Monday, March 19, 2007

I am an exchange student – my own adventure

I am an exchange student. Many of my friends are exchange students. Many kids are going to be exchange students. Being an exchange student is not something really cool, or really special, but it is sure not too easy. So I think, my experience is still …not too bad to talk about. At least, hopefully, it has something unusual for you to read, or maybe it can help somebody about something, even just a little bit.
My story started when I was at home,
Vietnam – my country. At that time (and even now), people found the great way to have a good future, and many other stuffs was studying abroad. But it's a big deal to have enough …money to do this solution normally. Of cause someone would think about a really sound one: good scholarship. I agree it's awesome if you can get one, but excuse me, I am NOT a superhero, monster or something similar to it. So the chance for me to study abroad was hardly possible. But at that time, a new solution appeared: AYP – Academic Year Program! And so, my story began…
It was 3 years ago, 2003, when one of my classmate became an exchange student. Danh – his name – made me surprised by his disappearance. Through his reason, I started to know about the program. At the first time I knew it, it was just great. In my mind, it was the wonderful door for me to touch my dream. At that time, I thought the only thing I had to do was doing the Slep test, which was pretty easy to me, that I got the score which was 6 points greater than the acceptable one! What can be my problem?

But in fact, there were a bunch of problems. In my daily-life at that time, my schedule was really …owesome: going to school, coming back home, playing computer games, eating, and sleeping! (Wow! How happy I was!) . Sometimes, I mean seldom, I …did some of my homework for fun. So, in almost my secondary and high school years, I was not a good student (of course!). Unfortunately, one of requirements of the program was …being a good student (GPA >= 8.0 (80%)). To have that big GPA was absolutely not easy, at least for me! So, I had to make my revolution. The word "revolution" seems to be something really incredible, my in this case, it was just… started to do more homework (oh come on, it was my big turning point!). But when you try to do something, you will not always get an equal result. I still had bad scores for my test, even I had tried so much. At these times, I felt so disappointed, so unhappy… But only one thing I could do was trying to forget the pain and continued to fight, in my own battle. I didn't know how, I don't know how, I'll never know how, but I became a good student at that year (my eleventh grade)! I know I've tried much, because of myself, and because of my mother.

My mother? What's about her? It's about my other problem: money. Of course this problem was reduced so much, but it was still hard for my family, because of 4 years in university. Luckily, I had another scholarship, which made my Exchanging year become free. But to get money for me to learn in the university, my mother still had to try hard. My father of course still cared about my problems, but he thought I had to take a scholarship for myself in university, so he wouldn't try too much like my mother. I remember there was a boy who was asked: "what does your mother do in her free time?", has answered that: "My mother never has free time." And this fact is absolutely correct about my mother. Oh, Mom!

The other problem of mine was not from anywhere but my mind. It is nothing if you stay at home and just think about going abroad. But in my case, it's a really big thing to think of, at least for me. About the trip, I was afraid that I could have an accident while flying, and fell down to the ocean to be some kinds of …shark's snack!(the effect of the movie "Shark attacks!"). Seriously, I could even be in a …terrorist plane, which would crash into one skyscraper (as the day September 11). After that, when my imagination reached to the
US, I thought when I was hanging around, I could be killed by someone because of having something belonged to his enemies' gang (such as… wearing shoes or something likes that). The outlook seemed to be so …bad comparing with my current life at that time (you could look back to my schedule above), in which I had my family, my friends, my Dark Force, and even some girls who said they would wait for me (!). However, I thought "It's just a fate!", and accepted the risk. Thus, I soon overcame the problem.
One more thing I had to do was getting visa. One thing I am sure about visa is: J1 is the most difficult kind to get. People expect J1 getter to have some special abilities, such as maturity, flexibility, and some necessary communicating skills. To solve the problem, I had learnt in ILA Vietnam (
International Language Academy) for months, with hundreds of questions and many other useful stuff. Before I got my Visa, when Jenny, one of the girls who loved me, had asked: "Even a person who doesn't know English can get visa, why can't you?" I didn't know how say. She would never understand about something like J1 or F1.
On the day I came to US consular to get visa, there were bunch of people there, crowded horribly. So, I had to wait since early morning to noon to get a chance to meet the consul. He asked me a bunch of question, in which there was a kind of weird question: "When did you finish your tenth grade?" It would have been a really easy question, if I had remembered how to call the fifth month in English! I had to think from name to name. "January", "February"… At last, the word "May" appeared in my mind, and I got my visa! Thank God.

When I had done everything I could for the requirements of the program, there was still one big trouble left. To be exchange student means to live with the volunteer host family, and there was no host family for me soon. That was bad. Every thing I had tried would be nothing without having a host family. Day by day, I asked my Mom: "When will someone accept me, Mom?", "Soon", she replied. And her "soon" was… three weeks later. My host family appeared at last. A… huge family with four children (wow!) There was even a kid younger than my five-year brother! I had wondered several times if I would have to …feed her or take her to the bathroom (!). Besides, I didn't like dogs, and hate cats. Unfortunately, they had both, a huge black dog and a scary cat (Oh my goodness!!!) But anyway, I was so happy when I had my host family at last! The mother was so kind. Though she was so busy, she still emailed for my mother and me everyday since then. By her emails and ours, we could know something about each other before we met. That was great. Thanks, my host mother!

With many things prepared, I flight to the
US. The trip was so long and pretty scary. One time, the plane shook so much. The pilot told us that we were at the bad weather area, and it would shake for ten minutes. But it shook for an hour. I was pretty scared. I thought about many misery things would happen. But finally, I arrived at the airport safely. Thank God!
I met my host family right after I arrived. I could realize everyone by their picture they had sent me. But the mother was… a little bit scarier, as if she didn't know how to smile (It was just my feeling at that time!). And Holden, the boy who would share the room with me for a whole year, looked really retarded and unfriendly. (Now I know it was because he was punched by his sister just a few minutes before). After a while, we came home. It was a nice house. When I was arranging my stuff, my host mother appeared, and asked me: "Do you like to have dinner with us?". I nodded while saying: "I love to." I thought it was completely clear that I would have dinner with them But she asked me again: "You do?". At that time I felt as if she said "I don't care if you love to do or not, what I want to know is "yes" or "no"!" So I confusedly replied: "Yes". The time passed by, and I know my host family was great. But it was still my hard time in the
US; and I still had to face many other problems.
Before I came to the
US, I had believed that my American school would be really big, with at least about …500 high school students! My school would have a big gym that I could play basketball, and there would be … high school musical (I like this film really much, so…), and many other interesting things waiting for me. (Oh come on, that was what I thought about US public high schools.) But, in many cases, what we think is not like the truth (too bad!). My school is not a public one; it is not even a normal private one! (Oh my goodness! ) So what school is it? 
It is a Christian one. Yeah, unbelievable, but that's it. Before I went to
Petra Academy (it's the name of the school), I had hardly known something about Bible, about Christianity. So the beginning of the school year was extremely disappointing for me. The entire school had about thirty students, from… kinder garden to twelfth grade! That time was so tragic for me. In school we learned Bible Interpretation (!), a subject in which we learn deeply about Biblical doctrines; American Government in which we spent almost time to study about Hebrew Republic, an ancient religious government; and many other tricky things. There was no gym for me to play basketball, and in the music class, we learned… hymns (!). On the first day at school, I had my homework with more than twenty pages to read. That night I had to stay up till 2am to finish. I felt so unfortunate. I wondered why those things happened to me…There was no one for me to share my troubles; I could not talk to any one. But that's what life is. I meditated it and just continued to try, continued to fight.
It was six months since I arrived. My situation is now much better. I can handle works pretty well, and even have some cool changes. The teachers and friends have helped me a lot. Now I believe that whatever happens, I will manage well, and good results will come to me.

My friends, if trouble can't kill you, it will make you stronger. Good luck.

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