Saying Goodbye


Sahar Karim, Writer

Saying goodbye to my family and friends back home to come to the US for my academic year, I didn’t realize that soon in ten months, I would be saying goodbye to my family and friends in the US. 

My academic year flew by so fast. I feel like it was yesterday when I flew to the US and had my first day of American high school. Extremely nervous, cultural shocks at peak, wandering my eyes around classes so I don’t get lost, and awkwardly smiling to everyone I would see. 

I barely knew anyone who I could be friends with, and it was challenging to start a conversation with a lot of people because I had different people in all my classes, but eventually, I started getting to know more people and talk to them. With all the wonderful teachers I had, I loved how they supported me and appreciated my work. I loved how everyone was curious to know more about my journey to the US, and my country and culture. 

As a senior in my American high school, I got to experience the American senior dance, be a part of senior class, and look forward to walking to graduation with my senior friends. I actively participated in all of my classes and got involved in a lot of activities like the high school debate and speech (forensics), track and field, key club, student council, journalism club, and a lot more fun stuff. 

The highlight of my American high school year is probably Forensics. I had an amazing time with my peers and wonderful coaches. I made it to several power rounds and to the state semifinals with several trophies and medals to take back home with me. I loved all of my classes that I got to choose and experience. I loved how friendly my American teachers are. I loved the open space they gave me and made sure they listened to me every time I spoke. I will forever cherish the amazing bonds I have created with my teachers, and friends in my high school. 

This academic year has been full of mysterious, successful, and challenging stories. I challenged myself to be passionate about every opportunity that I got. I am not an athletic person at all, but joining track is one of the best challenges that I made for myself, and I did it. I am so thankful to my amazing coach, and my track peers and friends for always cheering me up on the track no matter how I did. Of all the activities that I have been involved in, I look back and say I am happy and I can’t believe I did that. That’s what my exchange year was all about. I got opportunities to be part of that I never got back home. I will cherish all the memories that I got to experience in my high school, and will always look back and say I am glad I did it. These ten months passed like a moment, and I will always carry these memories with me.

I am so grateful for every second of my exchange year. Everyday was a new exposure and another chance of experiencing something new or meeting someone new. All those experiences taught me the importance of diversity and how small this world is when different ethnicities, cultures, and communities form together at the same time. This journey showed me the beauty of the world, its people, and the relationships that you form. I would have never realized that the differences and similarities of different cultures were so beautiful to cherish and learn from without my exchange year. Within these ten months, I have grown up to be stronger and more responsible as a person. I am more open to understanding and expanding my knowledge about the world. I have learnt to value the relationships that I have formed and get involved in the diversity of the world. I got so much more to experience in my exchange year than I ever did before. 

I remember before coming to the US, I was told, “Exchange year is not a year in life, but life in a year.” And now as I say goodbye to this year, I realize how deeply that statement was quoted.