Saturday, July 7, 2012

exchanging students

In less than a month, my little sister will spend five weeks in Alicante, Spain as an exchange student (even if, being that it's summertime, she won't technically be a student). Since it is an "exchange", it's my family's responsibility to host someone beforehand, and as such, Rocio has been living with us for the past few weeks. She's very sweet and speaks English extremely well (though I must brag admit, I have been practicing my Spanish!) A few days after she arrived, my sister hosted a barbecue in her honor to introduce her to friends. 
Rocio prepared a tortilla española while my sister and friends provided All-American fare: hamburgers, hot dogs, broccoli slaw, and potato salad. As I enjoyed my selections (I'd "taste-tested" the tortilla española earlier), with the murmuring of chatty high-school girls and guys in the background, I became nostalgic. I may not have been directly involved in an exchange program in high school, but I did host an exchange student my senior year, spring semester.
Marie moved in on January 1st, 2010. Her and I and each one of my family members had been at various New Year's Eve parties beforehand, and when I came home at 1am, she was already settled in to my room (or rather, our shared room for the next six months). I knew her then, but not well. Now, she's all but a sister, and I'm so glad to have taken the photo above on that first night.

The six months during which she lived with us passed quickly. We didn't spend every waking moment together--some of her close friends were different from my own, and I had a boyfriend and a part-time job--but we certainly hung out a lot. We studied for Spanish tests, went to the mall, toured my college-to-be, got ready for prom, and stayed up late countless nights sharing secrets and stories.
 It wasn't long before we'd acquired an entire encyclopedia of inside jokes, too.
I remember being so, so sad in the days leading up to her departure. I organized a surprise goodbye lunch and led the way on last-minute New York excursions to a Yankee game and Coney Island. As soon as she left, I knew I'd have to visit.
So, Chris and I surprised her with a visit in December of 2006 (photo above), and I spent my spring break in France with her again in 2008 (photo below).
And, in March of 2009, while I was studying abroad in Strasbourg, her and her family drove out to spend an Alsatian weekend avec moi.
Like this post, the bulletin board she had up in her childhood bedroom displays only a sliver of our shared high school memories. To be honest (and a mush), she has left a lasting impression on my life. I doubt I'd be studying French or have had half the life experiences I have were it not for her. And she'll always be a best friend. Since I last saw her, she spent a year finishing up a law degree in Paris, another year in Lille obtaining her masters, and is now working and living in Luxembourg. I cannot wait to see her again when I'm only a train ride away.


Penny for your thoughts...