Monday, March 26, 2007

Application and Culture Trek

Hey, again.

So basically... I was so excited about applying that I sent in my pre-application in late August 2006. That was simple: name; birth date; parents' names; address; etc.

The full application was harder - 10 forms of medical information, tons of different numbers, and other things like that. I also had to send in a letter and a photo page to my host family. That was fun, as I got a chance to go through all of my pictures and have an afternoon of nostalgia. And some pretty cool people are on that page. :-) I finally sent in the completed application at the end of September... only to find out that it wouldn't be sent to France until January 1, 2007. The good part about getting it in early is that I got a $100 dollar discount on my tuition.

Later on the day I sent in my application, I realized what I had just done. It was exciting and really scary. It's been tough on my nerves, especially since I don't know a lot about where I'm going. All I can really find out is general info about France, but there are so many different places within France that it's hard to really be prepared until I have a specific town. But all the same, I'm ecstatic about being accepted.

In February, I got the Culture Trek workbook from AFS. It's basically a series of readings and activities designed to show you that all cultures are different and to better prepare the student for situations in which they may not know what to do because of cultural differences. There were also quotes from previous AFS students in it, and it was funny to hear about the people who spoke in French grammar for two weeks after they returned home and to think about myself doing the same.

On the host family front, I still have no idea who I'll be placed with. I hope I find out soon!!

I'm being called for dinner.



Sunday, March 11, 2007


Hi, all!

Many of you probably know me already, but for those of you who don't... My name is Catherine and I'm from Westford, MA. I'm currently thoroughly enjoying my Sophomore year at Westford Academy. :-) I'm pretty much a normal teenager: I love to hang out with my friends; I listen to a lot of music; and I'm addicted to House, M.D. and CSI.

There are a few things, however, that set me apart from the crowd: I read constantly; I have an obsession with punctuation and grammar; and I'm going to France for my Junior year of high school.

Yes, you heard (read) me correctly. I am leaving the comfort of the town I've grown up in for a place that is completely, well, foreign to me. One might possibly wonder, "What in the world would make anyone do that?" It's hard for me to answer that question. There's a very simple answer that is, at the same time, an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, even for me.

Here's the simplest answer possible: I'm going because I want to.

Please, don't read into that sentence too much. I'm not spoiled and I don't get everything that I want just because I want it. And it isn't even just a passing whim. It's a...*deciding on a good phrase* deep desire.

...Which brings me to the more complicated portion of my answer. My mom went on an exchange trip when she was in high school, so I've grown up hearing stories about her experience. When I was in the phase where I wanted to be just like my mom, I wanted to go to Norway, just like she did, for the simple reason that she had done that. Eventually, this started to mature into this idea that I could go to France. My dad grew up speaking French-Canadian (which is admittedly very different from Parisian French) at home and his whole family speaks French-Canadian, so I've also grown up not understanding what half of my family says unless it is translated. I started taking French in school in 6th grade, but there's a huge difference between learning French in a classroom and being immersed in the French culture while simultaneously learning French.

Culture is another huge part of my reason for going. It will be so fun and exciting to learn about the culture(s) in France. And, while I'm doing that, I'll get to teach other people about American culture. I strongly believe that culture is one of the things that we as a nation, as a community, and even as individual people need to understand about other societies in order to get closer to some semblance of world peace. Hopefully, by embarking on this endeavor, I will be able to help a few people towards understanding this importance of understanding and accepting other cultures.

These things, along with just wanting to have fun, brought this want for a different cultural experience to a much deeper level. As well as being excited when I heard that AFS-USA had accepted my application and I would be going somewhere (at this point, it didn't even mean I would get accepted by France), I was immensely relieved. I didn't know what I'd do with myself next year if I didn't go somewhere. I mean, I probably would have just gone along with what I've been doing and maybe even applied again for my Senior year, but while I was waiting for that call from AFS, I had realized something: since I was old enough to understand what an exchange student was, I had planned my high school life around getting accepted. Not getting accepted would have been devastating.

Alright. I'll stop being so deep. :-) Let's get down to more of the details about my trip. I'm going through a program called AFS (American Field Service). My mom went to Norway and we hosted a student from Norway through AFS, so we're pretty comfortable with the program over here at my house. AFS-USA's mission statement is to "work toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities through a global volunteer partnership." So, you see, that's kind of perfect for me. :-) They're very focused on culture and its importance and, of course, having fun while you're having a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

I will be living with one family the whole school year and going to one of their local schools. I haven't found out who my host family is yet, so I can't tell you anything about where in France I'll be or my classes - or anything, really.

All I know so far is that I'm going to France and that I'm looking forward to it so, so much! Of course, I'm pretty nervous about it. As I said, I've lived in the same town for my whole life and suddenly I'm just moving to a whole different country. But I'm going into it in the right mindset, I think: Yeah, there will be some tough times, and probably even some times when I'm just going to want to catch a plane right back here. But there will be so many good things that happen there - things that will unquestionably outnumber and override the difficult things. And, hey, I'll learn from the hard things, right? :-)

That was pretty long. I promise my blog entries won't all be this long. :-)



P.S. Up next: The Application Process and Culture Trek