Our Blogs are written by our staff and selected members of the Community. The writing is not supervised by an editor, and readers are free to converse directly with the author (and other readers) in the comments area below each post.
Bella Giunta is a 16 year old from Galloway Township who is spending her Junior year in Madrid, Spain, through the Rotary Youth Exchange.
Kalla Jovanovic, 16, is a junior at Pitman High School who be studying abroad in Denia, Spain, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange. Last year, she travelled to Spain and France, a trip that sparked a passion for travel.
Eliza Freeman is a 16 year old from Haddonfield who will be spending a year abroad in Dallgow-DÃ¶beritz, a suburb outside of Berlin, Germany, through the Rotary Youth Exchange. She speaks German conversationally and has been to Germany twice.
Rosy Tucker, 18, of Haddonfield, is an exchange student in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where she hopes to become a fluent Spanish speaker. She applied for the Rotary Exchange program because she wanted to broaden her horizons before entering Rutgers University, where she plans to major in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and Spanish.
Roman Papademetriou, of Linwood, is a rising senior at Mainland Regional High School. He has won a U.S. State Department National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship to study Turkish in Bursa, Turkey, this summer.
He is excited to share his insights and experiences while living abroad, including sharing the realities of living with a host family, explaining the history and culture of Bursa, and giving an outside perspective on the changing political climate of Turkey.
The dice are rolled. The random numbers are counted. And the
black and white pieces are moved in haste. I am sitting in a tea
garden in Nilufer, Bursa, watching my host father play tavli
(backgammon) against his Turkish counterpart. Again and again the
dice are rolled, the random numbers are counted, pieces are moved,
and it feels like a repetitive cycle that is only broken for a sip
of tea or simultaneous snickering. This repetition makes me think
of my daily routine in Turkey, although my days are hardly
monotonous and sometime have the randomness of the dice.
Imagine going an entire day without eating or drinking anything.
Now imagine going an entire month without eating during each day.
Finally, imagine that you are doing all this in the midst of
summer, with scorching temperatures and the longest days of the
year. This is exactly what Muslims around the world do each year
during the month long celebration of Ramadan.
While I sit in the barbershop, surrounded by mirrors, I figure
its time for a reflection. My host brother Berkay is getting a
haircut, and of course the barber is a close family friend. A lot
has happened since I last wrote, and I'm sorry for the delay. I
will certainly give a synopsis of my trip so far, but I decided to
dedicate this blog to solely my first encounter with my host
As I stepped out of the car to begin my Pre-Departure
Orientation, I was struck with a stifling wave of elation. Although
it may have been the humidity of Washington D.C. that caused this
momentary fervor, I know that my proliferating excitement was a
result of months of anticipation. I dragged my bursting suitcase to
the lobby of the hotel, kissed my parents goodbye, and stepped into
a conference room filled with students. It was easy to tell that
these students had also been struck with this same wave of elation,
as the conference room seemed to be transformed into a commotion of
intellectual conversations and a frenzy of giggles. Peers from all
over the country: Florida, Wisconsin, Boston, Alaska, Michigan, and
Hawaii were all gathered together in one conference room, under one
program, with one goal -- to learn a new language.
On June 14th, my host parents allowed me to have my goodbye
party (Abschiedsfeier) at our home. Goodbye is such a terrible
word. However, if my year did not have an expiration date, I
don't think I would have appreciated it as much.
It's very strange to wrap my head around the fact that my
sister will be graduating in less than two days. I'm really
proud of her and can't wait to have her so close again - three
cheers for studying in Philadelphia!
For all of you who have been keeping up with my blog lately, you
know how much trouble I am having dealing with the fact that I have
to say goodbye to Berlin and everyone and everything I have learned
to love here.
I have the window wide open and can hear the neighborhood
children playing outside and fathers testing out their lawn mowers
after the long winter. On one hand, I am so excited that the
weather is as good as it is, but on the other hand .... not only
does it mean I have to leave what I now call home in 8 short weeks,
it also means that the bees will come (I have the most irrational
fear of bees and flying insects, don't ask me why).
Remember how I told you all that there are a lot of vacations
from school/work here? Well, there are these magical, amazing
things here in Spain that they call ‘puentes’. It literally means
bridge, but for kids of all ages it means LONG WEEKEND- and that my
friends, is universal.
Normally, by this time in our exchange the long awaited “parent
visit” has passed. Yes, it’s an amazing feeling seeing your family
after such a long period of time and tears are shed, but (like
almost everything in life) this visit has an ulterior motive. You
can deny it all you want, but you and I both know that it’s all
about showing off. Your language skills, your new independence -
it’s all just a way to say “Hey! Mom! Dad! Look! I did it! I did it
on my own!” or … in other words: without you!
As I went on a run the other day, I literally stumbled upon a
cobblestone, that turned out not to be a cobblestone after all.
They were placed in the brick sidewalk, two bronze blocks lying
next to another. On these stones read the names of a (presumbly)
husband and wife, Iva and Hermann Zorn, stating that they had lived
in the neighboring house. Underneath the names stood the respective
birth dates, and then the phrase:
For those of you who don't know, my sister, aunt, and cousin
are coming to visit today! I actually had a nightmare last night
that I slept through my alarm and wasn't there to meet them at
This weekend I went to Greifswald for my third orientation
weekend. It was a whole bunch of fun, but a little depressing... It
made me realize my exchange year is almost over, and I am in no way
My week has been crawling along at a snail's pace, but
that's probably because I am looking forward to the weekend. I
have my third and last orientation weekend, this time in
Greifswald, a university town near the Polish border. All of the
exchange students from my district are going to be there, even the
Today, when I went in to write my German homework in my agenda
book, I didn't have any room. There was not one line free on
the entire page. From reminders about my 50-verb Spanish test
tomorrow to the Otto Von Bismarck presentation I have to have done
by Thursday, everything is full.
Before I arrived in Germany, my host parents and I emailed a
little back and forth. I was so excited, I must have been checking
my email about five times a day! One of the emails they sent me
included the question: 'Do you ski?'.
As of three hours ago, I successfully completed the first
semester of my exchange year. I rode my bike to school, given the
dry weather, and hung out with everyone for half an hour while they
received their report cards. Fortunately, I was not given official
grades for the first semester, but I will be given them next
semester. I’ve already got a few friends lined up for tutoring, I’m
planning on paying them in English help.
Last Friday I found myself sitting in Terminal 2 of the Madrid
airport, nervously awaiting the arrival of one of my favorite
people in the world! Yes, that’s right- the wait was over and
Marianne was coming to visit! Marianne is my Norwegian exchange
sister. She was living in my house last year and, well you can ask
any exchange student- host siblings become inseparable. So, as you
could imagine the 7 months between the time she left the US and
last Friday was far too long for us to be apart.
As I think I've mentioned, I'm on my summer vacations
from school. And since Christmas my life has been a lot of eating,
going to malls, and watching movies. For some people, this is
really nice, but it has been driving me crazy not having a
schedule! For a while my friend Maeve have been looking for a
volunteer opportunity here in the city and today we finally started
our service project!
Lugging my duffel into school Friday, I felt like a total idiot.
It contained exactly one pair of Pennington Tennis 2011 sweatpants,
one Haddonfield Field Hockey t-shirt, two German romantic comedies,
one copy of Forrest Gump, and two chocolate Santas left over from
Christmas. Yet somehow, it felt so much heavier. Maybe because it
carried with it an unsaid goodbye.
All my life I have suffered from bizarre skin problems. For some
reason, my skin is terribly sensitive. So sensitive, that when I
had a consultation with the doctor who gave me my vaccines to come
to Ecuador, she decided that I should get a rabies vaccine after
looking over my records. Hardly anyone gets vaccinated for Rabies,
unless they're going to be working with animals. I've had
chiggers, poison oak, years of eczema, 3 infected ear piercings,
just to name a few.
I am writing this post six hours away from my normal kitchen
table in Dallgow-Döberitz, in a small little city called
Heidelberg. Some of you may know the town because of the
University, where Mark Twain famously studied. There is also a
beautiful ruin of a castle here, but not as famous. This is the
third time I have been to the picture-perfect city. About five
years ago (I can't believe it's been so long!) I spent
Christmas here with my family, visiting very close family friends
of ours, and also later visited on my own during the summer,
spending a few days at a Gymnasium (high school) and sightseeing
with the mentioned family. I am here to pay them another visit (but
this time we are speaking German)! I'd just like to thank them,
as without this family, I would have never chosen German as a
possibility, and without my interest in the language I would never
have considered an exchange year.
New Years Eve comes with a lot of hype. Everyone is planning and
talking about it, looking forward to it for months, and when it
comes down to it, it usually goes by just like most other nights.
This year was a New Years that I will never forget, obviously,
because I'm an exchange student…. but also because of the
uniquely spectacular Ecuadorian New Year tradition.
For the past couple of weeks, I've been in a bit of a rut. I
wasn't doing anything, I felt like I wasn't improving much
in Spanish, and I was dreading my next three months without school.
But if anything could make me feel like I was where I was supposed
to be, it was my trip to the Amazon rainforest with Rotary.
Last week I got my first look into the real “Crisis” of Spain.
Before that I was just enjoying the days off of school because of
strikes or watching it on the news. To me, The Crisis had just been
the explanation to any, and every, bad thing that had happened …
crowded subway… “¡La Crisis!” … expensive groceries … “¡La Crisis!”
… it rains … “¡La Crisis!”
Quite the opposite of what most people expect for a Thanksgiving
away from home, I had an amazing day and hardly missed my family at
all. Thanksgiving here was all about embracing that it would be
very different, and shared with very different people, and trying
to enjoy what was really happening rather than compare it to what
was going on at the same time at home.
So. I've been here for two months. And it's really,
really hard to believe. The time has flown by. I feel like I just
got here yesterday, and at the same time I feel like I've been
here for years. I'm 1/5th of the way done with my exchange.
Which seems like I have so little time left, but really there is
still so much more to come!
On Saturday nights in Spain you are expected to go out. It
doesn't matter if you are an exchange student from America that
can still barely speak Spanish and has a hard time making friends
in this country - you are expected to go out and have a social
Since I’ve been here I’ve noticed one pattern for sure: Soccer
here is everything. Across the coast of Ecuador, no matter how far
away you stray from the cities, out into the open desert like land
scattered with tiny towns and shacks made from palm, you will
always find fans crazy for their favorite coastal football team. On
the coast there are two major teams, Emelec and Barcelona, and your
answer to the question, “Blue or yellow?” can make or break your
first impression with people.
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to get out of the
heat and smog of Guayaquil and into the Sierra region of Ecuador to
a city called Baños. For those of you who know me well, it will be
completely obvious to you after reading this as to why I have
fallen madly in love with this city.
As a Rotary Youth Exchange Student … the pins are important.
Every student brings pins from their host countries to trade with
the other students they meet. Everyone puts the pins they collect
onto their blazer which we wear to all Rotary events … the result
being that at the end of the year you come home with a blazer full
of pins from all over the world to remind you of all of the
interesting people you met during your year abroad.
I was stressed about my math exam (Mathe Klausur) for nothing,
because on Thursday, about five minutes before my first block
ended, we all found out it was postponed until Tuesday. All the
other math classes had to write their tests, but my class had a
surprise free block! I enjoyed it while it lasted, and tried not to
think about the next week, where three exams loom ahead of me. It
gives me extra time to prep, but no room to breathe.
I'm sitting here in the car and am trying to recount the
past week of vacation, but I can't even begin! I've done so
much that, as my host mom says, "mein Kopf raucht" - my
head is smoking. Looking forward to the weeks ahead, there's
still no break in sight. I cannot emphasize this enough: Exchange
students never have time to sleep.