I am leaving in 5 days. 5 days. 5. Days. Five Dayzzzzz.
It is funny how five days seems to be an eternity during the school year, but now I feel like my perception of time has been put on fast-forward while I am moving slowly as ever.
Since I found out where I was assigned, I feel like I have been living my life in bursts of intensity. I found out that I got a scholarship to my college, and then I waited for weeks to find out if my acceptance had been deferred. I graduated from high school, then spent the next few days cleaning my room and writing a debate case. I ended up being 16th in the nation in my debate event, but returned home to start packing and (continue) to clean my room. I have travelled and cried and eaten junk food and done Zumba and tried to soak up the last few days I will be in my small valley.
Through all of that, the most intense experience occurred when I found out where I was going in Thailand. If I could bottle up any emotion to preserve forever, it would be the sensation of finally knowing where you will be transplanted for the next year. Once I got accepted into an exchange program, I could feel my roots being yanked out of the soil I was accustomed to after 18 long years living in the Rogue Valley. After I found out the place I was going, I feel those roots beginning to reach out and take hold. I could text my host mother, meet my host sister (who was on exchange in Washington), and google my way through the entire area.
That excitement could also be helped by the fact I got the best assignment I could ask for. When I was first assigned to Thailand, I had dreams of the Thailand I saw on google images— warm beaches, new wildlife, exciting cities. Thankfully I was assigned to Sattahip District in the Chonburi Province, which is right on the coast and known for its heavy monkey population.
I very commonly get asked what city I will be going to in Thailand. I am sponsored by the Rotary Club of Plutaluang and going to a city called Plutaluang, but it is very uncommon for Thai people to identify with cities (as opposed to districts or provinces, which are more like general areas). In fact, the only thing that comes up when you google “Plutaluang” is the Royal Thai Golf Course.
I like to think I know a lot about my Thai high school and district, but mostly I have educated guesses based of of intense google dives, so I will spare the conjecture and give more updates as I actually live there.
While I may have been doing a lot the past few months, I have also been on an emotional and social roller coaster. My district requires that we attend Youth Exchange “trainings” approximately once a month to connect with other outbounds and prepare for the journeys ahead.
Even if I never was able to go to Thailand, this entire experience would be worth it, if only for the friendships we have been able to forge with the exchange students here. From spontaneous hikes to long car rides, they have given me friendships like I never thought existed. It is the kind of friendship necessitated by short time-frames and stressful life events. It is a fast kind of friendship, a passionate kind of friendship, and a beautiful kind of friendship.
I think that passion is because being an exchange student forces you to approach life differently. When the entire life you have known has been put on a timer, you must live in the present. That is the first thing I learned as my time in the US has drawn to a close– to never wish time away. In practicing that simple creed, I have been able to more fully enjoy the remainder of my time in the US, even as I look to create a new life for myself.