This past March and April, I traveled to Strasbourg, France (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg) as part of a student exchange program. A group of about thirty students and teachers spent two wonderful weeks learning about French culture. As clichÃ© as it is, this trip was most definitely a life changing experience for me. I have made lifelong friends, and I have learned to appreciate other cultures as well as deepen my appreciation for my own American culture.
At first, the trip abroad was to be conducted through the school, but school officials did not see the educational value in traveling abroad. Cape Fear Global Club (http://capefearglobalclub.cfsites.org/ ) was then established as a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing students to the world around them. Each of the thirty students and four teachers were placed in homes among students and teachers attending and working at St. Etienne’s School in Strasbourg. The two weeks were filled with fun and educational activities that enabled us to learn exactly how the French live. During the weekdays we participated in daily activities with the French Students and within our group. On the weekends, we each went our own way and spent time with our French host families. We took a day trip to Paris and visited many world famous attractions such as The Louvre (http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en). We took numerous trips to neighboring Germany and visited Baden-Baden and Europa-Park (http://www.europapark.de/lang-en/c51/default.html). With my host family, I went to Switzerland and spent time on the Swiss Alps. Perhaps the most rewarding activity that took place was hearing President Barack Obama speak at a North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) rally.
As irony would have it, I came closer to my own President in a foreign country than I ever had on my home soil. August 3-5, 2009 a NATO Summit was being held in Strasbourg. President Obama traveled to France in attempts to alleviate many of the questions and hard feelings French citizens were having about their place in the world and at NATO. Seeing the President speak would be remarkable in America, but experiencing that in a foreign country really reached out to me. I was able to experience first-hand two nations attempting to come together to defeat the many problems facing our current world.
My trip to France was absolutely wonderful. I do not think it could have been recreated or duplicated in any way. There is just something special about living in another country and experiencing it the way the natives do. Living with a host family allowed me to fully grasp what life is like for a natural born citizen of France. Although I deeply appreciated France and all it had to offer, I also learned that there really is no place like home. I am blessed to live in a country with so many opportunities and amenities that most other countries do not enjoy. I would love to see more of the world one day, and I cannot wait to return to France and re-connect with some of my friends six hours ahead of me.
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