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Letter: Coming to Alaska as an exchange student

I’m a 16-year-old exchange student from Cairo, Egypt, who just completed a year studying at Juneau-Douglas High School. I had so many good teachers, coaches and friends in Juneau who all helped me have an amazing experience. It changed my life forever. I want to say thank you to everyone.

My host family was so nice that I no longer need to put “host” before “family” anymore. They are part of my family and I am part of theirs. And I found friendships that will last for a lifetime even though we will be living on the other side of the world.

Coming to Alaska wasn’t easy. I knew so little about it. I didn’t realize I had the kind of strength to make my year so successful. I participated in the school choir, sources of strengths, interact, played soccer and volunteered at the Glory Hole. I enjoyed being near the nature of Juneau and traveling by ferry to other cities in Southeast Alaska.

Everything new that I experienced opened my mind. The kind of change that has happened to me could never come from staying at home and watching television. I had to learn to find my own opinions about how Americans live instead of listening other people’s ideas.

That’s why I want to encourage every teenager to open their minds to the possibility that they be an exchange student in a foreign country. If you experience other cultures you will find like I did. It’s not good or bad. It’s just different. And their parents should support them because they will bring home much more than new knowledge about other places. They will learn so much more about themselves.

Living in Juneau has changed my life forever. I will miss it so much. But now it is time for me to go back to Cairo and help make positive changes in my community, my country. And maybe even the world.

Lena Okasha,

Juneau

JuneauEmpire.com