Thursday, May 30, 2013

may's lovely links

random things I've been reading that are somewhat travel related:

this link, "3 Reasons to Travel While You're Young", helps reassure me that traveling right now is a good idea (or at least not totally crazy). It's so true, whether you're in high school or not.

And another perspective, How to Have the Normal Knocked out of You (I just love the title of this post.)

This blogger writes about how she was robbed in Vietnam -- and how it was one of the best things to happen to her. Although I still have no desire to get robbed?

just for kicks... A Wimp's Guide to Taking a Cold Shower made me laugh. 

On Top of the World is a series of pictures one girl took at the top of various famous cities. Worth two minutes of your time :)

These lovely photos are basically just stylistic photographs from around the world. It really doesn't have anything to do with my blog, but I thought they were pretty so I included them anyway.

and finally, I know I'll have to learn to adjust to a different culture... but this post (on "assumptions about cultural adaptation") definitely provides food for thought. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

in which I write a normal post

(magden. i didn't take this picture, my host family sent it to me)

I've realized that I haven't actually updated you on anything that's happened since the District Conference. I've only posted random philosophical things, which (while fun to write), are not the most informative blog posts ever.


Since March I've heard from my host family. They live in a small village named Magden, (which is absolutely gorgeous) in the Basel region and near the intersection of the French, German, and Swiss borders. I will be going to school 45 minutes away in a city called Muttenz.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled.

Speaking of school, Swiss schools operate differently than American schools. Although that doesn't really bother me since I've never been to either...
I'll attend Gymnasium, which is basically another level of high school for Swiss students who are collegebound. My schedule will fluctuate throughout the week, with some days starting at 8 and going till 5, and other days starting at 10 and ending at 12. There are more subjects to juggle in a day, but the lessons are shorter (my host mom says that they last 45 or 50 minutes?) Also, from what I've heard, I don't have any homework and I can finish it all in school! Hooray :)

Meanwhile, things have been moving along here. Preparations for my visa, for my GA card in Switzerland, for language camp and for school and for everything that seems far away now but will be familiar and normal in a year. It's odd to think that all around the world, other kids are doing this exact same thing. Other kids have done this exact same thing. Call me self-centered, but for some reason it feels so much different for me to do it than it does for me to hear about others doing it.

I've actually begun to think about packing, early as it seems. I know I'm not supposed to bring too much stuff (Switzerland does have shopping, believe it or not :) ) but I have the odd impulse to bring as much of my belongings as possible, just to have things from home. At the same time, the stories that YEOs tell about coming with only a change of clothes and shoes and a carryon--well, that sounds adventurous, slightly risky, and extremely appealing.
Knowing me, I'll probably be somewhere in between the two extremes. There should be some sort of packing list... when I finally leave maybe I'll write one for all the future outbounds to follow me. Or maybe I won't, just so that they can experience the delightful wondering of whether they've packed everything they need and do they need shampoo or should they buy it there and do they need a year's worth of lotion and what if none of their clothing fits in and should they bring peanut butter and oh why is packing so complicatedly boring?


I should probably be practicing my German more often--currently I'm in the middle of Dress Week for a musical, so I haven't had all that much free time. Still, I'm doing some vocabulary work through Language Perfect and practicing on Duolingo when I get the chance. I'm also carrying a German grammar book with me basically everywhere, hoping that it'll transfer its secrets to me simply by the fact that I am in its immediate vicinity. Maybe languages can be absorbed through the skin?

Oh well, one can always hope.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

(not) in captivity

Some exchange students say they can't wait to leave, that they have to get out of their hole of a house/school/town/etc., that going abroad is going to be such an amazing escape.

Except that I don't feel like that.
I don't want to escape. I honestly don't feel like there is much to escape from. I'm happy with where I am, for the most part, and I am worried about leaving that for a whole entire year.

As poetic as it sounds, I have to admit that I don't feel like a caged bird. I have no need to get away from the world I am in now. If Rotary called and told me that my exchange was dropped, I would be sad. I would be depressed. I would probably cry. But I don't think my life would fall apart.

Is that horrible? Because I want very badly to go, don't get me wrong. There are millions of reasons why I want to go, and I have no intention of dropping this exchange ever. I am going to work on my exchange and I am going to work hard.

But I am worried, because somehow the need that seems to be pushing others is not pushing me. I don't hate my friendships here. I don't hate my town. I don't hate Americans in general.

And it makes me wonder: Do I have to? Will I not exchange well if I don't hate my home country?

Because I want to embrace Switzerland, come into the culture with an open mind, learn the language and understand the people and make friends. I do.

I just don't think I have to hate America to love Switzerland.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


this is a countdown timer to when I will be halfway across the world.


"It seemed that all around me was a smooth bubble, clear enough to see through, but strong enough to keep me inside... I imagined pores in this bubble ball that could let in streams of things from the outside, so I could examine them and poke them back out again if I didn't like them..."
--Bloomability, Sharon Creech

i've just come home from the rotary district conference, where everything was new and we were feeling the same things and learning the same things and ready to travel the world. but now, i sit here in my house with everything familiar around me, and i wonder what exactly i think i am doing.

because in less than 80 days now, i will be in switzerland.

i will be in another country with foreign languages spoken all around me.

i will be living with another family.

i will be without the friends i know now and the schedules i have here.

i will be halfway around the world.

for a year.

and yet, as close as it is, i somehow can't seem to make it feel true. i know that it's coming, and i know that i don't have much time left. as ridiculous as it sounds, i feel like i'm going to wake up any minute now. 

it's just that everything feels so distant. i know that there have been hundreds, thousands, of exchange students before me. i know that they have done this before. but somehow their world seems so far away from mine.

so very very far away.

Monday, May 13, 2013

story of a girl: this is me

"anything is bloomable."
--sharon creech, bloomability

So I suppose that I'd better give some backstory before I go any farther.

In the winter of my freshman year, my mom and I read a book called The Global Student. It basically challenged the idea that you go through four years of high school, go through four years of college, and get a job. (the authors called it the "old school" path). Instead, they suggested that you go abroad for one of those years to get work experience, to learn about life, to learn another language, to experience a different culture, or all of the above.
Just like their kids did.

Well, obviously they were a little biased... but the book sparked my imagination. I loved the idea that I could go to another country and spend a tiny bit of my life somewhere else, experiencing the differences between here and there. And so I sent my local Rotary club an email about the short-term exchange that year.
Except that by that time, the short term exchange was full.
So I waited around. Did school. Went to summer camp. Almost forgot completely about Rotary.

And then last fall, I decided to apply for Rotary's exchange... their longterm one, the one that went for a full school year and required you to live abroad for 9-12 months. The book that we read recommended this exchange above all the others, but you could only go during your junior year so it wasn't on my radar screen. Also, it was for a whole year.
Anyway, I hadn't really thought about leaving for a year, but I figured that it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There's no harm trying, yes?

So I went to the meetings and interviews and that was it. I felt excited and scared and a little apprehensive, and I hoped they would like my applications and that I could go.
About one week later, they called me.

I didn't get in.

But, since the decision was 3-2 in favor of another girl, they still thought I was a promising candidate and they wanted me to be an alternate.
I had no idea what an alternate was.
They explained that I would be a short-term exchange program (STEP) applicant, and that I would basically fly standby and go abroad if there were any available slots for long term (LTEP) candidates. They assured me that after an exchange conference in January, I would know which program I would be going with. And so I said yes.
As far as I was concerned, there was no commitment to the LTEP program yet. I didn't really  think about it.

October passed.
November passed.
December passed.

In January I went dutifully to the exchange conference, and it was amazing. There were 8 (I think) of us alternates, and only four open slots, so they'd need to weed out some of us.
Except that they didn't. They wanted all of us to go.

And so they told us that they didn't know, and we should go to the longterm only conference in March and by then we would know if we. And so all of us nodded our heads and said we really wanted to pursue this, and yes we would go to the conference in March.

January passed.
February passed.

And then about a week before the conference, I received an email saying that I had been accepted to the Rotary Long Term Youth Exchange Program. I was thrilled. And I went to the conference.

The conference was a complete whirlwind. There were some details with my country choices (which I will explain later because this is a crazy long post anyhow), and I met one amazing person after another, and I couldn't believe this was actually happening because I only found out I was going a week ago, and so I went skiing and thought about my choices and thought about my choices and none of us really slept and all of us talked to the YEOs of the countries we were interested in (which for me basically meant all the YEOs because I wanted to visit every single country on the map) and finally on Saturday they announced our country selections.

And I was going to Switzerland.

How to explain that moment?
Well, I was ridiculously thrilled. I couldn't breathe. I cried because I was so happy, and I couldn't say anything for about half an hour (which, for those of you who know me, is very unnatural).

It's still only just beginning to sink in, after months of knowing.

I, Hannah Chinn, am going to Switzerland.