Exchanges students reflect on the last year
As the year comes to pass, Valentini and Bonbled return to their home countries
June 6, 2016
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At the beginning of this school year, seniors Maria Valentini from Italy and Noemie Bonbled from Belgium arrived in Lake Stevens in search of new experiences with very different surroundings than what they were used to. Valentini and Bonbled were part of the student exchange program and spent ten months in Lake Stevens attending the high school.
“I’ve always dreamt of going to the United States, and a few years ago I came on vacation, and I knew I wanted to come back to experience the American way of life, so I found an organization for exchange students,” said Bonbled. “I was really excited to come in the US and live everything I’ve ever seen in the movies.”
For Valentini, her excitement in the program rooted her curiosity about the American culture.
“I was excited to have these opportunity to come here and truly experience the American style of life and have a full immersion with the language and the people’s and the culture,” said Valentini.
As if the complete culture shock wasn’t enough, Bonbled and Valentini had come from schools with entirely different schedules and structures, and a lack of extracurricular activities.
“It’s really different from my school in Belgium because it’s way bigger here and in Belgium school lasts longer and we don’t have sports or clubs after school,” said Bonbled.
In Italy there were even larger differences in the schools.
“School has been great, the teachers and people that I met they have been really welcoming. My school is completely the opposite. we don’t have lockers, sports or clubs at school. I don’t have a cafeteria at school, and the hours are [sorted] differently. Also the kids don’t change class, the teachers do and we have 14 subjects so each day it’s different,” added Valentini.
The transition for Bonbled and Valentini was not one without its challenges.
“Making friends was hard for me because I’m a bit quiet, so I don’t automatically go to talk to people. Due to me being quiet and a bit shy, making friends was a little challenging. And also making myself understandable was hard too, because apparently my accent’s hard to understand,” said Bonbled.
But for Valentini the challenges were a little different.
“I had a lot of homesick initially that was a big challenge and also to adapt at the style of life that was quite a challenge too. I met really great people that just accept for who I am and where I am from. On the other hand it was hard because some people are really close to their own group; they talk to you but then they will not hangout with you after school. So I guess you just have to find the right ones, and it could be harder but not impossible,” said Valentini.
Missing home was something both Bonbled and Valentini shared, but unlike Valentini, Bonbled was not as impacted by being away from home.
“It was not so difficult for me to be away from my family; of course I miss my family, but I’ve always been a bit independent so it was not that hard,” said Bonbled.
Now that the year is at its end, it’s time for Bonbled and Valentini to return home. They are facing the reality of their time here ending, and it’s a time full of reflection.
“Here I feel great I would totally do this again, but now I feel sad and happy at the same time.
I have to leave all the life and relationships that I built over 10 months and it’s so difficult. But on the other hand I have my family there and part of my life there too. So it’s like leaving your family and best friends to come back to your family and best friends. My favorite memory was when we had our family dinner. I think it was in November and we were talking at table and laughing and just talked about normal stuff and for the first time I felt like I was home, and [I felt] the love for them,” said Valentini.
This exciting chapter of their lives is at its end and they will return home a bit different after experiencing life without their families for the school year.
“I cannot really choose one memory because there are so much, I think the whole year will be my best memory, I will never forget it. Overall, this has been the best experience of my life so far! This experience made me grow and discover things about myself more than anything else. I’m sad to leave because it’s the end of my dream, and it’s hard to leave everything I built here, but in a way I tell myself that it’s only the beginning of finding new dreams to accomplish,” said Bonbled.