My American Dream So Far
FLEX international student taking a selfie with her host mom and host sister in the car on their to a yard sale in Indiana
Denisa (right), host mom, and sister are set to hit some yard sales!

Romanian enjoys small town charm

"A couple a months ago, I would never have ever believed what I will be doing now."

Those are the words that I would probably first think of if asked about my exchange. That along with all the synonyms of the word "awesome." But before I start sharing with you my "journey," let me introduce myself first. My name is Denisa, and I am a Romanian exchange student from the program FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange). Truth be told, I was not ever a very interesting person, but that is most likely going to change with the title of "exchange student." It’s been a little bit over a month since I landed in the country of all possibilities, USA, and I can assure you that I already have some condiments to spice up my life. I should probably inform you about the state I am in, so here we go.

I was placed in the state of Indiana and more specifically in a relatively big and adorable town called Greenwood. So far, I love everything about it. What I have to point out though is the vast number of restaurants and churches that this town has. Peculiar combination indeed, but my host mum and I have come to a conclusion. We all like to eat a lot and enjoy those calories from time to time if not even more often, but we also don't want to gain weight, so what do we do? We pray. We pray that we can still fit in our favorite pair of skinny jeans. So there you have it folks, the explanation to the mysterious, or not so mysterious, connection.

But putting all jokes aside, Greenwood has a lot to offer and a lot of open doors for an exchange student to experience American culture. There are numerous festivals organized and a lot of different shops and centers to spend your time at.

The second week of my American life, I went to a drag race competition with my host dad and host brothers. I will tell you this; never in my life have I seen or heard so many loud cars. It was an amazing experience and something new for me.

This last month, I had the amazing opportunity to experience the beauty of "yard saling." You read that right people, yard sales! Every Saturday morning, my host mother, my little host sister, and I have been visiting yard sales and having the time of our lives. With a cup of Starbucks coffee, we go around the town in the quest of deals. You may think, "What’s so fascinating and exciting about yard saling?" Well, picture yourself with only $50 and an empty room and closet. You decide to go shopping, but of course $50 won’t be enough for everything you need. But then you go yard saling, and "Bam!" You just got yourself a fancy room and stylish clothes. That's what is so exciting about this. "A great deal should be taken advantage of," is what my host mother has been telling me. It is very true.

Moving on to my "American School Life," everything is going great. My high school is full of endless opportunities to meet people, interact, and share experiences. This year, I decided to challenge myself, so I took part in something I would never have thought of doing: choir. That’s right; your girl is a soprano in the choir. Was it difficult? Yes, it was. Lacking experience and skill were kind of a downer, but it didn’t last long. Is it worth it? Absolutely! I met amazing people that I am happy and proud to call my friends. I had opportunities to volunteer for the band and show off my voice.

Let's have a flashback moment and talk about my first week. I hated it! I hated everything about it. Not being able to figure where my classes were, not having anyone to talk to, and struggling to keep up with the teachers. It was horrible and—not going to lie—kind of terrifying. But it only lasted for a week. I took the initiative and started talking with people. In the end, I was able to make numerous friends. It's always fun to answer questions and to see how amazed or surprised they are about my culture, especially when your country is the home of Dracula.

My point is that you should be open, positive, involved, and willing to talk about yourself and your culture to make friends and become a part of your school. Always keep a smile on your face and your attitude positive. I know that it can become annoying and tiring at times, but in the end, it's all worth it.

About my host family, there is not much to say except that they are awesome. They are amazing, open minded, kind, and lovable. They think of me as a member of their family and treat me as one. Since I have been here, I never once felt lonely or unimportant.

I am extremely thankful that they opened their home and hearts to me. We managed to bond, and I am happy to say that I feel at home. Do I miss my parents? Of course I do. It's normal to, but being around my host family and spending time with them makes everything easier. It's all about the small things. The smallest things are the ones that fill your heart with feelings of ease and comfort. I am a living example of that. My whole host family and I, almost every day, make ourselves comfortable on the couch, grab a snack, and watch the famous show Grey’s Anatomy. I know it may sound lame, but all that time we spend together brings us together. So my advice is to appreciate every small thing they do or say and try to see the meaning behind it. Be respectful; be warm; be affectionate; and most importantly, be yourself.

I have a lot of stories, even though it's only been one month, but of course I cannot fit all of that in only one article (and I already can tell this is way too long). I hope you read this article with pleasure, and I hope I managed to bring a smile to your face, expand your way of thinking, and help you with some advice.

Enjoy your exchange year. Make the best out of it. Accomplish great things. Share your culture and experiences, and make a change.

—Denisa (FLEX, Romania) hosted by the Trahan family (IN)