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366 Days

April 29, 2011

Exactly one year and one day ago, I received the e-mail from NSLI.  It didn´say congratulations.  It just said something like, ‘I am pleased to inform you that the NSLI-Y scholarship committee has recommended you to receive a 2010-2011 scholarship to study Turkish in Turkey for one academic year.’  I don´t quite remember the wording. 

I remember telling my family that I got it.  I didn´t need to say more.  I had been waiting the whole month for that e-mail.  It was a crazy feeling that after so much time of waiting, I was actually going to go.  The idea of exchange wasn´t an idea anymore.  It was reality.  A countdown existed.  Although I didn´t know the city or family, I knew that I would be going. 

Telling my friends was even stranger.  I had decided to keep the fact I have even applied for the scholarship out of the radar at school, only telling a few people.  When I finally told my classmates I wasn´t going to be coming back next year, it was a big surprise.  The fact I was going to be an exchange student was even more of a surprise.   Even though my school hosts exchangers almost every year, not one of us had ever gone.  I was the first. 

After that day, a lot changed.  Rather, my mindset was a lot different.  I had to get ready for next year.  I took my English class over the summer since I wasn´t going to be able to take it this year.  Seeing people at my sister´s graduation party was strange, because a) I had to tell them I was going to Turkey, or b) it was the last time I was going to see them before I left.  The last few days before I left, I was a mess.  Almost anything could make me cry…just because I was realizing I wouldn´t have these things in less than 100 hours.  A realization like that one causes you to think much, much differently.

So that day changed my mindset drastically.  April 28, 2010 until August 30, 2010.  Then I got on the plane at 7 a.m. on the morning of the 31st. 

I can´t even describe how much I have changed from that moment of looking through the window at my family while boarding the plane until now.  I have changed tremendously.

You don´t have to look far to see that I have not lived in small town Minnesota my whole life.  Let´s start with my Facebook friends.  Over half of my friends do not have an English name.  There aren´t too many Hasans or Cemres in Minnesota.  You can also find an ‘Alvaro’ and ‘Khaled’ in there too.  Not Turkish, but Brazilian and Palestinian.  It is amazing how many people from different places you meet as an exchange student. 

At the NYC orientation, one of the returnees said she became much more outgoing and louder through her exchange year.  While I may have become more outgoing, I would not say I am ‘louder’.  Maybe quieter even.  However, I am much more careful about what I say.  I am learning to think before I speak.  Yes, this is an important skill.

I am much more patient than when I first arrived.  You have to be.  I am learning a language; that doesn´t come overnight.  I am living with a 10 year old that wants to be exactly like me.   These, plus the fact I am living in a foreign country, has caused a great increase in patience.  It´s a good thing.

I don´t know for sure, but I think I relate to people more easily.  I have experienced and seen many things I never even knew existed.  Also, I now know first hand that sometimes you can´t solve a problem.  But if you are just willing to listen to someone talk and explain, they will feel a lot better.  Same goes when you are the one who is crying.  Plus, hugs are amazing.

I value my family so much more.  We truly do take the most important things in life for granted.  Once those things are gone, I realized just how much it relied on them.  I have learned to live quite far away, but that doesn´t change the fact I will be so overjoyed to be back with them in just two months.  (And a side note: does anyone know about big teeth or something like that?)

But it has been a year and a day since this whole crazy exchange really started.   More if you count the application process.  There is no doubt it has changed my life.  Yes, there has been a long of really indescribable hard moments throughout the year.  But I don´t regret it. 

Lesson 366: Don´regret the choices you make.  You can´t change the past, so learn to live with them and make the best of them.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Libby permalink
    April 30, 2011 6:24 am

    Sam in Pants! This post made me miss you so much! It seems like everything in Turkey is going wonderfully! As my school year is coming to a close, (only 4 more school days left and they’re all final days, it’s crazy!) I keep thinking how crazy it’s been without seeing the Stocker girls everyday!
    ❤ always, Libby

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