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8 years later

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May. 21st, 2009 | 12:50 pm

2 weekends ago i went back to Sable, the town i called home for a year in high school. i had gone back a year afterwards, but since then my host mom moved to southern france and i mostly visited her there. now that she's back in sable, and the rotary held a 25th bday party for the exchange program, i made my way back again.

the anticipation of going back, with questions like "will i recognize anyone?" "what has changed?" "is my memory as good as i think it is?" haunted me for about a week before the trip. it felt strange knowing that i had spent 10 months that changed my entire life in this place, but couldn't remember small details anymore.

so after the 6 hour train ride from grenoble, i got off the train and started looking for my host mom, who was picking us up. driving to her place, i started putting everything back together. and by the end of the weekend, i realized that nothing had changed.

well, i shouldn't say that. because things had changed. my host sister and her friends were no longer 12, but 20. my other "host sister" is my age (she was in the us when i was living in sable) and stayed in the south, and my third "host sister" was born after i left, and she's now 6. my host parents are separated, and my host father is not around, and i haven't talked to him in years.

all of this has changed, but it's still the same. my relationship with my host mom is like it was then, but we're able to communicate much better. she still really is my french mother, and going to see her is almost like going home.

the 25th bday party was great because i got to see some of the people i knew back then. but it was especially interesting talking to all of the french kids that had gone abroad. our experiences are pretty much the same. and our lives were all changed dramatically because we took a leap of faith into the unknown, once when leaving, and again when going home.

here's a list from the rotary international exchange student page on facebook, all of which were true (except 13, because i didn't change families like i was supposed to. and am thankful i didn't) and some are still true today. enjoy this trip down memory lane.



1. You ask for some type of food/snack/drink to be care packaged to you as your christmas present.

2. You have problems understanding people in your native language because you instinctively assume they're speaking your host language and listen for words in that language.

3. Back home, you watch lame documentaries on the History channel in the hopes of seeing your host country or hearing your host language.

4. You speak the wrong language every time you open your mouth for the first few days you are back home after the first few days of speaking the wrong language, you speak your own language with a strange accent.

5. You have at least five stories you could never tell your parents.

6. You always got out of punishment or being yelled at, or gotten out of school work because you didn't understand the language or pretended that you didn't.

7. You missed at least 2 months of school because of traveling or just because 'I don't feel like going today...'

8.You can sing all the Top 20 songs from your exchange year...even a year later....

9.You buy everything in sight with the name of the country you went to visit so when you go back people are bound to ask you about it.

10. You get letters and emails in a language that no one else can read.

11. You've have attempted to fit all your worldly possessions into 2 suitcases and a carry on. (And have succeeded, more than once!)

12. You cringe at the mention of 'baggage weight limit'.

13. You have 20 siblings and 8 parents.

14. You can describe in perfect detail every symptom of traveler's flu, but still travel anyways.

15. You can swear in 20 languages but only speak 2 or 3 fluently.

16. You go to school only to do nothing

17. You worship Pepto Bismol (South American exchangers you know what I am talking about)

18. People mistake you for a local until you speak (sometimes even after).

19. You help tourists because you know where the nearest bank is, how much it costs to mail a letter, how to use the pay phone, what bus to take, local customs, etc.

20. You are reading this list and find it hilarious, though people around you reading it say 'I don't get it.'

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