I have no idea how to begin a blog post so I guess I will start with a little introduction of myself. My name is Grace and i live in Oklahoma CIty! I will be living the next ten months of my life in Cape Town, South Africa though. Why is that you ask? Well let me tell you a story..
About a year ago I started getting interested in student exchange programs. I wanted to live in a different country, learn about a different culture, and meet new people. I found some great exchange programs the only problem was the cost. Now ten or fifteen thousand dollars seemed like a small price to pay for what I believed to be an experience of a lifetime. My parents did not agree with me though, but do not worry I was not discouraged with my parents disproval of the price tag. I figured that there had to be another way. So I started looking into scholarships and found The Kennedy-Lugar Yes Abroad Program. The Yes Abroad Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and offers 65 full scholarships to American students to study in 13 different countries that have significant Muslim populations. As I learned more and more about the program I started to fall in love with it. I loved the vision it had and couldn’t wait to apply.
I applied and at the end of February I got an email telling me that I was a semi-finalist! This meant that I got to spend the end of my spring break flying to Washington D.C. for the In Person Selection Event or IPSE. I got to spend a couple days with 120 awesome kids as some very intimidating people evaluated us. We had group evaluations and one individual interview that lasted about 20 minutes. Over all the weekend was a lot of fun and I got to meet a lot of amazing people.
About a month later on a day in the middle of April when i was starting to lose all hope that i was accepted my Dad begins reading me an email titled ”YES Abroad Program in South Africa” and began with the words congratulations.I WAS GOING TO SOUTH AFRICA!!! At first I couldn’t believe it. When it finally sunk in I freaked out a little bit, texted my friends, called my Grandma and jumped around the room for a while. It was great. It was one of the best days of my life and I will never forget it!
At the end of June i got the chance to go back to D.C. for the Pre-Departure Orientation with the 65 other kids who got accepted into the program. It included a visit to the Department of State, The Lincoln Memorial, and the South African embassy. Also the 5 of us going to South Africa got to meet a few South African students who had been on exchange here for the past year. They were really fun to talk to and gave us lots of helpful advice. I learned a lot in those few day including how to signal for a taxi in South Africa, that the scary adults that evaluated us at the IPSE were actually very nice, and of course that “it’s not good, it’s not bad, It’s just different”. The PDO made my exchange seem a lot more real and i finally started to realize that this next year was actually going to happen.
So on September 11th I will be flying to South Africa to spend my Junior year of High School on a 10 month adventure of living in a new country with a new family while going to a new school and experiencing a new culture. I could not be more excited and decided to start this blog so I could record this next year and keep the people I love informed about my life while I am away. I hope you all enjoy it and I will work hard to keep up with it throughout the year.