December 6, 2023

Journey of Discovery: Mary's Cultural Exchange in Texas

exchange student Mary and host family

Mary, hailing from Italy, now calls a cozy Texan town her home as part of a cultural exchange. She lives with a host family—mom, dad, and three siblings— in this smaller setting, a stark contrast to the bustling town she grew up in back in Italy. This change of scenery has been eye-opening, revealing new layers of herself.

Several factors motivated her decision to embark on this journey. Among them was her eagerness to delve into diverse cultures and traditions. She sought to understand how her upbringing shaped her, recognizing the impact of an environment and how that can shape someone. Being outside her familiar cultural milieu, she was offered a unique vantage point to uncover aspects of herself that might have otherwise remained unnoticed.

Upon arrival, Mary quickly realized that she was more emotionally delicate than she had initially thought. The new environment and cultural landscape were so different from what she was accustomed to. It was a contrast she found intriguing and welcoming! Despite the considerable differences, she has embraced the change wholeheartedly, managing to fight off homesickness by keeping herself busy.

This was Mary’s first time in the United States, following previous independent travels across Europe, including stops in France, Slovenia, Croatia, and even Cuba. When she returns to Italy, she plans to catch up with friends, and her studies, and find a job that will help her pay for her studies at a medical university.  

Reflecting on her experiences, she perceives this year abroad as a catalyst for positive personal growth. She continues to unearth facets of herself that she hadn’t noticed before. In addition to her academic pursuits, Mary actively contributes to her high school's volleyball team and dedicates time to volunteer work at her local church. Notably, her host parents commend her as a delightful presence, highlighting her wonderful rapport with their children and she always has a smile on her face!

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