My Summer on Exchange

by Maggie Amjad

This past summer I was privileged enough to travel across the world and spend five weeks with an amazing host family in Sydney, Australia. I had always known I wanted to go on this trip and spent the entire year counting down the days until the application came out. A few weeks later I received an email from Mr. Vogel, and was assigned an exchange sister, Chloe, a friend that at this point I can’t imagine my life without.

When I share my experience with anyone I’m always asked my absolute favorite moment. Honestly, there wasn’t a single second that I didn’t enjoy, but if I had to pick one it would be my second day there. I barely knew Chloe and her family, but I already could tell it would be a trip of a lifetime. Chloe, her mom and I went into Sydney that day and walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I stood with the Opera House behind me, above Darling Harbour, on one of the most famous bridges in the world, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It sounds cheesy, but I still get goose bumps, teary eyed and smile from ear to ear when I think about it. Before then, I knew I was in Australia, but this was the moment it hit me. I honestly cannot express the amount this trip affected my life, and the gratitude I have for both schools involved in this exchange for picking me and pairing me with such an amazing family. They constantly are on my mind and I can only hope to see them again.

During my stay, I was able to explore one of the most amazing cities in the world. I got to visit two famous surfing beaches, Manly and Bondi, spent the evening at Luna Park, the famous amusement park just under the Harbor Bridge, and saw some pretty exotic animals at the Taronga Zoo. I promise most of the animals there have never stepped foot in the Cleveland Zoo and I even got up close and personal with a koala also named Maggie. I shopped, laughed and developed an amazing friendship. Just like there is nothing like a sibling relationship, there is truly nothing like the friendships I have with the girls closest to me, and what I have in Chloe is an amazing combination of both. We really clicked about a week into exchange when Chloe, her mom, her younger sister, and I drove up to the Blue Mountains National Park and stayed in an adorable cottage for a few days. We spent the hour car ride jamming to our favorite songs from our childhood. Apparently, High School Musical was a universal phenomenon.

One of the many unique parts of this exchange was the friendship Chloe and I shared even though we have grown up across the world from each other. My first day there we talked about Gossip Girl, watched it, and bonded. Another day we talked about our sisters. We are both sandwiched between sisters, who coincidentally are the same ages. We had so many similar ideas and feelings and our lives aren’t all that different. The 15 hour flight from L.A to Sydney made the world we live in seem massive, but the connections between our two lives made the world seem smaller than humanly possible.

Unfortunately, there are many girls at HB that don’t find out about the exchange until the opportunity has passed. The exchange is only offered between freshman and sophomore year, and I would recommend it to all freshman. Those five weeks were the fastest of my life and I wish I could have just a few of those seconds back. Luckily, Chloe and the other exchanges will be coming to Cleveland on October 29 and we will have another 5 weeks to spend together.

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