Nov 2, 2011

Des photos!

For those of you that don't speak French as fluently as I do, "des photos" means photos. Yes, I figured it was about that time when you'd want to see some actual pictures, as opposed to those oh-so-vivid mental ones I have been painting you. For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, I'm sorry to say that these are the same pictures I posted earlier. But for those of you who aren't blessed with the gift of being my social networking friend, here are some images from my stay so far!

When I said that I could see the Eiffel Tower from my window, I wasn't making a Sarah Palin joke.

A few steps down the street will bring you right up to it!

Fall colors at the Tower

Insert necessary Arc de Triomphe photo here

And now we get to the random things I find in Paris portion of our tour...

A giant Orangina stretch Hummer limousine, all decked out for the Rugby world cup with a giant inflatable rugby ball and a buff rooster in a France jersey

1984 Peugeot Quasar concept car of the future

And, finally, a dream car picture. This SLS happened to be in a show room, so I got a good picture, but I've been getting my visual fill of Lambos, Ferraris, Porshes, Rolls-Royces, etc while out every day.

That's all for now!

Oct 27, 2011

And always remember...

I used to play soccer. Never very well, except for that time when I managed to show some competence as a goalie before people started obtaining real skills, but I was on a Rec Council team every Fall. My second season, I absolutely hated my coaches. They were trying to teach us techniques, positions, and ways to actually win the game. Blasphemy, right? Actually playing correctly? Psh. But I didn't hate them because I had a strange urge to lose, I disliked that the focus wasn't on having fun. That's why I showed up on the field twice a week, to have a blast. It got to the point that I actually called them out on it once. When they said that the most important part was that we give it out all, little Sophia piped up and said "I thought the most important thing was to have fun."

I don't know where that Sophia went. Somewhere in 18 years of school, sports teams, peer pressure, and social mishaps I became more serious. Life became more serious. I've been trying to be the best I can, but forgetting to enjoy the ride. However, no matter where she went, in these past few weeks play for the fun of it Sophia has started to come home.

Where ever I look, there are 10 better versions of myself. That could be depressing, the thought that no matter what I do I can't be the best. But it's actually fantastic! It makes me stop taking myself so seriously. With the millions of people in the city (and billions on the planet), I'm just a little unknown speck. So I can do whatever the heck I want with my life and it doesn't matter! If I do something extraordinary, more power to me, people will know me for a good reason. But if I don't, no one's really going to care, they're too busy with their own lives. And it's much more fun to go laughing through life than to power walk it with your nose in the air!

So I've stopped trying so hard. I've given up "risking looking like a tourist" and have started taking pictures, very cliché pictures of the Eiffel Tower and little French cafés. I've stopped trying to look like I have important things to do and have started smiling at everything. Heck, I've even given up my self restraint and have started dancing along to my music as I go on my nightly run (which is actually more like a twice-weekly run, who am I kidding, but hey, at least I try.)

I've also made an enormous step in acclimating to Paris: I found a way to meet people. After spending weekends wallowing in lonesome self pity, I finally got my act together and went out. I'd only been clubbing once before, and I figured Paris was a good place to try it again. So I found a club, got dressed up, and went. By myself. And while I really should be used to doing things on my own by now, it was still nerve wracking. But the club had a good ambiance, and the people were friendly. And although "Do you come here often?" may not be exactly quality conversation, it was still social interaction. Which I desperately, desperately needed. I realized that night that, while it might not be the same as having BFFs, just talking to someone or dancing with them for a song can make you feel a lot less alone. It was a very fun night, and I think I might check out another club soon (tomorrow night is Friday, eh?).

My actual, day to day life is not much to talk about. I read stories, walk to the park, make lunch, all with a small boy. It's fun. I'll post if we do anything super cool together =)

In the meantime, always remember to have fun!
A bientot!,

Oct 15, 2011

Un Très Joyeux Anniversaire

I read an article on Lonely Planet the other day about how to be a travel blogger, or rather how not to be a travel blogger (it was actually really interesting, you can check it out here). (Also, please check out how I embedded a link right there)(Aaaanndd how I tried to make it look like I put another one in. Aren't I funny?).

Anyways, I was reading it and feeling guilty for all the faux pas in my blog, and then I realized that it really doesn't apply to me at all. Sure, I should keep the tips in mind to better serve you (whoever this is that may be reading who I care about very deeply), but I'm not attempting to build my career on my blog posts. So, with out further ado, I am going to post and run the risk of breaking rule number nine and creating something that may "stink of those WhatWeDidOnOurFamilyVacation slideshows that everyone used to dread" as the article so nicely put it.

Also, if you would like to get into the state of mind that I'm in currently as I write this, go sit in a comfy chair in the sunshine, make a hot cup of vanilla tea, and put on "The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra.

My 18th birthday was Thursday, and I'd decided that if I couldn't enjoy the company of my family and friends I'd have to indulge myself in some other way. I'd been feeling a little run down. I was just coming out of my relocation funk, and I had been chasing a 3 year old around a big city all day every day. I needed someone to take care of me, just for a little bit. It was time to take myself out on a date. I was willing to go over board, since it was a milestone birthday. 3 Michelin stars, I thought to myself, I deserve that. Well, I thought to myself until I saw the prices. I widened my searches, and finally chose a restaurant called Hiramatsu, which reportedly was Japanese chefs making French haute gastronomie, and got very high reviews on various sites. I called, and soon I had an 8:00 reservation for the evening of mon anniversaire.

The day went really well, and soon I was handing Eben back to his mom and getting ready. I got all gussied up, having fun making myself look fancy with the limited options I had brought with my in my suitcase. Around 7:30 I walked out the door and hopped on a bus to the 16th. The lights of Paris lit up the night, and in my ears Sinatra willed luck to be a lady.

I found the restaurant, and went inside. After a just a moment of confusion on the part of the restaurant at the sight of a teenager standing in the doorway claiming she had a reservation, they took my coat and showed me to my table for one. The restaurant was almost empty except for a table of Japanese business men, but it was very nice. The linens were crisp, the napkins artfully folded, and there were exotic flowers on every table. The restaurant has done away with menus now has a "Menu Carte Blanche", which is a set (surprise) 9 course meal. However, they still have choices when it comes to drinks, and since the legal drinking age in France is 18 I ordered a glass of champagne (rosé) to celebrate the fact that I could.

Here's what I had, according to the souvenir menu that they gave me at the end, rolled up and tied with a ribbon. Please excuse the translations, I don't know if the names are the same in French and English and I'm getting a little help from Google...

  • Velouté de potimarron, crème glacé à la truffe blanche
    • Cream of pumpkin, white truffle ice cream
  • Homard Breton, pommes de terre "noirmoutier" au caviar Ociètre
    • Breton lobster, "noirmoutier" potatoes with Ociètre caviar
  • Déclinaison de cèpes, feuilleté et cèpes à la Bordelaise
    • Porcino Mushroom [insert translation for déclinasion], puff pastry and Bordeaux Porcino mushrooms
  • Foie gras de canard et joue de boef, au choux vert, sauce truffes
    • Duck foie gras and beef cheeks, with green cabbage, truffle sauce
  • Bar de ligne, crème de poireaux au coquillages, légumes "Joel Thiebault"
    • Line caught seabass, cream of leek with shellfish, "Joel Thiebalut" vegetables
  • Supreme de volaille de Bresse, raviole d'abats et champignons de saison, sauce chateau Chalon et cuisse confite
    • Chicken breast from Bresse, Tripe and seasonal mushroom ravioli, Chateau Chalon sauce, thigh confit
  • Pré dessert
    • Pre dessert
  • Poire pochée à la vanille, crème de chiboust praliné, glace caramel aux épices
    • Vanilla poached pear, pralined crème chiboust, spiced caramel ice cream
  • Dacquoise aux marrons, sauce chocolat au whisky Ecossais, feuillantine et abricot
    • Chestnut Dacquoise, Scotch whisky chocolate sauce, [insert translation for feuillantine] and apricot
  • Mignardises
    • Petitfours
That's the official menu of what I ate. But I was unaware that I'd be getting this little menu to take home, and since I wanted to remember what I ate I wrote it down as they brought it out. Being the attentive listener that I am, I forgot what they said I was about to eat almost as quickly as they presented it, but I guessed at it as I went along. Here's what I wrote down in my notebook as I ate:

It's lovely here. Sure, it's quiet, and a bit over polite, but if I appreciate it for what it is it's lovely. It's quiet and calm, and it feels like I'm special. I love the food so far
  1. Amuse-bouche. A cracker with some sort of green garnish (parsley?), a pastry cheese puff, another cracker thing with some sort of raw fish.
  2. Soup with a perfectly sized spoonful of some sort of cream and truffles.
  3. Lobster with potato and caviar and a potato whip (texture of frosting)
  4. Pie crust with mushrooms, white onion, ham, a really cool egg, and a cross of red wine sauce
  5. Cabbage with beef and some sort of sauce
  6. White fish with awesome sauce, andives? idk, potato with awesome green mousse spread thing, purple cauliflower'
The siverware is monogrammed, and I'm almost certain it is, in fact, silver. Oh, the potatoes on the lobster were from Normandy. The champagne is crisp. The butter (2 kinds!) is fresh. They thank me when they bring me a dish. It's making me really happy. PS, I forgot to mention that the lobster was served smoking, on basil infused dry ice. Yeah. So far, the sauce on the white fish is the favorite And it's tons less lonely now that there's a tad of ambient noise as people show up. Uh oh. Course 7 gets a real knife...The people will smile if you smile, and they're receptive to politeness. As they should be. OK, here goes 7.

7. Some sort of poultry (chicken?) with mushroom, ravioli (paté filled?), mushroom foam, yellow wine sauce, and spinach?

Never mind. 7's the best. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life.

8. More of whatever I'm eating, with skin, and salad

I wonder id I could get a frequent flyer card if I ate here every night. I'm so full. Dessert should be coming. I'm not sure if I'll be able to deal with this. Oh my god. This has all been so good. I love food. So much. Here comes the new silverware [they brought out a new set after each course]. So much class. I don't even know what to do with myself. OH MY.

9. Predesert. A spoonful of grape sorbet with lemon cream and lemon and lime juce on top. So. Good.
10. Oh no. Poached pear, caramel ice cream with pepper?, alchohol soaked mousse praliné with something like crème brulé on top, 3 drops of "reduction de port". Port.

Best birthday dinner possible. I think that was worth every penny I spent. OH WAIT. THERE'S MORE. Alright, legit last dish.

11. Giant macaron looking thing with an apricot and glazed chestnut. Sitting in an ocean of hot alcoholic chocolate that he just poured on it.


12. Macaron chocolate rasberry vanilla and a chocolate truffle. On a plate that says Joyeux Anniversaire in chocolate.

Ok, I'm quite literally crying/tearing up in the restaurant. Haha, the one waiter was just like "Aw, elle pleure. C'est mignon." to the other one. Happy Birthday to you, Sophia. No, wait, of course there's more. There's always more.

13. Another macaron and truffle. Because "sometimes the first ones aren't good".

The chef just came out to make sure everything was good.

Yeah. That was my dinner. It was really, really, really nice. And after all that, after they served me, after every single waiter wished me happy birthday (this has all been in French, bien sur), after the chef came out, after they changed my silver ware 1823764 times, after they made me feel totally comfortable being out to dinner alone, they walked me to the door, put my coat on me, and made sure I was ok to get home.

Which I was. As I walked back, in this state of total shock from the dinner I had just had, after having had the fanciest meal of my life, I turned up my swing music and strolled through the streets of Paris. I stopped on the foot bridge where I cross to get home and stared at the Eiffel tower, watched the boats pass, and laughed at loud at the magical evening I had just had.

I was by myself, but somehow I felt an overwhelming feeling of romance that made me smile from deep, deep down and dance my way back home.


PS, I totally forgot to mention that while at dinner for my birthday, I got a lovely e-mail from AFS with the subject line "You have been accepted by Costa Rica for your community service project!"I guess I better start learning Spanish!

Oct 12, 2011

I had it all wrong...

Picture this. You're in a car, driving in a new place, and it's madness. People are weaving in and out, there are parts where you're gridlocked in place, people are honking, no one's signaling. You try your best to drive like you should. You try to be polite and let people with more intention in their driving pass you, but they zoom by without so much as a nod of the head, and you have to swerve to avoid being side swiped. You try to follow all your traffic rules, but out of nowhere someone careens by going in the wrong direction. And the harder you try to do everything right, the more people give you nasty looks.

How would you feel? Lost, confused, probably a little ticked off. And the more you drove, the more you'd long to be back where driving was normal, where people respected you, where you knew what to do. And the more you longed to be back home, the lower your mood would get. And you'd be justified, right?

Well, until you realize that you're in the bumper cars at the amusement park and not in traffic at all. Fell pretty silly, huh?

Paris isn't the place to take yourself seriously. It isn't the place to try and drive better than everyone else. It's the place to crash headlong into the person in front of you, laughing all the while.

Paris is the place to walk around with a huge smile and leave others wondering what you're so happy about. It's the place to wear high heels with your T-shirt and jeans just because you can. It's the place to listen to Frank Sinatra and the Glenn Miller Orchestra with "Going Out In Style" by the Dropkick Murphys and "Good Life" by OneRepublic thrown in for good measure.

It's hard to see all the good in something when you aren't even looking in the right direction.


PS, In case that whole post was a little too vague for you, I pretty much realized that Paris has a reputation as a happy-go-lucky, romantic, magical city for a reason. And that last little bit about what Paris is for is what I did last night. And now I think that the city of lights is a pretty fantastic place to be on my birthday.

PPS, That would be today, my birthday. =)

Oct 7, 2011


I never got store bought pizza at home. At least it feels like it to me. Every Friday was pizza night, but for the earliest and most recent stages of my life it was always home made. And sure, there was that period for almost all of elementary school and middle school where we went to Mama Illardos and Pizza Boli's, but for some reason that never seemed to count to me. Of course, there isn't really much difference between Pizza Boli's and Pappa Johns, but to me it seemed like if my parents chose Pizza Boli's it made it different, less "real". Maybe it also has to do with the fact that we picked it up ourselves and didn't get it delivered. I don't know. Whatever the reason, the greasy, American, pepperoni and extra cheese delivered in a red box by a bored teenager is a special occasion thing.

Store bought pizza tasts like late nights and early mornings. It tastes like holidays that run to the next day and sleepovers that aren't supposed to happen. It tastes like cast parties and pool parties and birthday parties and random parties. It tastes like friendship and laughter, and it tastes like home when home is the only place I want to be.

It's officially the weekend for me here in Paris. On Friday I only have to watch Eben until the early afternoon, and then I'm off until Monday. It's been an interesting week. My three year old charge and I have gone out every day: to the American library, to a Polish playground installation next to the Seine, on the RER to a flower garden, across the Champs-Elysee to a park. It's been a rather specific view of Paris, but it's a perspective I've never had before. We eat breakfast at 9 and lunch at 12:30. It's nap time around 1:30, and I hand him back to his mom at 6.

I'm not used to this, and maybe I shouldn't say too much because I've only seen a sliver of the city, any observations right now might be too hasty and uninformed, but at the moment, Paris honestly seems way more unobtainable than Lyon ever felt. It's skinny and rich and fashionable, but not in a way that makes you think that if you work hard enough you can fit in. Paris is old money, families with reputations they have taken generations to build. It's intimidating. I've felt more homesickness this past week than I ever felt with AFS.

I ordered a pizza from the Dominos near the apartment (in the 7eme) to celebrate my first week. As left the shop, I saw the Eiffel Tower down the street, lighting up the dark sky with an orangey glow. For the first time since I got here, my stomach flipped. Just once, but it's a start.

I ate my pizza in the dark apartment, looking at the Eiffel Tower through the living room window as it sparkled and blinked in it's nightly show.

Store bought pizza tasts like smiles and happy endings. It tastes like being the winning classroom and long running girl scout meetings.

It tastes like staring out at a new city, and thinking that everything may work out after all.

Oct 3, 2011

When did I become a blogger?

When I started this blog I really had no intention of making it MY blog, it was more for everybody else. In exchange for people helping me make my trip the best it could be, I promised them updates on how I was doing (and assurance on why I was a good investment). And then AFS picked it up, and I was like "Alright, I guess I should start putting some effort into this, make it seem like I actually believe that people will actually read this." And then people actually read it! Which was surprising. And so I resolved to post more regularly and thoroughly, because if I wanted to keep those 3-comments-per-post coming I needed to step up my game. And then, about 10 minutes after I promised that, I got bored and went to eat some cheese or do something else French like that. But, while I was still only posting like once every 213428394 weeks, I got more into my posts. I put emotion into them, which may sound totally cheesy and cliché but basically means that I was crying while writing my sad posts.

I'm not really sure when it happened, and I'm not really sure why, but somewhere along the line I became attached to this blog.

But now my year is long since over, and this blog's purpose has been fulfilled. I had thought that this would mean I would just stop posting, I'd let the blog lie in a darkened corner of the AFS master blog gathering dust, and in those moments when I was feeling especially reminiscent I might post a friendly message about how my year was still impacting me. After all, who really cares about what I've been doing while I'm being lame and just writing memoir posts.

But guess which kid got the AFS bug? This guy! Well, not really the AFS bug per se, but the travel-the-world-and-make-friends bug. Whatever. The point is that I'm now super into globetrotting, and have done (and will do) more traveling recently than I ever expected to in the past. I spent my summer in Europe couch-surfing from country to country (see last post), I'm spending the next two months in Paris with some family friends, and I just submitted my application for an AFS gap year community service semester for the spring.

As I keep going places, my dad keeps insisting that I tell my "fans" about it. And every time I kind of shrug it off with a "Ha, yeah, like I have fans." (I mean, I totally hope that I do. That would be insanely cool. And flattering. But I doubt it.) But recently I've been thinking about taking a walk on the wild side and going on his suggestions. Maybe I'm just needing a creative writing outlet since I've been out of school for a while and have no assignments, or maybe I'm just on an internet-powered self esteem kick because I found out that Blogger has a stats tab where I can see how many people have visited my blog (WOAH! Do people actually think I'm that interesting? Let's see... traffic sources....ah... people looking for pictures of the French flag...), but what ever the reason, I've decided to revamp my blog. You are no longer at Sophia's AFS Adventure, but the new and improved

Sophia's Global Adventure
(Alright, alright, I only updated the title. What ever, it was a big deal to me.)

Basically, I'm just going to be posting when I feel like it about whatever's new in my international life. I have a hunch that the only person who'll read this will be my grandma (Hi Grandma!), but it'll be good for me.

So yeah, feel free to stay tuned! (I'd love to feel like people care <3 )

(PS, On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was, "It's October 3rd." Bonus points if you get it)

Aug 12, 2011

Tangible Proof (The reunion episode)

If you're anything like me, you're reading my blog for proof that everything's going to be OK in the end, now that you've decided to (or are thinking about taking) the big leap that is an AFS exchange.

Before going to France, I know that I scoured the AFS blogs, searching almost desperately for proof that I had made the right choice in deciding to go away for a year. I very, very quickly found the proof I needed. And when I came back, I poured over them again. Although still searching for assurance in a sea of uncertainty, now I looked for proof that everything I had built in France was real. This proof was harder to find, because most people (logically) stopped blogging once they reached the USA. And while that's fine and dandy for them, it's not so great for little miss nervous over here.

So, if you're a returnee like me, rechecking old blogs out of homesickness for your foreign life and just looking for someone to give you a ray of hope, look no further, because I am about to tell you exactly what you want to hear:

Everything will be right where you left it when (note that I say when, not if) you return.

The friendships, the knowledge, the cultural understanding, they're not going anywhere. And how exactly do I know? I know because I went back!

It all happened very quickly. One morning I was sitting at breakfast, musing about seeing all of my French friends, and the next thing I know my parents and I are researching el cheapo air fare and booking me a flight across the pond. I was in Europe for a month, and my first stop was chez my host family in Millery.

When I got there, after traveling from London where my flight landed through a long few days of buses and trains, I was pleasantly surprised to find a party underway in the backyard. Although it wasn't actually for me (Antoine and his friends were celebrating passing the bac), I still got to see a few people right away. It was like a scene from a movie, with bags being tossed aside as I ran to hug my friends.

After the initial excited greetings, however, it was all slightly anticlimactic. And you know why? Because within a matter of days I was able to seamlessly pick up my life where I left it! Sure, things had happened during our year apart, but we were still the same people, and soon all my friends and I were caught up and as close as ever. I stayed at my host family's house for about a week, and then spent another bit of time bouncing between friends houses. (Note to AFSers: Our exchange program friendships can save us a fortune if we want to travel. Stay in touch with everyone, and then if you ever want to travel you can couch surf instead of paying for hotels!) I got to see Harry Potter before it came out in the US (it was released in France first), watch fireworks on the 15 juillet, go to a dance, attend a barbecue in my honor, ride bikes up to a chapel on a hill with incredible views, try really good French wine and cheese, re-visit Lyon, and spend lots of time chilling out with mes amis.

I was supposed to go straight from Lyon to Osnabruck, Germany to visit Vici (the German girl who stayed with my family while I was in France), but I decided to make use of my Eurail pass and head south for a few days on my own first. I took the train to Nice and booked a bed in a hostel. Although the hostel was not at all the Ritz, I'm quite happy I stayed there. This was my first time hostel-ing, and it was quite an experience. I met people from all over the world, and hung out with them the nights I was there. Among them were a Japanese fashion photographer, a Mexican engineering student, some Canadian party guys, and an Australian wheat farmer who spends 4 months a year farming and 8 months traveling the world.

I loved Nice. The weather was lovely (except for a few torrential downpours the day I left) and the water was fantastic. I always found something to do, from dancing in the street at midnight to drinking espresso at a café in the pouring rain. I headed off to Monaco on the train for a few hours one day, and it certainly left it's mark on me. In 4 hours I saw more drool inducing cars than I've seen in my life (I saw 21 Ferraris and 5 Lamborghinis, for example, and apparently missed the 2 Bugatti Veyrons that were right by the casino), and was reminded of the fact that I could sell my soul and still not have nearly enough to play in the league with these people. It's where the richest of the rich go to play in the sun while the rest of us are left to pick our jaws up off the ground.

I made it out of southern France on a night train to Germany, and boy did that give me a rude shock. My newly tanned, beachy, warm loving self stepped off the train and was greeted with crisp temperatures and a steady drizzle. But soon I (almost) forgot about the weather because I was greeted by Vici and one of my best friends from Towson Christie (who was also on vacation in Europe). We had an action packed few days together with clubbing, hiking, and sight seeing (I got to see the Brementown musicians!), and the time flew by.

All too soon I was saying bye, and heading back to France with my belly full of spaghetti ice cream and my head full of newly learned German (Ich spreche kein Deutsch, aber haben Sie eine neue Spülmaschine?). I rode the train to Lyon, but instead of heading back to Millery I was met by Lola! (Lola was the French girl who stayed with us this year.)

I headed off to Annonay to spend my final week with her at her house. It was a blast meeting her friends (and finally understanding what people were saying again!). We went to parties, went to cafés, went shopping, and went to sleep a little too late each night. It became normal just as quickly as returning to Millery had, and it became clear how much I was going to miss my French sister next year.

That week went by the fastest of them all, and much sooner than I wanted to I was saying goodbye again. Lola walked me to the bus stop in Annonay, and I cried a good bit of the ride to Lyon. Then it was more train-ing and bus-ing as I headed to London to spend the two days before my flight at my mom's friend's house. I spent a day walking around London, and then I was on a flight back to the states.

Although I wish I could have spent so much more time in my second home, this was a great start. I got to see almost everyone I wanted to, I got to meet tons of new people, and I got to have a blast. All I can do now is hope my next trip back will be soon!


Jun 17, 2011

I don't know if anyone's around to read this, but...

I'm feeling this urge to post. This is going to be entirely reflection, because clearly nothing more has happened seeing as my sejour in France has been over for about a year now.

For anyone who stumbles upon this from the AFS blog while attempting to decide whether or not to go on an exchange program, do it. And for any parent attempting to decide whether or not to let your child go away for a year (or a semester), let them. Going away like that was the best thing I've ever done, period.

10 months sounds like a long time when you're thinking about it, but it really does fly by. You may not notice it every day, but it builds up. You'll be thinking about how slowly this first week seems to be going, how it feels like you've been here for so much more than a month, and then all of the sudden you're having a going away party and getting on an airplane to go back to that place you left just 10 short months ago.

But in those 10 short months you learn more than you could ever learn in 10 months at high school. 10 months in France taught me how to be confident when confidence is far away. 10 months in France taught me how to blend in when I stood out more than anyone else. 10 months taught me how to fall in love with a culture, a landscape, a family.

Coming back, there was no more separation between who I was and who I wanted to be. I knew that I truly could become anyone I wanted to, and that I had already become someone I could be proud of and happy with. I knew that I was capable of amazing things, and I knew that I had already accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed of. I knew that no matter what life threw at me I could somehow manage to find my way.

I miss everyone there. They took me in, made me a part of their life, and in turn they became a part of mine. No matter how far away I go, no matter how long it takes me to see them again, I know that the impact they've had on my life will stay with me forever. In 10 months I made real friends, the kind I thought it took years and years to make. I gained brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, when I thought I was far away from everyone I loved.

I plan on traveling the world. During my upcoming gap year I want to immerse myself again, in a totally different environment, and see more of this beautiful planet. I want to try new things, meet new people, and hopefully change my life (and the lives of those around me) for the better. AFS took my interest in world cultures and turned it into a passion, and now it's up to me to take that passion and turn it into a life. Who knows where it'll take me, but I can assure you that where ever it does I'll be diving in without hesitation.

Until we meet again,