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Madrid to Michigan

This was the amazing welcome that I received when I landed in Detroit on Aug. 11

I used to think that to be an exchange student, you had to speak perfect English and be really smart. Now that I am one, I’ve realized that being an exchange student, it’s more important to be brave. It’s brave to leave everything that you know behind for a year, to be ready to learn about other cultures and people. Having a really strong mind also matters because even if most of the experience is great, there are times that are really hard.

It’s hard when you first get to a new place and you don’t really have friends to talk to.

It’s hard when your friends back home send you pictures of all of them together and you can’t be with them.

It’s hard when you are talking to your family and one of them starts crying, but you can’t hug them or do anything to help them.

And it’s hard when, because of the language barrier, you are not able to communicate exactly the way you feel.

But still, yes. Being an exchange student is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. This experience has taught me a lot, and I have created new relationships with people that I will always keep in my heart. I have met a new family that has treated me as their own child, and I will never be able to thank them enough for that. And of course, I have experienced so many happy memories that have made everything worth it.

I’ll never forget the homecoming dance, getting ready with all my friends, taking pictures, going to the dance, singing in the car, having an amazing time with the people that I love, I just can’t forget that wonderful day.

I’ll never forget going up north with my host family in summer, going in the jet ski, tubing, trying to get tan every day, eating ice cream at night and watching movies, this time made me feel part of the family even if I had only been 1 month living with them, they made me feel really comfortable and they keep doing it.

I’ve learned from this experience that the people who are really willing to be your friend or be part of your life, they will always show it to you and they will try to be there for you as much as they can.

I’ve also learned that there are good people everywhere; we just had to give them a chance to get to us, and the one takeaway that I will always remember is that the way you feel towards someone is not affected by how long you’ve known them.

Jada Price-Williams, Lilah Hernadez, Ava Mullen, Erika Hernandez, Lucy Baker, Hayden Massey, Ellen Geyer, Sawyer Hosford, Patricia Martinez, you guys have made all the bad times worth it so I can enjoy more than ever the good times, the little things like just going to school every day are better because of all you.

Steve, Melissa, Isaac and Emma Netzel thank you for everything, for being the best host family ever I could ask for, for being my parents, my siblings and for opening your house to me.

Janae Tyler, Katie Lackman, Bailey Hosford, Abigail Metzger, Kaylin Howard, Hadley Vandenverghe, thank you for being my first friends, you were all nice to me since the day I came and invited me to all your plans even if you didn’t know me that much.

To my mom, dad and brother, thank you for letting me go on this adventure and trusting me to do this, without you, none of this would be possible. I love you and miss you a lot.

All these people have saved my life and made this experience better, I love you all.

For everyone else that is reading this, I just have two things to say.

One: if you know an exchange student, or there are any in your classes, talk to them. The majority of us are really nice, and we just want to meet people.

Two: if you ever have the opportunity to do an exchange year, I suggest you do it. It’s a great experience to learn about life, to grow as a person, to meet new people and to have experiences that you might not be able to experience in your home country that you’ll never forget.

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