From Anna who spent the year in Ecuador
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied to the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, no idea that this year would be so life changing, no idea how hard I would have to work, and, finally, no idea how heartbreaking it would be to go home.
While at the first pre-exchange orientation I was doubtful. How could one year change my life so drastically? All of the rebound students say it. It changes your life and now I know what they mean. If asked to name how I have changed I stumble. How have I not changed?
I feel I am more independent, assertive, and self-confident. I am now more aware of my own values and ideals. I have learned a lot about the perception of the United States in the eyes of those abroad and I have learned that just by taking the time to speak with someone can change that. I have realized that I can be fearless, that I can face the world with a reckless grin instead of a cautious face. Looking back I see I was completely oblivious to these changes as they were happening.
I believe that having to become completely independent, immersed in a new culture causes this. It is such an instant change of environment that our rapid adaptation becomes who we are. I am not entirely certain how greatly this has affected my life but I feel that being able to walk up to someone and simply ask the time without feeling embarrassed is definitely a step up from my previous nature.
It is a combination of highs, lows, awkwardness and ambiguity, knowledge and the lack of. It is uncertainty and vulnerability. Most of all it is learning…learning about life,(yours and theirs) and about who you want to be as a person. I landed in Ecuador as a seventeen-year-old kid, timid and insecure. I will leave a confident, self-assured young adult ready to change the world. This year has opened up so many possibilities for me and I am very grateful to the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.