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May 9, 2013

Local Voices From Around The Globe: Exchange is like a life in a year

“Exchange is not a year in a life, but a life in a year.” - unknown.

All exchange students realize the credibility of this statement. Like all lives no exchange is the same, all are incredible unique exchanges. The metaphor of life, from baby to old age, extends to every part of the exchange.

My first months of my Rotary International exchange in Bolivia, I was like a baby in this new life. I arrived in Santa Cruz at 2 a.m. without my luggage. My host mom waiting for me saw I was without luggage, passed security and took the problem out of my non-understanding hands. I trusted her with me and all I came with and I only knew her for one minute. This is how a baby is with its parents; the baby doesn’t know his or her parents, yet trusts them with everything.

As the days passed I felt like a sponge soaking in everything, how Cruceños eat, their daily habits, the traffic, etc. My jaw was constantly on the floor with awe and excitement about my new home and life; I was like a baby with the constant look of curiosity and happiness. Just as an infant is constantly meeting new people, I was always meeting new people: My new relatives, the kids at school, exchange students and others. In the infancy of my exchange I communicated through a giant game of charades due to the fact I had no prior knowledge of the Spanish language. This is like the baby who communicates with hands, gurgling and crying. As I got to know my new home and learned the new language I grew into the next section of my life.

Infants turn into teenagers and college students overnight in their parents’ eyes and enter the next section of life. Months after my infancy in Bolivia came my teenage and early college years of exchange. Most teenagers go through a period of rebellion and dislike their current life and home. This came to me through culture shock and homesickness. I started disliking things in Santa Cruz just because. I disliked the crazy driving and all the speed bumps, the trash in the streets and the deplorable conditions of beggars, the relaxed sense of time and plans. Everything that was different about Santa Cruz I disliked.

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