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Marisa Long – France

Name: Marisa Long

Host Country: France

Host District: 1760

Host Club: Apt-Cavaillon en Lubéron

Sponsor Club: Dublin-Worthington

School: Worthington Kilbourne High School

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Marisa. Hello! My name is Marisa Long and I’m thrilled to say that I will be spending the 2016-17 school year in Apt, France. I just finished my freshman year at Worthington Kilbourne High School. Outside of my coursework, I am a part of the Interact Club and I also run both track and cross country. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel and have loved to experience new things. When my aunt and uncle hosted a student from Germany two years ago, I realized that my dreams could soon become a reality through exchange. Thank you to District 6690 and District 1760 for giving me so many incredible opportunities and preparing me for this exchange. While in France, a few of my many goals are to become fluent in French, to form many lifelong friendships, and to completely immerse myself in their culture. I am so fortunate to get to experience the beautiful region of Provence. Thank you so much to the Dublin-Worthington Rotary Club for giving me this opportunity as well as to the Rotary Club of Apt Cavaillon for taking me in. Merci beaucoup!

 

Sept 2016 
I’ve just finished my first month in France, and I absolutely love it here. That sentence still feels unreal to me; I feel like I’ve been here for months, but it also feels like I just arrived a week ago. A lot has happened this month, but here are some of the highlights:
I started school at the beginning of September, which is really different than school in America. Each day of the week, your schedule varies and on long days classes go from 8 am until 5 pm. Another difference here is that you have to choose a focus: “S”, the science and math based track, “ES”, the economic and social track that encompasses almost everything, and “L” the literature track.  At first, my schedule was pretty difficult (apparently “S” is the hard track), but now a lot of my classes have been replaced with a class called “FLE” or “French langue étranger”. It’s the class that my school offers for non-native french speakers to learn the language. 
I’m really lucky to have amazing classmates at school.  Everyone is so kind to me and they’re constantly making sure I’m doing okay.  They also are more than willing to help me with my coursework or correct my French, which is extremely helpful.  I’m also now officially part of the Interact club here and I shared the “Pinkies for Polio” idea with them; I believe we are going to attempt to do it at the school this year.
One of my favorite parts of this month was the Rotary Inbound weekend that my district hosted.  I was able to meet all the other exchange students in my district and passed an amazing weekend with them in Aix-en-Provence.  A lot of the weekend consisted of orientational meetings, but there was also a lot of free time to get to know everyone.  The Rotex from the district were also there, so we had a lot of fun getting to know them as well.  It’s amazing to me how although we’ve only known each other in person for three days, we are already like a second family.
Everything with my host family is still going really well! They tell me all the time that I can just stay here in France and their daughter can stay in the US (kidding of course).  I’m improving in my understanding of French and I think I’m improving a little in speaking, so now I’m able to converse better with them.  The food is still amazing, although I still haven’t had the chance to cook for my host family. I’m hoping I can do something around Thanksgiving to share a little bit of American culture with them. 
Living in France is definitely making me into a more independent person.  Everyday, I am faced with new situations, new decisions, and new words that I don’t quite understand yet. I’ve learned to always try to do everything on my own first so that I don’t have to ask my host family.  That being said, being here in a new culture is also teaching me how to ask for help when I need it. 
This month I haven’t done quite as much exploring since I’ve been in school, but my I’ve been lucky to get to visit a few new places with my host families.  For the day of European Heritage, my second host family took Karla (the Mexican exchange student) and me to the Pont du Gard.  It was incredible to see a bridge with such beautiful architecture and so much historical significance.  It was originally one of the aqueducts built by the Romans, but now it’s a bridge and touristic attraction.  This past weekend, my host mom and sister took me for a walk in the Forêt de Cèdres, which is a enormous park about twenty minutes from here.  We hiked for a little bit to get to a breathtaking view of the valleys and the surrounding foothills. At times like this I really can’t believe this is my life.
As for the “Six Be’s”, this month I used “be grateful” and “be first” the most.  Lately, I’ve been taking the initiative more, whether that be talking to people at school, helping out around the house, or just asking to try new things. When I stop to think about it, my life really couldn’t get any better, and I am incredibly thankful for every opportunity this exchange has given me.  I try to express my gratitude to my friends and family as much as possible. This really is an experience of a lifetime! Thank you so much for all your support and making my dream this year a reality. I hope everything is going well back home, and if you or the club has any questions for me, let me know! My blackout period has ended so I would love to tell you more about the things you want to hear.
October 2016

I’ve just finished my first month in France, and I absolutely love it here. That sentence still feels unreal to me; I feel like I’ve been here for months, but it also feels like I just arrived a week ago. A lot has happened this month, but here are some of the highlights:

I started school at the beginning of September, which is really different than school in America. Each day of the week, your schedule varies and on long days classes go from 8 am until 5 pm. Another difference here is that you have to choose a focus: “S”, the science and math based track, “ES”, the economic and social track that encompasses almost everything, and “L” the literature track.  At first, my schedule was pretty difficult (apparently “S” is the hard track), but now a lot of my classes have been replaced with a class called “FLE” or “French langue étranger”. It’s the class that my school offers for non-native french speakers to learn the language.

I’m really lucky to have amazing classmates at school.  Everyone is so kind to me and they’re constantly making sure I’m doing okay.  They also are more than willing to help me with my coursework or correct my French, which is extremely helpful.  I’m also now officially part of the Interact club here and I shared the “Pinkies for Polio” idea with them; I believe we are going to attempt to do it at the school this year.

One of my favorite parts of this month was the Rotary Inbound weekend that my district hosted.  I was able to meet all the other exchange students in my district and passed an amazing weekend with them in Aix-en-Provence.  A lot of the weekend consisted of orientational meetings, but there was also a lot of free time to get to know everyone.  The Rotex from the district were also there, so we had a lot of fun getting to know them as well.  It’s amazing to me how although we’ve only known each other in person for three days, we are already like a second family.

Everything with my host family is still going really well! They tell me all the time that I can just stay here in France and their daughter can stay in the US (kidding of course).  I’m improving in my understanding of French and I think I’m improving a little in speaking, so now I’m able to converse better with them.  The food is still amazing, although I still haven’t had the chance to cook for my host family. I’m hoping I can do something around Thanksgiving to share a little bit of American culture with them.

Living in France is definitely making me into a more independent person.  Everyday, I am faced with new situations, new decisions, and new words that I don’t quite understand yet. I’ve learned to always try to do everything on my own first so that I don’t have to ask my host family.  That being said, being here in a new culture is also teaching me how to ask for help when I need it.

This month I haven’t done quite as much exploring since I’ve been in school, but my I’ve been lucky to get to visit a few new places with my host families.  For the day of European Heritage, my second host family took Karla (the Mexican exchange student) and me to the Pont du Gard.  It was incredible to see a bridge with such beautiful architecture and so much historical significance.  It was originally one of the aqueducts built by the Romans, but now it’s a bridge and touristic attraction.  This past weekend, my host mom and sister took me for a walk in the Forêt de Cèdres, which is a enormous park about twenty minutes from here.  We hiked for a little bit to get to a breathtaking view of the valleys and the surrounding foothills. At times like this I really can’t believe this is my life.

As for the “Six Be’s”, this month I used “be grateful” and “be first” the most.  Lately, I’ve been taking the initiative more, whether that be talking to people at school, helping out around the house, or just asking to try new things. When I stop to think about it, my life really couldn’t get any better, and I am incredibly thankful for every opportunity this exchange has given me.  I try to express my gratitude to my friends and family as much as possible. This really is an experience of a lifetime! Thank you so much for all your support and making my dream this year a reality. I hope everything is going well back home, and if you or the club has any questions for me, let me know! My blackout period has ended so I would love to tell you more about the things you want to hear.

 

 

Nov 1

I’ve just finished an incredible second month in France (and Spain!). This month has been really amazing, so here’s a little bit I’d like to share:
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School is going well still. I miss a lot of my normal classes every week for my FLE course (class for learning French) so combined with the language barrier, I definitely still have a lot I don’t understand. Listening is really helping me to pick up the language though; I’m understanding more and more each week. My teachers have all been really understanding about the language barrier, so in a lot of my classes I am “non noté” meaning I don’t have a grade. 
I attended my first Rotary meeting this month and got to see our district governor, who is so kind.  The meeting reminded me a lot of the club meetings in Ohio, except that it was a dinner and of course all in French. At the dinner, Karla (the other exchange student in Apt) and I were sitting next to a Rotarian who had been the professor of Provençal, the native language of our region.  Apparently it’s a language very similar to Spanish because Karla could understand nearly everything, which I found interesting.
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Once again this month I’ve been really fortunate and gotten to travel a lot.  On the weekends, my host family and Karla’s host family love to take us to nearby towns to visit.  I’ve gotten to see Isle Sur la Sorgue and Aix en Provence, both of which are beautiful and are the homes of other exchange students. It’s amazing that this year I’m able to not only form friendships here in France but also with people from all over the world. I love how in Provence, all the towns have the same relaxed feel to them, but they each have their own unique charm. Aix is one of the classiest cities I have been to, and it’s filled with beautiful fountains and classical architecture.  Isle Sur la Sorgue has a more aged feel, and it’s recognizable by it’s canal with old stone waterwheels.  It has a whole section of the town devoted to antique shops.
My classmates have gotten much more comfortable around me this month so I’ve gotten to do a lot more things with them outside of school.  One of the highlights was going for a hike in the vineyards and foothills with some of my friends.  We got to go grape pickimarisa-novpic4ng, take hundreds of photos, have a mini-picnic, and just enjoy each other’s company. Days like this I really feel as if I belong here. 
At the end of October, France has a school break for Toussaint’s Day, and my host family decided to take Karla and me to Spain for a week.  It was a dream. The first few days we spend on the French border fo
r a the birthday of my host mom’s goddaughter in a beautiful mountious reginon.
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After, we spend two days at Port Aventura, an amusmant park in Spain before heading to Barcelona for five days. Port Aventura reminded me of a mix between Epcot and Kings Island. It was split into themed areas of countries around the world, but a lot of the rides resembled almost exactly rides from Kings Island, which I love. We got lucky and only had to wait 30 minutes at most for each ride.  My favorite portion of the trip was the part in Barcelona.  It’s definitely the most beautiful city I’ve been to and there is no shortage of things to do. In our time there, I got the chance to bike through the city, see a soccer match, visit a market, run on the beach, see the Sagrada Familia and other touristic sites, and see a water fountain show.  There is so much to say about Barcelona, so I’m going to write a blog post about it with more detail. marisa-novpic1
My exchange is continuing to help me grow as a person. Living in a foreign country with a foreign language and foreign culture, it’s impossible not to make mistakes. Being here, I’ve become much more tolerant, not just with those around me but also with myself.  You have to let all the little frustrations in life be just that – little – to truly be happy.  It’s not too difficult for me to do this here, as there are an overwhelming amount of incredible things to focus on in my life, but I hope I can keep this mentality with me when I return and throughout my life.
This month, I’ve focused a lot on using “Be Here Now.” At first, this one was pretty easy; I didn’t know people to contact in France, so
I was rarely on my phone. Now that I have a virtual life here as well, I am working hard to make sure that I stay engaged with what’s going on right where I am. It’s so much easier to enjoy each moment when you’re your mind is on what’s around you.  
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Thank you again to everyone in the Dublin Worthington Rotary Club for giving me this life changing experience.  I cannot express how grateful I am for all the support from everyone both back home and here.
December 1
Yet another month here in France has finished; time has really flown by.  I’ve now been in France for 99 days, and I still feel so lucky to be here. With Thanksgiving being this month, I would like to take some time to write about some of the things I was thankful for this month:
Being in France, I wasn’t sure if I would get to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, but thanks to my amazing host family, we were able to recreate a traditional dinner.  I knew I wanted to do something special show my gratitude, and they were more than happy to get to experience this American holiday. It was a bit of a challenge as finding similar ingredients was difficult and it was my first time using a gas stove, but I was thrilled to be able to share a little bit of my culture with them.  Neither my host family nor Karla (my Mexican exchange friend) had ever celebrated Thanksgiving before, so it made the day even more special. It was so heartwarming to be able to sit down with my French family and my Mexican sister at a candlelit table to say a traditional prayer and express our gratitude for one another.  Everyone enjoyed the food, so I’d say my first (and maybe only) Thanksgiving in France was a success. 
  Just by living in Apt, I have an abundance of things to be grateful for. Every time I look out the window, I see the beautiful foothills dotted with adorable Provencal homes.  The people here are also so kind; I’ve continued to become closer with my friends at school, and I’m so thankful to be in a class with such genuine people.  They’ve helped me so much with everything, from feeling comfortable in this foreign culture, to French slang, to introducing me to new experiences, to schoolwork. 
Seeing the other exchange students in District 1760 is always a highlight for me, and this month the Rotex organized a weekend for us at  a town called Orange.  Even though it was in the middle of November, it was a Halloween themed weekend, complete with lots of decorations and also a night of disguises.  We spent most of the weekend at a Rotarian’s house enjoying each other’s company and doing activities that the Rotex planned for us.  On Saturday, we also got the chance to see the theater in Orange, which was absolutely magnificent. It was built by the Romans, and standing in the center you can imagine what it must have been like to look up at the crowds filling the stands.  I’m so thankful to not only get to visit places like this, but also to have my international family right there with me. 
I’ve been continuing to be involved with the Interact Club in Apt, and this month we got the chance to help with the “Banque Alimentaire” (a food drive organization in France).  We all took shifts over the course of two days collecting donations in one of Apt’s supermarkets.  It was great to be able to give back to this community that has become my home. 
Of course, I am incredibly thankful for Rotary, especially the Dublin Worthington Rotary Club, for sponsoring me this year.  This truly is the experience of a lifetime that I wish more people got the chance to take.  I hope you are all doing well in Ohio, and enjoy the holiday season!
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January 1 2017

Christmas was really different for me this year but amazing all the same. I had a great time discovering French Christmas traditions; there are some of the same ones (decorating a tree, putting out Christmas decorations around the house, hanging up a wreath, etc) but there are also some traditions specific to Provence.  For example, on the fourth of December, they plant wheat for St. Barbe, which supposedly brings good luck for the following year.  Another important tradition in Provence is creating a beautiful nativity scene – I know we do this in the US as well, but it’s not at all the same thing.  In many homes, the family will take a whole afternoon to create it, starting by going into the woods to get moss, and finishing by carefully placing the figurines.  They’re filled with Provençal scenes, such as someone tending to lavender fields or working at a windmill (which actually spins), and of course the manger. The Christmas table is another important part of Christmas decorating. My host mom especially loves this aspect of Christmas, so our tables were incredibly beautiful and ornate (I’ll include pictures).  Being in France, of course the food is one of the biggest traditions of Christmas day.  We actually had two Christmas meals: the evening of the 24th and the afternoon of the 25th.  I got to try lots of delicious new delicacies, from escargot to truffles.
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I got the chance to help out my Rotary club this month by helping them in their fundraiser supporting the elimination of cancer.  Together, we baked 300 spice cakes and sold them over the course of two days during Apt’s markets.  We also did something similar this month with the Interact club, where we sold hot chocolate and cake at the illumination of Apt to raise money.  Marisa-JanPic5
One of the highlights of this month was visiting Paris for Marisa-JanPic2the first time with my host family.  The trip was quick but amazing. We arrived Saturday night, and I got the chance to see the Eiffel Tower, which was magnificent illuminated
for the nighttime.  My host mom surprised us by taking us out to dinner at a beautiful restaurant at the top of the Montparnesse Tower, where we had an incredible view of the whole city.  The next day, we were invited to a baptism of the goddaughter of my host dad, so a lot of our time was spent involving that.  It took place in the Military School of Paris, which was an incredible beautiful campus that not many people have the chance to enter.  That day we also
quickly got to see the Eiffel Tower (up close this time), the Champs-Elysées, and the Christmas windows of the Galeries Lafayette.  We left around eight pm Sunday, making our adventures in Paris only 24 hours, but an amazing 24 hours. I have a post on my blog about it if you would like more detail.Marisa-JanPic3
Earlier this week, I finally visited Marseille, the second biggest city in France.  It’s completely different from Paris, but an incredible city as well.  We got lucky to have beautiful weather, which made the Old Port and the sea look even more picture-perfect. The Notre Dame of Marseille is located at the top of a huge hill overlooking the city, and the view from the top was incredible. We could walk all the way around, giving us a 360 degree view of the endless buildings, and the beautiful Mediterranean.  Before we left, we got to watch the sunset, creating a great ending to the day.Marisa-JanPic4
Once again, thank you so much to the Dublin-Worthington Rotary Club for giving me this incredible year.  Also, after getting to see first hand a little bit of the work Rotary does for the community, I would like to thank you all for investing your time and efforts to improve our world; it’s really the kind-hearted, motivated people like you who can make a difference.  I wish you all an incredible holiday season, and happy New Year!
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February 1
Once again it is time for my monthly report. I’ve just finished my fifth month in France, making this just about the halfway point. 
January has been full of new experiences for me.  One of the first was the celebration of Epiphany, which nearly everyone celebrates in France.  Although it’s a Catholic holiday, by most people it isn’t celebrated in a religious way but by eating cake and brioche made specially for the day.  Inside, they bake a little figurine, and while eating whoever finds the figurine in their piece of cake becomes the king or queen for the day.
The biggest change for me in January was changing my host family. Right in the middle of the month, I swapped families with the Mexican exchange student, Karla, so that now I am living with the Bonnets.  I definitely felt a bit of deja vu, once again being in a new house, with a new family, and a completely new routine.  Overall I think that changing families is an important aspect of the exchange year; it opens your eyes to multiple ways of living not only between countries but within a single town.  Everything is going extremely well in my new family.  They are so sweet and now I have a sibling in the house (a younger brother named Gabriel). They seem to be really interested in the American culture which always excites me, and they are excited to get to try some American foods.  I also still get to see my old family pretty often as they are the family of Karla. 
This month, I was also lucky enough to visit the French Alps.  My Rotary district organized a weekend for all of the exchange students to stay with Rotarians living in Barcelonnette, a beautiful mountain town.  I stayed with a Rotarian named Andre and his wife, Bernadette, as well as one other students (Haruka from Japan).  Once again, I was staying with a new family so I got to see another way of French life, and the Club of Barcelonnette organized plenty of new activities for us to try.  The Saturday, we got to go skiing at a resort called “La Sauze” where we split up based on experience.  I was in ski school all morning and the afternoon I got to try on my own.  Although I didn’t do any slopes other than the greens, I can say I absolutely loved skiing. On Sunday, they took us to the Italian border where we got to dogsled.  I never imagined that I would get to do that in my life, and it was all incredibly beautiful and had a dream-like quality: the snow covered mountains, the huskies, even a little igloo. There was also an enormous amount of wind, making it the coldest I’ve ever been in France.  Before leaving, my host family in Barcelonnette told me that if I ever want to come back, even if its in 10 years, I will always be welcome.  Meeting people like this is so heartwarming.
Just at the end of this month, another exchange student arrived in Apt from Australia.  He also is here through Rotary, but since the seasons are opposite there, he will be here January-January.  He doesn’t speak much French yet, so I’ve been doing a lot of translating the last few days.  Talking with him brings me back to the beginning of my exchange and how much I’ve changed since then. For one, now I can see how much I’ve improved in the language.  I am by no means bilingual yet, but I would say I am conversationally fluent despite my ever present American accent.  Another thing I’ve realized this month is how flexible I’ve become.  Since this month I’ve spent time in three different families, I’ve gotten to see three different lifestyles, but also learn to adapt three times.  At the beginning of the year, I can imagine this would have been a bit difficult for me, but now I am more open-minded and less set in routine.  I actually really enjoy getting to live in different families; although at first it feels a bit foreign and out of place, I love talking to new people and seeing a new side of the French culture.  
Yesterday, we had a kind of “job fair” at the high school, where a bunch of people from all different fields came to talk to us about what they do for a living and how they got there. I ended up attending the tourism lecture, which I found to be interesting.  At the end, there was time for questions, and I had a lot of questions for the women who was the tour guide.  Being curious really paid off; after finding out that I was American and seeing my general interest, she offered to take me along with her one day this summer when she has American clients to see what kind of work she does.  She also told me that this winter during the tourism off-season, she would love to give me a tour of my region of France to see some things I haven’t gotten to visit yet.
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March 1
Six months have passed here in France.  It doesn’t feel real that it’s already been half a year – the time passes way to quickly.
February has flown by – maybe because I’ve been really busy or maybe because it’s the shortest month.  At the beginning of the month I got to celebrate yet another new holiday – La Chandeleur.  This day is basically the crepe day in France, so the evening of the second, my host dad made both sweet and savory crepes.  He also let me try a few times – it’s actually not too hard once you figure out how to flip them.
Speaking of cooking, in my second family I’ve gotten to cook a lot more often.  I love being able to give back and share a bit of  my culture, and my family loves to try new recipes.  So far, I’ve made mac and cheese, spinach and artichoke dip, pancakes, and homemade fries.
This month I had my Rotary Club presentation the 13th.  We ate a meal with the Rotarians as usual and after we had the presentations of the three exchange students in Apt this year and also the three who had gone on exchange last year.  Since there were a lot of speakers, our presentations weren’t too long; mine was about 8 minutes including questions.  Overall I think my presentation went really well, and I got to exchange the club flag.
One thing that’s great about being an exchange student in France is there are school vacations all the time. Usually for every 6 weeks or so of school, you get 2 weeks of vacation.  During these vacations, I had my first Bus Trip, which was the trip from Paris to Barcelona.  The trip was absolutely incredible; over the course of one week 47 other exchange students and I got to quickly visit Paris, a castle on the Loire, lots of museums, Toulouse, Barcelona, Futurescope, and Figueres.  My favorites were the Chateau de Chambord (the castle) and Toulouse because both were completely new for me.  The chateau looked like it came straight out of a fairytale. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more enchanting building, with it’s grand spiral staircases, long windows, hundreds of passageways, and intricate decorations.  Toulouse is the fourth biggest city in France, but I love how it doesn’t have a big city atmosphere.  There’s a nice balance of having a lot of people and lots to do, but also being so beautiful that it has a charm close to that of a much smaller town.  I will definitely come back one day and spend some more time there.  Beside visiting so many amazing places, I also got to meet so many more exchange students from all over.  I have so much to say about everything, so I’ll write a blog post with more detail.
For the Six Be’s, I’ve used “Be Here Now” a lot this month – partly because I was trying harder and partly because I was forced to.  My old phone drowned at a cross country race where it was absolutely pouring, so I went about a week without a phone.  Not having a phone made me realize how much I use my phone when I do have it, and since then I’ve made an effort to use it less.  Ironically, the day after I broke my phone was an international “disconnect” day.
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April 1
Happy spring! The weather is really warming up here – today it’s in the 70s – which makes me appreciate Provence even more.  At the same time, the warmer weather makes it feel like there will actually be an end to this year, which is so difficult and strange to think about. Apt has really become a home to me.
March has been a busy but great month. School is still going well, and my French is continuing to become better and better.  It was pretty funny the other day because I actually understood a vocabulary word that my friend didn’t, which I managed to explain to her.  I still have an American accent, but the ease with which I can speak has definitely changed a lot.
I’m lucky to say that almost all my free time this month has been spent traveling.  The host family that I’m in really loves helping me to discover their region of France, so almost every weekend I got to visit a nearby Provencal town.  I’ve had the chance to see Gordes, an abby, and Lacoste to name a few.  Each town is uniquely charming and it always shocks me how some of the houses are older than our country.
Halfway through March, I returned to the Alps and to go skiing with my host family.  This time, we stayed in a ski town called Puy-Saint-Vincent.  The view from the apartment was incredible; the Alps are still the most beautiful place I have ever been, even when there isn’t a lot of snow.  Luckily, there was still snow on the slopes, so we skied from opening until closing, only taking a break to have a picnic halfway down one time. Everyone in my host family knew how to ski well, but this was only my third time so we started out slow.  By the end of the day, we were going down the blues and reds, so I’d say it was pretty successful, even if I did fall a lot.  Sunday, they took me to a place called “Les Grands Bains du Monêtier”, which is a facility with assorted types of pools and a mountain view.  My favorite was the outdoor one.  It was a strange but pleasant sensation to sit in the warm water but have the cold mountain breeze on your face.  
Most recently, I attended the French JRJ event, which is a conference with all the exchange students who are here in France this year.  It was held in La Rochelle, a city on the west coast of France.  Almost all of Friday and Sunday were spend in the bus, because it was about 11 hours each way.  Saturday was filled with activity.  The morning we visited the town and saw the Hermione (a boat that went to the US during the revolution).  That afternoon, the president of Rotary International came out to see us, so we took a group picture on the port with the more-than-500 exchange students. After, we attended a conference where we got to hear John Germ speak, as well as former exchange students.  That night, we had a grand dinner with the president, where we held a flag ceremony and all sang the national anthems of our countries.  In total there were 75 Americans there.  Being surrounded by so many nationalities in one place is an indescribable feeling; it’s like seeing our vision of the world, where everyone, no matter where they come from, can represent their countries together, sing together, and laugh together.
With time flying so quickly, I’ve started to appreciate my home here even more, if possible.  I realize just how fortunate I am to be here, to have the friends I have, the families I have, and in general the life I have.  Life has been so busy, so I’ve been trying to take the time to pause and notice the little beautiful things, like the daisy which have started to pop up everywhere of the way the sunset looks in a puddle.  This is one of the biggest things I’ve learned this year: how to be actually live in the moment and find little things to be happy about.
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