So, since I’m writing this on June 14th, I’m back home in the Netherlands. It’s so incredibly strange to be back here, but we’ll get to that later. First, we have a whole month to still talk about.
May was a really fun month for me. For seniors, this is a really chilled out month, because all the hard work and deadlines are behind you (actually, they do most of the really hard and stressful work in their Junior year), so it was just filled with classes where we did nothing and trips.
The first exiting thing was the prom in Haskell that I talked about before. Fun Texas thing: when my host mom and me were driving to Haskell, a turkey hit our window and dented it all the way in, which got me covered in glass. I was fine but it was quite scary, but since wildlife is in the roads all the time, people aren’t really shocked easily by stuff like this. That whole weekend I stayed with Gena, my first host mom, and I also got to see my host grandma there, which was really nice. Friday night, Gena and I went to see a Haskell softball game; it was super nice to see one of their games and I always really liked their coach so it was nice to see him and the team again. The actual prom was on Saturday May 6th. I went with a friend from there and it was really quite nice, but there was a lot less dancing than in Archer City, so not as exiting. Good to see a few people one more time, though.
As seniors, we had two trips in May that were organized by the school. The first was a day (May 4th) where we went to Main Event, a place with an arcade, a bowling alley, putt-putt, rope climbing and pizza, so it was perfect for a whole day of hanging out there. The second (May 9th) was to a lake where we just went swimming at someone’s lake house and hung out, which was actually even more fun.
From Saturday May 13th to Wednesday May 17th, we went to Branson with the school band. As you might know, I’d been in band since I got to Archer City, and in those four months, I learned to play the saxophone. It’s really exiting that I can play that now, but that’s besides the point. We went to Branson in Missouri, an eight hour bus ride from Archer City. There, we went to see a show every night at several different theaters (fun fact: apparently Branson is all about glee-ish groups – every show at least included one and some were only that) and we even saw a show on a showboat, a really pretty old cruise ship. We even performed ourselves. We also went to a fair and rode the ducks, old army amphibian vehicles that are now tourist attractions, and all that fun stuff. I can’t really remember what we did exactly because it was so much so densely packed together but I do remember that I had a great time. I could sum up every single show but I’m going to spare you.
Another trip (yes, like I said, we we went on a bunch of trips) was a little later, on May 22nd with FCCLA (the Home Ec club), a club I joined because I was in three Home Ec classes anyway. We left at 7am and drove to Dallas in a school bus, where we went to the Renaissance fair. I personally love renaissance fairs, so I was so exited, and it was really fun. The area was really big so there were a bunch of stores and so many dressed up people. This was probably one of my favorite trips.
My mom arrived at the Wichita Falls airport on Wednesday the 24th. It was amazing to see her again, but so strange to see those two cultures kind of collide. I’ve gotten so used to the American culture, but for my mom, everything was still strange. She came over mostly for my graduation, which was two days later, on Friday the 26th. Graduation is definitely worth talking about. It is such a huge deal in America. You get a bunch of gifts from a bunch of people, including a lot of stuff for when you move out. I went to a senior lunch my church had organized a few weeks before and everyone had been so incredibly generous. Then, when graduation actually rolled around, it was completely different from in the Netherlands.
Archer City’s graduation was held in the gym, at 7pm that Friday. We were free from school that day (I was free on Wednesday and Thursday too, because as a senior if you make above an 85 and you have three excused absences or less, you don’t have to take your finals and those were on those days – like I’ve mentioned before, there’s really no such thing as finals in the sense we’re used to), but in the morning we had graduation rehearsal. That night, everyone was wearing shirts with ties and dresses, but most importantly their cap and gown. It was all so official looking and exactly like you would imagine it.
Once all the family and friends that came were seated (it was super crowded), the ceremony started with the national anthem (that I now know from the top of my head) and the pledge of allegiance to the USA and to Texas (that I now also know – did I mention that everyone stands up and turns to the American and Texan flag respectively with their hand on their heart?). Then the principal gave a speech, one girl said a prayer (we were in Texas, after all), and the valedictorian (highest ranking in the grade) and salutatorian (second highest) gave a speech. The diplomas were handed out and everyone got to turn someones tassel, that thing that hangs from your cap, to the other side; that’s a sign that you graduated. The ceremony ended with us handing out flowers to people you wanted to thank (I gave mine to my mom, my second host family and to my first host mom Gena, who was also there (really amazing)). I got the chance to say goodbye to most of my friends. I’ll miss them a lot; it was probably the best four months of my life.
On the afternoon of the 28th, my mom and I left from the Wichita Falls airport to go to San Francisco, which meant saying goodbye to my family. The last few weeks had been really good and I hadn’t really thought about leaving much, but that day was really hard, I was sad all day. After a night of sleep it was a lot better, but if you’re reading this because you’re about to go on exchange, it’s very important that you realize this. Exchange is amazing, yes, and you get to meet so many amazing people and grow so much. But it’s also really hard sometimes, and it will break your heart when you leave, even if you only had a few months with them, like me. These people become your family, just as much as your real family, and that’s not an exaggeration. Unless I’m an exception of course, but I think this counts for more exchange students than just me. Just make sure you’re ready to say goodbye to people very close to your heart for a very long time.
Anyway, my mom and I went on a vacation to San Francisco. Again, I won’t sum up all the details, but it might be fun to know we took a Hop on- Hop off bus tour the first day (a great way to get to know a city if you don’t have much time, I highly recommend Haight Street) and we explored the piers the second day. Then, we went to Yosemite park to hike for a few days, a day in Sequoia park, and a few days in Monterey. We went to the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium there (worth the $50 you spend) and we went whale watching (they came so close and there were so many, it was amazing). On June 6th, we flew home, and we got there on June 7th. To my amazing surprise, besides my dad all of my friends and my aunt were waiting there for me! It was the best way to arrive back home.
Now, I’ve just been settling in, getting over jet lag and getting used to the completely different food again. It’s been super weird that everything is the same as it used to be, but I can tell by tiny differences that a year had indeed gone by. It’s good to be back though, even though I really do miss my family a lot.
As you might be able to tell, I’m not writing everything I did down anymore. Since I’ve come back, I’ve been kind of packaging everything that happened on exchange into little packages so that they can easily fit inside my head and my memories. That for me means I don’t dwell on every single detail, but instead I remember the important stuff and all the images and that sort of thing, but that makes for less interesting posts, and I’m sorry about that.
Thank you all for reading my blog all these months! It’s probably been quite a rollercoaster, but I appreciate you sticking by me, haha. I might update again some time, but I’m mostly done now that I’m back from my exchange. I’m gonna leave you with a cheesy life lesson I’ve learned this year: in the end, it’s not about where you are, it’s about the people you’re with.