By Audrey Arisgraha (YES 2022-2023, Indonesia, placed by AYA in Jeffersonville, IN)
I thought I came here to only learn about American culture, but I was wrong. At the beginning of spring break, my teacher invited me to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian new year. I got to learn about Persian culture through food (salad olivieh, kuku sabzi, etc). Then the adventure started! Me and my host sisters went to Chicago. We strolled around downtown, saw famous buildings, went to the Harry Potter exhibition, Starbucks Reserve (biggest Starbucks in the world!), Navy Pier, and the bean sculpture. But my favorite parts of the Chicago trip were Medieval Times restaurant, The Ledge, and 360 Chicago. The ledge is located on the 103rd floor of the Willis tower. The tilt provides a downward-facing view of Chicago from 1000 feet above Magnificent Mile. Before we left, we didn’t forget to try deep dish pizza at Giordano’s loaded with cheese and toppings.
The adventure didn’t stop there. After Chicago, we went to St. Louis, where we tried paddle-boating, visited Union Station, the famous arch, city museum, and St. Charles. I still remember when we were at the top of the arch, I could feel the building swaying in the wind, but the view was so worth it. Another favorite of mine is the city museum. My host sisters and I felt like kids again! After that, we visited St. Charles, a small neighborhood near St. Louis with many small shops. My favorite memory about it is when I bought pumpkin pie ice cream--uniquely flavoured and definitely delish!
The spring break trip ended, but not the journey. I went to Evansville with my local coordinator and other exchange students to participate in Festival of Nations. I got a chance to represent my country, Indonesia, by displaying a poster and performing Indonesian traditional dance. The traditional costume and dance attracted so much attention and many compliments!
Another day, another trip. I went to Washington D.C. for WYLET, a workshop for teaching English language. It was a truly amazing experience getting to meet inspiring students from 28 countries. WYLET has grown my passion towards teaching even more.
The other highlight of my spring was when I got invited to the Top Scholars Ceremony for seniors who have 4.0 GPA or above and show good performance. We were each able to honor a teacher who has had an impact on us, and I honored Ms. Myers. Ms. Myers used to be my English teacher before she encouraged me to switch to AP Literature. She said she saw my potential and encouraged me to challenge myself by taking harder classes. At first I was hesitant, but she kept supporting me and now I’m more than grateful I took that class. I learned a lot about world literature and turns out I’m not as bad as I thought. I could compete with the rest of the class even though English is not my first language. Ms. Myers helped me reach my potential and pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Even though my spring has been very busy, I’m enjoying it a lot. Going on an exchange program might be the best decision I made in my life. This program isn’t only about studying in the U.S. for 10 months, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience that can help you grow to your best potential by exposing you to different opportunities and experiences. Thank you U.S. Department of State for making the dream of thousands of students come true by providing us various opportunities throughout our exchange.