Nayomi F., 16 years
Type of holiday: School exchange (year abroad in the eleventh grade)
Destination: Apple Valley, California, USA
Duration: 10 months
Nayomi, why did you particularly want to go to California?
Nayomi: California has always been the epitome of summer, sun and easy-going people for me. I thought, I would spend all day at the beach and maybe go surfing. Ultimately, I ended up in the desert between L.A. and Las Vegas. In other words, the complete opposite! But, it was wonderful. We always had fantastic weather, the desert for quad driving, a ski resort just 1 hour away, and L.A. with the beach just 2 hours as well.
What was it like for you at first being in a foreign country?
Nayomi: At the beginning, it was totally exciting, everything was new. You gain many new impressions, many people at the high school approach you and talk to you (you should immediately take this opportunity to make friends); the entire school system is different, and family life, too. I found it difficult that you couldn't go anywhere without a car and I was therefore quite dependant on others. But once I had made friends, who had a car or lived next door to us, everything became easier.
How did you like your host family?
My host family was the best family I could have imagined. Everybody was so open-minded, hospitable and wanted to help me get to know the country as well as possible. For American standards, I enjoyed quite a lot of liberties, since I was always allowed to do what I wanted. I had my own room there. My family comprised of the father, mother, 2 daughters, a dog and an exchange student from Serbia.
Mind you, at the beginning they only ate meat and never any fruit. But that changed, thank God, once they realised that my host brother from Serbia and I preferred to eat more healthy things, which also taste good.
Did you do a lot together with your host family?
We travelled a lot through California with a huge motorhome. That was great! We went to Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and small towns in the vicinity. There, we went skiing, to the beach, to many fun parks, to many parties of friends of the family. My host family also liked holding big pool parties at their place.
Did you get homesick?
Yes, I did get homesick sometimes. It is best to do as much as possible with your new friends or the family and to enrol for lots of courses at school, such as PE. Then, practically nothing can go wrong. You are always busy and get to know your new friends. Keeping a diary also helped me and it is nice to have memories to read after such a voyage. But being homesick is also very normal. On such a trip, you suddenly start to value the things in your home country that you used to take for granted.
Did your English marks improve after your trip?
Yes, my mark did improve. From D-E to B-C in the written work and for my oral mark up to an A. I've never been good at grammar at school and during the stay abroad the language comes to you very naturally, without really learning the grammar. Afterwards, you just know it without having to think about it.
What is typically Californian for you?
Nayomi: Open-minded, cheerful people, great weather, fast food of course, the widest range of decorations in and on the houses at any time of the year, a large Mexican influence.