Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of The Unknown

This is a guest post written by Monica Sanchez Hernandez


“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”- Andre Gide

We, as humans, get scared easily once we are taken out of our comfort zone, even the most adventurous ones. Getting into the unknown terrifies us. Our minds get filled up with a bunch of “what ifs” that most of the times stop us from doing something we really want to do. We are used to the easy stuff. The least we have to work to get something the better. But that is not really our fault. Society taught us that. We live in a world where shortcuts are allowed. Where the people that get to the top by simple and random luck are more known than the ones that work hard every day of their lives to achieve their goals. This goes to the hard workers, to the ones that don’t let their fear stop them from getting where they want.

August 16th from this past year, I left Spain for the United States. I packed my life in a suitcase and I left. It was easy at first, because it looked like I was only leaving for a few weeks. It was easy because something inside me was telling me that I would not really miss anything nor anyone. But that part of me was mistaken.

One of the most exciting parts of an exchange year during high school is when you get the information about your going-to-be host family. You have been waiting for months to know where are you going to be living for the next school year, to know who are you going to share your experience with. And it finally comes. You wake up and you see the e-mail that is going to change your life. That is it. Now you know you are leaving for sure. You can not stop thinking about how everything is going to be like. You try to look for as much information as you can get. And the day of your departure comes, and you have to leave. Leave your family, leave your friends, leave everything for a year. The only detail you are missing is that your life there will not stop just because you are not there. Your friends will do their own thing, your family will live without you for a year. Everything will change while you are on the other side of the world trying to start a new life that you will have to leave after a year.
There is something that I have been asking myself lately an that I can’t stop thinking about. What is easier, to leave the life that I had been building for the past 15 years of my life, or to create a new life in a year and to have to leave it forever?

It is the bitter-sweetness at the end of the year that really tells you that even though it was not easy, you made it, and the feeling that you get is awesome. At some times you may cry, thinking about how fast the year went by and how much you are going to miss everyone, but you feel happy and excited to go back to what you left behind the last year.

Wisconsin has been my home for this past nine months, and I can’t think of a better place to spend an exchange year. There is something about the people in this state that really makes it feel like home.

When I got here I did not know that I would end up changing my host family. I thought that everything would be easy, and that all that the experienced kids from the past years told me about missing home and missing your family, would not happen to me. But let me tell you something… it did, and it was hard. When things do not go as well as you expected them to go, you suddenly just want to hide under the bed and wait for somebody to fix it for you.

And that is the problem. You do not have anyone to fix things for you and you have to learn all of a sudden to fix them by yourself. Nobody gave me instructions on what to do when you do not really get along with your host family. I thought that if that happened my organization would tell my host family what I was feeling and I would be able to move on. But of course, it was not that easy. After a month and a half living with the host family that chose me I felt that things were not working out. Every day I felt more distant to them, and I did not know what to do.

When this happens, the best to do is communicate, to tell them what are you feeling and what you don’t like, but I did not know what to do. How do you tell somebody you barely know that you don’t like their life style? That you are having a hard time adjusting? And that you don’t like how they are? That went against all the manners that my parents raised me with. I could not do that. So I thought that my organization would help me solve the problem. That did not happen either. They did not give me any solution.

I panicked during all those days, and I did not know what to do. I was really unhappy with what was going on, and also frustrated that things were not going as wonderfully as all that I was expecting and that I had been dreaming of. I realized I did not have my mum close to give me the comfort and to help me through. I realized that I had to start growing up without her by my side. She would not be there my whole life to solve my problems for me.

While all that was going on, in my high school I met the other exchange student. She was a really nice girl, and at the end she became one of my best friends that helped me throughout my experience. Her host family invited me out , and after telling them what was going on and how I was feeling they decided to help me, and they found me another host family. I ended up living my the other exchange student’s host-grand-parents.

After a week waiting I finally was able to move to my new house, and no, it was not with the help of my organization. They did not even move a finger for me. It was with the help of who later became my host sister. She did everything that was in her hands to make me feel better.

It was really hard at first, but it was worth it. I ended up with a loving and caring host family that right now I would not know how to live without. Thanks to them I have been able to enjoy every minute of this experience. They have helped me grow and they gave me shelter when I needed it. And I can not be thankful enough for all that they have done. They have become my family.

I just want people to know that this can happen. And that it is nobody’s fault if you do not get along with your host family. Sometimes personalities are made to collide, and you can’t do anything about it. In these moments is when you can feel homesick, but no matter what, at the end everything is going to be alright. I am positive this taught me a lesson that I won’t ever forget.

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It is now that I am able to see the whole picture that I can proudly say that this year was by far one of the best of my life so far. I recommend this to anybody. Doing an exchange year you learn a lot of things that you would not be able to learn while you are sitting in a classroom in your home country. Plus you learn to communicate in a different language.

I have been through a lot of bad situations, but not everything about it is bad. Of course not. At the end, all the hard work and all the things that did not go as planned are paid off. You will go home with unbreakable friendships and memories hard to replace. And probably you find yourself debating because you no longer know where your home is since when you left your exchange country a part of your heart stayed there, but that is not always a bad thing.

Now I understand Andre Gide’s quote. I left sight of the shore to discover a new ocean. And that was the best thing I could have ever done. I can’t imagine my life without all the amazing people that I have met and all the amazing places I have visited. Now I can’t wait to know what destiny has planned for me.

 

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This is a guest post written by Monica Sanchez Hernandez, a 17 yeard old girl originally from Barcelona who spent her year in Freedom, Wisconsin, USA.

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