger here than it usually is in Sweden.
The weeks before in my chorus class, we had practiced for our Valentineís
day Sing-a-grams, which we delivered to students all day in school. It was
a lot of fun and it felt very, very American.
By the end of March something that I had been waiting for for a very long
time happened. My family came over all way from Sweden to visit me. I was
incredibly nervous when I was waiting for them at the airport Ė and the
happiness I felt when they finally came is impossible to describe in
words. That was, with no doubt, one of the most emotional moments of my
While my family was here I participated in a big dance show at school that
I had been practiced for with my dance class for months. It was so much
fun and Iím so glad that my family was able to see it, and also meet my
school friends and my dance teacher.
Before my parents and my sisters went back home again, we drove down to
the Keys to spend some time in Islamorada and Key West and we had a
wonderful time. It was so nice to see everything Ēthrough their eyesĒ Ė I
could suddenly remember in detail what I thought about everything in the
beginning of my year when it was all so new Ė it made me realize how used
Iíve gotten to my new American life.
Just a few days ago I got to experience something very special, and that
was Grad Bash at Universalís Studios in Orlando! After lunch, we left the
school and drove up there in buses. The park was packed with seniors that
had come from all over, it was really cool. Me and my friends went on so
many rides, we were all dizzy and exhausted when we went back to the buses
at 2 am. It was a great night!
I feel like I say it all the time, but it is so true Ė time flies. Now it
has been 8 months since I got here. I really feel that I have improved my
English, I never feel uncomfortable speaking it, and sometimes when I meet
new people they donít realize Iím foreign until I tell them cause they
donít hear an accent. That makes me very, very happy! I know that the
English I learn from being here right now is something Iíll have advantage
of for the rest of my life.
So, thanks once again Rotary Youth Exchange for making it possible for me
to be here, and to fill my life with thousands of new experiences.
I was going to start off
with saying something about how fast the time goes by but realized that
that was exactly what I did in both my previous journals (but seriously -
time really does go by ridiculously fast).
What I've done since last time I wrote is a lot - I went to St Augustine
for a weekend with my host family, and I loved that city so much! Small
streets where you can actually walk, it felt so good to see them again! It
was beautiful up there and I learned a lot about the history of the city.
And actually, the first night when we were there, was probably the first
time since I came to Florida that I found the temperature lower outside
than inside - it was starting to get "cold". I also went on a cruise to
the beautiful Bahamas which was absolutely amazing. We went to Nassau and
there we did a "Segway tour"! Which was just so much fun, me and my host
sister were so excited about it! And then we also went to this beautiful
peaceful island with beautiful beaches, palm trees and clear blue water,
and I tanned all day long, loved it.And then of course - I've had my first
Thanksgiving!! My family had a lot of friends coming over for the big
dinner - and oh my god, there was a lot of food. And it was all delicious
and I could definitely see how all Americans love Thanksgiving. And then
we had leftovers of turkey, green beans casserole, sweet potatoes with
marshmallows, cranberry sauce and cheezy mashed potatoes for days and days
afterwards - all soo good!
What I've also done is helping out with Harvest Drive - collecting food
for poor families around Broward County - and I can't describe the feeling
of seeing SO MUCH donated food and so many people helping out - it was
incredible. And then, all of a sudden, it was Christmas time! The
decoration some people do here is not like anything I've ever seen! Crazy,
but fun I guess! I guess that's what you have to do when you don't get any
snow - you have to compensate that with thousands of more blinking lights
and blow-up dancing Santas.
I can't really say I got any Christmas feelings this year. The summer
temperature made it pretty hard. Even though I loved to experience the
American way of celebrating Christmas, I must say I missed my own family
back in Sweden a lot those days. But, it was kind of funny to be able to
sit outside in the sun Christmas morning. Never ever have I done that
before and especially this winter it would be very hard to do it - since
Sweden is having their coldest winter in hundreds of years! And then it is
COLD, not really like the "cold" the South Floridians consider as COLD -
when everybody freaks out and comes to school with large winter coats and
talks about the "lovely winter". And the temperature is just above a
chilly summer night temperature in Sweden. But, I did actually get some
real winter! My host family took me to one of the top places in the world
that I've always wanted to see - New York City! I can't even put it down
in words how much I loved it there. Before I went, people kept telling me
that there is NOTHING like New York around Christmas time - and I believed
them. My expectations were so high but I didn't get disappointed at all.
Everything was just amazing and we had such a great time. We were there
for New years eve and saw the famous ball drop on Times Square! It was an
amazing trip that I'll never forget.
So now as I'm writing this, I've been here for 5 months. And I can't say
enough how much I love this experience - to actually live a totally new,
different life. It is something I wish that everyone could get the chance
to do, you learn so much from it! So now I only have half a year left
here, and it makes me sad to think about how I'm eventually going to say
goodbye to everyone here and leave this life behind. But at the same time,
I'm so excited to see all the people back home again. But now, half a year
is half a year so we're not really talking about tomorrow.
Itís probably never gonna stop surprise me how quickly time passes by!
November already, which means itís almost been three months since I got
here. And I have done a thousands of things! First of all, Iíve got more
and more used to everything that in the beginning was so different. Iíve
settle in and got used to my new life here in Florida.
In the beginning I found it a bit hard to make friends in school, since
you have all your classes with different people and since thereís no time
in between the classes to make new friends since you just have to go
straight to next class. My younger host sister introduced me to a lot of
her friends and eventually I started to make my own friends too. I guess
you just have to be patient and understand that it is important to be
outgoing, especially when youíre somewhere where thereís already a lot of
different nationalities, like here in south Florida where it doesnít make
you super special because youíre from another country. However, it is a
great challenge that you can learn so much from!
As I wrote in my first report, Iím in chorus and dance at school and I
love it! A couple of weeks ago we had a big chorus performance at Broward
center of performing arts in Fort Lauderdale and that was so much fun! Now
weíre practicing for the Christmas concert, and it indeed feels a bit
strange to sing all these Christmas carols when itís still summer
outsideÖ! I love my dance class too and in April weíll have a big show at
the school and Iím looking forward to it a lot.
I have also started to take dance classes after school at a dance studio
here in Coral Springs, U4ria, so I take hip hop classes twice a week there
and I absolutely love that too.
One thing that I really miss is being able to walk or bike to places. Here
you have to take the car everywhere all the time, so you always have to
get a ride. I miss being able to walk to the store, or bike to my friendsí
house on the other side of the city.
I canít wait for my first Thanksgiving thatís coming up in just a couple
of weeks! And I canít wait for everything else thatís also coming up, Iím
so lucky to be able to experience so many cool things and Iím SO grateful
to Rotary and to my lovely host family for giving me the opportunity to be
I can't believe it's already been five weeks since I
left Sweden and started a new life here in Florida. Time is passing by
extremely fast, and at the same time, it feels like forever since I got
here. I'm still getting used to everything that's different - which is a
lot. For example the school - JP Taravella High has 3000 students and my
school in Sweden has 300. I felt so small and confused the first days, but
fortunately, people are very kind and helpful. It's not only the size of
the school that is different, I'm used to call my teachers by their first
names, to go to the bathroom whenever in class, to be able to be a little
bit late without getting detention, and so on. So yes - there is a lot of
difference. But that is just how it is and I'm glad that I can experience
this - it's never a bad thing to gain insight into how other people live.
Since I love to dance and sing, I'm very happy to be able to take both
dance and chorus classes in the school here! Sometimes after school we
have chorus rehearsals and I like it a lot. A couple of weeks ago I tried
out for the dance team at school but it was quite hard and unfortunately I
didn't make it to the team. But that's okey, cause my host mother is now
helping me to find a dance studio here in Coral Springs where I can take
dance classes after school.
I have joined the Interact club and the Glee club at school, but there
hasn't been more than one first meeting yet, but I'm sure it will be
I would say that the host family is one of the most important things in
the beginning, when you don't really know that much people in your new
country. I'm fortunate to stay with a great host family and I'm so happy
for that! They are really good at making me feel welcome and comfortable
here and they've introduced me to a lot of nice people in the
neighborhood. Two weeks ago my host family took me down to their vacation
home in the Keys, and it was such a wonderful weekend. We visited Key
West, went to several nice restaurants and I went tubing and snorkeling for
my first time which was so much fun! I would lie though if I said that I
wasn't a bit scared when we saw two stingrays just a few meters from us..
I really feel like I'm growing as a person in every moment - whatever I
do, whether it is to brush my teeth with American toothpaste or having a
conversation with someone, or tasting my first nachos from Taco Bell or
feeling a bit homesick - it is a new experience from which I can learn
something new. Just being this far away from my family and friends in
Sweden is giving me a lot of new perspectives and again, making me grow as
Snorkeling in the Keys
With my host sister Sarah
With some other exchange students (Severin, Ludo, Sergio, Tina and me)
in Ft Lauderdale