My first international travel experience was when i was 15, and travelled to The United States of America, to study abroad in high school. What a life changing experience it was for me. From family dynamics to school to myself, everything was different and I came out better for it.
My family dynamic changed from being one of 7 in the house to one of 4. In America, I lived with my host mum, host sister and host grandparents. I also have another host sister, who I didn’t get to meet until two years later as she was in a different state with her marine duties.
My host family are the greatest and loveliest people I have ever met! From the start, I didn’t feel awkward and felt like I belonged. The major difference in family for me was my host sister. She is a special needs adult now and being apart of that was completely different to my life back home. Having my host-sister be special needs however, made me realise how lucky I am to be able to do even the simplest of things, like walk, talk, laugh and eat. I won’t go into detail about what exactly it is that she has, but it is called Canavan Leukodystrophy.
Realising how well I had it back home was a shock. I wasn’t a brat at home, but I definitely took advantage of what I had when I realised that i didn’t need half of what I owned. From that point on, just because I wanted it didn’t mean I had to have it. Everything has a value, and money isn’t just there when you want it to be.
Apart from family, the schooling was completely different to what i was use to. I came from a private school, with full uniform and strict rules about how to dress, what we can do with our hair and nails etc. I ended up going to the local public school, where there was no uniform, hair was all different colours, you could wear makeup if you wanted. The rules were less strict and people seemed happier to be there.The relationship between students and teachers was more relaxed also, which made it easier to go up and talk to them outside of class for help and guidance. The days were odd to me also, as they started and ended at different times. I remember the greatest part of it all though, was that i didn’t have to catch a bus to school every morning for an hour. instead it was 15min car ride.
To me, that was absolute bliss and i enjoyed every part of it.
I’ve been back to visit my family twice already, and plan on going back at the end of this year. To find a family who accept you and take you in instantly is such great thing, and to be immersed into the community that way, instead of as a ‘tourist’ definitely gives you a different perspective on things. America is now, and forever will be my second home.
One of the harder parts of being away from home however was being away from family. At the time that I went over my granddad was battling cancer. To be away when all of that was happening was hard to deal with and made me want to go home sometimes to be there, especially when things weren’t looking good, Towards the end of my stay, i had to leave earlier than anticipated, as he wasn’t responding well to the cancer. Luckily I arrived home on the 17th June, and he passed on the 19th, so I still got to spend a day with him.