Posted by Iasmin Mendes
It is hard to describe a whole year in just a couple paragraphs, but it is worth trying.  First of all it is important to say that it does not matter how much I explain how my year was or how many stories I tell about it, it is impossible to make someone feel what I did if one has never been an exchange student. The feeling is unique and indescribable. I remember the day I left Brazil as it was yesterday (even though it has been already a year since). I cried for the first 10 minutes of my first flight and then the only thing I could think about was how my life in Canada was going to be.  When I first arrived in Kingston there were at least 12 people waiting for me. I cannot remember what I said or what they did; I was too tired and afraid to turn that moment into a memory. But I remember after that I realized that my exchange was not a dream anymore, I was living it.
 
It was hard. It was very hard. And the 10 minutes of crying on the plane happened a couple more times again throughout the year. Today I realize all my tears meant that I was growing up, facing the world in a way I had not done before. Today I realize I had two options to mature. Do it through the years as everybody does or do it while having one of the biggest experiences of my life. I am glad I chose the second option.
 
On exchange you are divided in two. You are the one who misses your country and friends and family. And you are the international person in your host country, the foreign student trying to fit into a new life. The fact is that both of these parts of you teach you a lot about yourself.  On one hand, you realize what you used to have back home and how every little thing is missed when you are away. On the other hand, you find out life is much more than your little town in your home country. Especially because being with all the exchange students you meet, your exchange becomes not only about your host country but an international experience.
 
Through the year, I tried to understand everything that was happening while I was enjoying each moment. I did not know I would only have a complete understanding of what my year meant when I got back. Now I am in Brazil and when I when I think about my experience these are my thoughts:
 
I came back a stronger person. Now I understand that I have to deal with my problems and fears. It does not mean I cry less than I used to, but I understand my tears and I swipe them easily with the certainty I can get over whatever makes me cry. I came back with a better understanding of myself. Especially because now I am two. I am the one I learned how to be before my exchange and the one I learned how to be in Canada. And both of them complement each other in the best way.  I came back happier. I am home now and I know how much I missed it, but also because I had the most amazing experience I could have. Because I met people I know were meant to be part of my history. Because I have a house to go to in almost all the countries in the world. Because I was an exchange student. And I will always be one. Because "exchange student" is a permanent part of me. 
 
Thank you to all the Rotarians in District 7040 for providing this opportunity for myself and all of the other exchange students!
 
Iasmin Mendes
Campina Grande, Brazil
Hosted by the Rotary Club of Kingston-Frontenac 2013-14
 
Preliminary Applications are now available on the Youth Exchange website (http://yex.sussexsystems.com/wordpress/) for prospective Outbound students for the 2015-2016 year. Students must be sponsored by a Rotary club from District 7040. Send your successful candidates to Sherri Agnew, Youth Exchange Chair, by December 1st, 2014.