Natalie is a US high school student who will study abroad in France with AFS during the coming academic year. She is also a Speedwell scholarship recipient. Here is her letter to her post-study abroad self.
“Dear Future Natalie,
As I write this letter, there are 30 days until your AFS Program begins. It has also been over a year since you decided to study abroad.
You knew in your heart that you wanted to go to France, and you were already telling people “when I go to France…” Yet, when you found out the only way to study abroad was to win a scholarship, you quit telling people about it. When you found out that 60 kids were applying, and only 30 would win, you started crying. Even though those are much better odds than college scholarships, you were afraid you dream could be ripped out from under you.
Luckily, that didn’t happen, and I will soon be boarding a plane and flying to France! I get to meet my wonderful host family, who you surely know very well.
And so, dearest future Natalie, now that you have come back from France, I’m sure you have changed in more ways that I can imagine. But here is how I hope you’ve grown:
I hope you are more independent. I know, I know, I’m already very independent. But I still need approval before making decisions. I hope you have learned not to get caught up with simple decisions.
I hope you are more spontaneous. I hope that at least once during the year you looked at a menu and picked something random – something you’ve never heard of. Maybe it was pleasant, maybe it was objectionable, but you lived.
I hope that you are fluent in French. This is my biggest hope for you. I want you to be able to speak to anyone in French without fear. You probably still make mistakes, and your French may never be perfect. But I hope you have realized that this is okay.
I hope you had an amazing time and took advantage of every opportunity while you were there. If you didn’t, I’m honestly disappointed in you. You were in France, silly!
I hope you’ve discovered an occupation where you can use your French and other skills.
I hope you know much more about the world than I do.
I hope you’ve found a way to offer sufficient thanks to Jenny and Mike Messner, who selflessly funded of the very scholarship that sent you abroad.
I hope you’ve become close to your host family and plan to keep in touch with them. So far, I adore them.
And most of all, I hope you write me back. Now that your exchange year is over, how are you feeling? Do you want to move to France? Have you made any decisions about your career or college? Please don’t forget to fill me in!