Exchange student shares her experience at WSHS

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Jazmin Velenczei, Staff Reporter

I am an exchange student coming from Budapest, Hungary. I am fifteen years old and a sophomore in Winter Springs High School. I always wanted to become an exchange student because it is such a huge opportunity to meet new people, expose myself to a new culture, and learn a new language. 

A little bit more than a year ago, in March 2019 my brother was about to apply for college and was preparing for his graduation. That is when I saw an article about exchange in a brochure for the first time. I got super excited immediately and went to my parents to tell them about what I just read. In the first place, becoming an exchange student was just a dream for me and I never thought that it would become a reality one day. It was just so unbelievable that I would leave my whole family, my friends, my dance team, and just everything that I know and am used to, to come to the US on an exchange and go to an American high school. I knew that an exchange year was awesome and extremely educational, but I was a little bit scared. I did not know what to expect and did not know anyone in the US. I was afraid but I could just feel that it was something that I wanted to do, thus I ended up applying for the program.

After I had some interviews in English, I started to complete my application form which was a lot of work. I had to fill out at least ten pages about myself, my interests, my goals, my grades, and shoot a one-minute video in which I introduce myself. When my application was submitted in January 2020, the most stressful part began. Waiting. Waiting for a potential host family to see my application and decide to host me for a whole year based on my video and my application form.

In March, coronavirus hit and made everything so much harder for exchange students. Schools shut down; the unemployment rate began to rise; countries all over the world closed their borders, so international travel was basically impossible. I felt heartbroken because everything that I was looking forward to, just seemed to disappear all of a sudden, and I could not do anything at all. To be honest, I lost hope and gave up on my exchange year at that time. I was so very disappointed that I had worked a lot on my application form for nothing because I would never make it to the US. 

Then in May, I received an email that I did not expect at all. A family of four wanted to host me and Winter Springs High School accepted my enrollment. I had to read that email a lot of times to understand the words. I just could not believe how things could change this fast out of nowhere. I finally became an exchange student!

In June, I attended an orientation camp in Hungary with the other Hungarian exchange students. We prepared for our exchange year and got a lot of advice from our coordinators there. That camp was so much fun and I finally started to believe that I would be an exchange student in the US. 

After that camp, I skyped with my host family and we started to get to know each other. For me, it was very important to have a good relationship with my American host family because after all, they were the ones who decided to host me for a whole year which is such a huge thing. I am so thankful to them. They are more than amazing and I love them so much. They helped me settle in, introduced me to their family and friends, and just made me feel like I am home. I have been enjoying every single moment with them so far and I am looking forward to spending nine more months with them. 

On August 7, I woke up at 3 a.m. because the time had come, and I was finally leaving and heading to the airport. By that time, I already said goodbye to my friends and was just about to say goodbye to my Hungarian family. It was very emotional. I cried my eyes out. But I did know that we will be able to communicate through Facetime so I will see them anyways.

So on August 27, I am here, sitting in front of a computer and writing an article in an American high school. It is like a dream come true to me. I have been enjoying Winter Springs High School so much so far. The teachers and also the students are super helpful, kind, and open-minded. I am just so happy and grateful to be part of this.