By Verda Genel (YES 2019-2020, Turkey, hosted by AFS-USA in Camarillo, CA)
Nearly eight months ago, I started the bravest journey of my life by coming to the United States as an exchange student. Since then I’ve never regretted the decision I made. I’ve gained a family full of welcoming, warm, and fun people. I never felt like a guest in the home of the Klemanns, my host family. I’ve made friends who were a second family here for me and I can proudly say that I enjoyed every second I spent here. I expected to cry and feel homesick when I first got here, but it was impossible with these amazing people and their hospitality. Now, it’s time to leave, and I started crying. The people I didn’t even know a year ago, became my family and the idea of leaving them leaves tears in my eyes. To be honest, I knew that this year was going to go by fast, I just didn’t want to think about an end.
In this marvelous journey, I’ve been to places that I couldn’t have dreamed of a year ago, I tried some amazing food, I met a bunch of new people, I attended a high school, and surprisingly, understood classes. I mispronounced lots of words — which my host sisters made fun of all the time — but still spoke another language. I even dreamed in that language. Speaking of school, I met some amazing people at ACHS that I am grateful for and I loved doing sports and music there. I had wonderful and caring teachers who helped me out whenever I needed. I fully enjoyed giving presentations in my classes about my home country and seeing how interested people were to learn about my country and culture.
Homecoming, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Oregon, Nevada, the ski trip, surfing classes and tons more. . . This year was full of once in a life-time experiences that I will never forget. If I had to explain my exchange year in one sentence, I will say that it was not a year in life, it was a life in a year.
So I owe a big thank you to everyone who made it possible: the warmest area volunteers, my caring liaison Rose, my incredible coordinator Allison, my teachers, my friends and finally my amazing American family! You will be missed greatly!