Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Beginning

Back at home after exchange, my life has been normal – as in peace and tranquility, not pain and boredom.  I am currently in grade 12, running the last leg of high school till graduation!  Although my friends since preschool already graduated last year, I found other kind and welcoming friends from this new generation so being back in Canadian school life wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.  Like before, my daily life is packed with never-ending tasks, activities, and university applications – so once again, I’m back to that same old Sari: the girl who’s always running in the hallway.  (It may seem ironic, but this is my definition of calm and normality.)

Despite my hectic (no wait, I said ‘calm’...) lifestyle, I occasionally think about my friends back in France or those who live in other corners of the world, wondering how they’re doing in each of their separate lives.  Exquisite memories that I shared with my friends, host families and Rotarians start dancing in my mind by just glancing at a reminiscent photo or hearing a conversation in French. Every time this happens, something pulls inside of me, wanting to return to the past to enjoy those treasured moments again.   My plane ride across the Atlantic.  My host moms’ home-cooked food. Travelling with my first best friends to my first city, Dijon.  The generous and thoughtful Rotarians who took me to the famous wine village of Beaune.  My three Inbound weekends in LandrevilleSainte-Marie-la-Blanche and Souevre-Vézelay.  The best holidays in le nord and Vimy Ridge.  The uncontrollable laughter of my friends during Eurotour.  My last day of lycée.  I terribly miss them all so much.  Yet, against this immense desire to relive my exchange, some magic-like force encourages me to focus on the present and to keep progressing forward.  

I then realized that those people who’ve helped me during my year – whether on homework or by sharing with me laughter – are still living inside of me.  I am not alone, and nothing is left behind.  The choices that I make today are indeed influenced by lessons that I’ve learned during my year abroad.  The perspectives I have upon our world is rooted in international friends who’ve I met along my journey.  To know that I have sincere, family-like relationships with people across borders makes me feel inspired to continue embracing our common aspects even if they're not physically next to me anymore.

Like I promised last time, here are the photos of the Weekend Orientation that took place in Calgary with all the District 5360 outbounds (out-going Canadian students), inbounds (exchange students), Rotexs (returned students like myself), Rotarians and outbound parents.  I was also here two years ago as an outbound student, and time seemed to slip by so quickly like sand running through one's hands.  Here we were, back to where we began:

Front to Back Row: Outbounds, Inbounds, Rotexs

Blazer time!

With Amanda, a senior Rotex who lived in France the year before me!
We talked on Facebook and Skype before but this was the first time
I ever met her in person!
News!  My little sister Juli (fourth from left, back row) is going to
Sweden this year for her exchange!

Two years ago, I was just an ordinary high school student who only knew how to say three but very essential phrases with confidence:  ‘Bonjour’ (hello), ‘Je suis desolée’ (I am sorry) and ‘J’ai faim’ (I am hungry).  (Wow... that must've taken you very far..., you might be thinking.)  Considering my poor language background at that time, there was obviously some (if not quite a lot of) courage for me to partake on exchange.  But what a year-long expedition it was.  I've travelled in 9 countries in total, became fluent in French (making me trilingual now), wrote the Baccalauréat (BAC) (a national exam for all regular French students) and even convinced my host Rotary Club to continue funding for the Youth Exchange Program so they can keep hosting international students year after year.  (To add a note, I was my host club's first 'trial' student.  Luckily, my club decided to send my second host sister to Japan this year which literally made me bawl!)  Boy, those Rotarians were not lying when they said exchanges are full of unpredictable challenges yet full of rewarding outcomes!

At the end of the Orientation, we, the Rotexs, were giving our final messages on how exchange has impacted us.  Then unexpectedly, it all hit me at once.  It was the last session of the weekend.  It was the last time we were speaking about our exchanges with Rotary.  It was the last time I'd see us Rotexs altogether.  Our three years of involvement (before, during, and after exchange) with the Rotary Youth Exchange Program was coming to an end.  This was our finish line.  It was suppose to be time for glory and I should've just smiled and kept it as that.  However, I didn't.  Instead, I felt a sudden pang of disbelief.  The world seemed to be held on pause.  Hot tears went down my cheeks and my mind trembled between proudness and sadness.  Then a familiar warmth surrounded me like a comforting blanket; it was Amelia who hugged me tightly.  She's been with me ever since the program was introduced in my life and I could never fully express how grateful I was to have a caring, supportive friend like her through these three years.  Miranda too, a future outbound student who's going to France, gave me a friendly, gentle hug.  As she hasn't experienced exchange yet, I was surprised of her compassion and her understanding for me.  I didn't know if she perceived the exact meaning of my tears but I knew she comprehended that exchange is an extraordinary privilege for a young person to live through. It's something so uniquely special, as a Rotarian once told me: "Exchange isn't a year in a life.  It's a life in one year."   Shortly after, I made a wide grin thinking that someday, she will understand and experience that too.

Amelia and I who made it to the end :)

My exchange has been concluded over half a year ago and I absolutely cannot believe how swiftly time back at home has flown by.  A year of adventure, new discoveries, growth of friendships and knowledge seemed to be a distant yet fond memory floating in my sea of thoughts.  After some time, I have gradually accepted the reality that I live in Canada with a different life and a different me.  The world has changed, and so did I.  And I still am; while this Earth revolves and the Sun beams new light day after day, I continuously discover more about the world and deeper within myself.  At the end of the day, I finally understood: my life is an adventure, and will forever be an adventure.  Although my exchange is long over, my journey keeps on going as if every day is just a new beginning.

Thank you to the Rotary Club of Canmore, the Rotary Club of Louhans, my three host families and my family at home who made my exchange possible.  You truly changed my life and I cherish your loving support.

Thank you to my friends in France and around the world.  I miss you all so, so much and I think of you every day.

And last but not the least, thank you to my beloved blog readers for always being by my side.

Adventuring forever,


  1. Coucou ma Sarita! C'est avec un grand bonheur que nous venons de revisiter ton blog et avec Annegret d'Allemagne... Quelle belle Sari's Adventure!!!! A bientôt! Gros bisou. Phil-de-France (Et non pas fil-de-fer)...

    1. Merci Philippe ! J'espère que tout le monde va bien en France et j'ai hâte de te revoir bientôt.

  2. trimakasih infonya gann,,
    sangat menarik,,
    salam sukses,,

    1. Hi Joi,

      Thanks for your kind comment! I'm glad that you found my blog helpful!