Not From Around Here Are You?

Never in my life had I ever met somebody (knowingly) who didn’t have U.S. citizenship. I live in the middle of the country, so I don’t have ports, I don’t live in the big city, and even though I live in a college town, any foreign people that do go to college here, why would I be talking to many college students in my early years of high school and earlier? Well, I honestly didn’t even know high schools could get foreign exchange students until my German teacher told me about a German foreign exchange student. I was like, “How the heck am I supposed to know who one foreign exchange student is, out of 1200+, considering most exchange students enter at the junior level.” Now that I have completed my junior year of high school, I was startled to meet so many foreign exchange students. I want today to be in honor of them, knowing they’ll be leaving very soon or have already left.

I won’t name names, but I will mention their country of origin briefly. The first one I met was from Armenia. The funny thing was I didn’t know there was a country called Armenia. I later found out in that same class there was another exchange student from Ghana. Both these people came from fairly obscure countries, and I found myself thinking, “That’s pretty neat. But I wonder if we have any students from more ‘famous’ countries, like England or China or Japan or France, etc.” Towards the end of the year, I met a lot more. I met one from Germany, Brazil, Egypt, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, I’m pretty sure Taiwan, and then I heard about a guy from France, but I never said a word to him. I also heard of a person from Spain, and some from China. For most of those people, I officially met them like two weeks before school ended, to my dismay. All of them are such unique, fascinating people who aside from their accents are just as American as the rest of us. And that whole lack of U.S. citizenship thing. The point being though, it was really amazing to meet people who were born and raised in such drastically different worlds, but we were all able to come together for however short a time and connect on a human, teenager level.

When it comes to their home country, the person I talked to most was the Czech girl. I actually met her through the Armenian girl, but she and I talked a lot backstage of some shows and show rehearsals about her experiences here. I really, desperately want to travel, and these people are the closest I’ll come for now, until this summer when I go to Mexico on a mission and next spring when I go to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. I’ll actually see the Czech girl there. Anyway, I find it fascinating to hear about their cultures and countries, and then their take on American society. Naturally, there are good and bad things about both countries, but the one thing I’ve heard almost all of them say, is that they don’t want to leave America. They want to stay for at least another year. That’s awesome to hear, though I would partially attribute that to them having the fortune to come to Colorado, especially Fort Collins instead of somewhere else that might not be as awesome. Like Kansas. Sorry Kansas. But more seriously, if they’d been placed in Los Angeles or Las Vegas or somewhere less desirable, I wonder what their impression about America would be. We have here access to the outdoors and a lot of chains and malls. There is very little crime, the people are pretty friendly, it’s got beautiful weather, and the only things that instantly come to mind as problems are the amount of pot smokers and alcoholics. The city is located next to a Budweiser plant, there’s a Fat Tire factory or something pretty close, and it’s a college town, so naturally there are a lot of drunks downtown. However, I still love the city, and I think it has something to do with them loving it here so much.

The German girl and I, after knowing each other for a day, even less than that, probably an hour, already have an inside joke. At a goodbye party to the Armenian girl, the music they had was largely in Spanish. We both started “Bernie-ing”, or doing the Bernie dance. That being, for those who don’t know the letting your arms hang loose, lean backwards, and pretend you’re doing the wave with your shoulders. Or you can look it up on YouTube. The Hispanic music isn’t usually something you Bernie to, but we both did and said you can Bernie to anything if you Bernie to the beat. I still hold that to be true, and it remains my primary source of dancing at homecoming and Prom. She also tried to fool me into believing she was the sister of three Korean students, which I only half bought. She has a different last name and she is from a different country, but her hair was dyed the same color and she was Asian, so I couldn’t tell 100%. I know now though she isn’t really.

I had remembered seeing the Swiss guy at Dare2Share in March, courtesy of another friend for pointing him out to me at Dare2Share. I only offically met him at that goodbye party, and I saw him the next day on a final excursion to TCBY for the Armenian girl, but again, another interesting person. I deducted that since he was at Dare2Share, he was Christian, and I talked to him a little about that, and he said that in his school back in Switzerland, out of 800 students, maybe ten or so were Christians. That was a terrifying figure. I also found out he is a fellow Tolkien nerd like me, though probably even more so since he read the books in German and English, and he actually read all the Tolkien books. I’ve read four and a half. It’s going on my to do list.

The Czech girl is the one I know best. She’s told me all about Prague and the differences between here and there, and her take on the school system which is terrible by comparison in academics but she loved that electives like music and theatre and art could be taken as classes in school. In order to learn an instrument in Prague, you would have to do it on your own time. There is hardly a thing in the world we didn’t talk about or at least skim over. She was in theatre for the second semester too, so I know her from that as well.

I feel like I’ve mentioned the Armenian girl a lot without actually saying anything about her. I knew her since about day one of junior year, and saw her pretty much every day of school until this past Tuesday. Since she was my first exchange student, I asked a lot of questions about what she thought of America and such, and it was interesting to hear from someone coming from the Middle East. She gave a presentation about her country in my U.S. History class, and often times she asked me about the U.S. history material, or I’d ask her about it to see what she thought of it. We were also in Physics together and did a number of projects together. I had to help her in Physics too. The linear physics wasn’t too hard for me because I was good at Algebra, and I was simultaneously taking Calculus, which is used to measure Physics. I just sort of understood most of theoretical, on paper Physics. Applied Physics though, I’m sure I’d be just as lost. Anyway, she also did a couple theatre shows so I saw her there as well.

I’m going to skip over the rest of the exchange students not because they’re any less important, but just because I quite frankly can’t think of enough words to say. This is addressed to all those foreign exchange students. All of you have been such wonderful additions to the school and to my life for however brief a time. It’s been a pleasure having you guys in the country and the city and the school, and I’m sure I won’t forget any one of you soon. I’d really like to keep in contact with all of you, which is why I added you all on Facebook. I won’t say goodbye, because I’m determined to not let it be the last time I see you in my life. So I will say until I see you again. Auf Wiedersehen. Adieu. Dokud jsem tě zase vidím. Kým som ťa zase vidím. Até que eu te ver de novo. Sorry if any of these are wrong, I just used Google translate for most of them, or if I skipped your native language because I don’t know exactly what it is. I will miss you all. I’ll end it with some lyrics to my favorite song ever by Carrie Underwood, “See You Again”. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking
But I stay strong and I hold on cause I know
I will see you again, whoa
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, yeah, yeah
I will see you again, whoa
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, oh
‘Til I see you again.

Until then, I wish you all the best as you enjoy your last weeks in Colorado, and safe travels. Have wonderful lives. Until next time.

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