My Exchange Year in America
I’ve always wanted to visit the United States of America my whole life. Ever since I was young, I was exposed to social media especially YouTube, where I could watch videos of people’s lives in America. I watched all sorts of videos, vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, podcasts etc. I’ve seen the life of America through these mediums and I knew I would visit one day.
Being the first ICES Cambodia exchange student in Oklahoma was the biggest highlight of my life. I made my parents and myself proud. On the way to America, I was 100% sure I was going to be a different person by the end of the exchange year. Upon arrival, I was greeted by my host mom Tricia, my host brother Landon, and my double placement exchange student Daniela from Spain. They were holding balloons and a sign welcoming me to their family. On our way home, Tricia bought me a burger from Sonic drive-through and a drink. When we arrived home I was happy to see Diesel, a Chihuahua and Bumpus, a King Charles Cavalier. I was shown my room upstairs and we went outside to play a little bit of basketball. It was pitch black outside so I thought the house was in the middle of nowhere when in fact it was in a gated neighborhood with houses surrounding us everywhere. My host dad Jay got home with his big red truck and greeted me. I went to sleep right away that day.
If there’s one thing I was right about is that my exchange year had been really crazy. We’ve traveled to many states, met a lot of new people and had a lot of new experiences. My host family brought me to Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Maine, Boston, Vegas and a few more states. My most memorable trip was to Colorado. In March during Spring break, we went to Copper Mountain in Colorado to ski. Our flight got cancelled so we went on a road trip instead. I learned how to ski in just 3 days and it was the most fun experience. In each state, I got to see many different aspects of America and I’m extremely grateful for my host family since I wouldn’t have been able to visit these places without them. Throughout my exchange year in America, I’ve also met a lot of great people and made a bunch of friends. I found out that sport is a really big thing in America and many people celebrate it. I participated in Track and Field at school and it got me into fitness which led to my obsession with pushing my body to the limit. I’ve also celebrated holidays that I’ve only known from the media my entire life. I celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July (Independence Day). I discovered Mexican food which I’ve never had when it is very common in the U.S. In Cambodia, it is really hot, humid and the only precipitation is rain. While living in Oklahoma, I got to see snow for the first time in my life and got to experience a really bad ice storm where everything was frozen and covered in ice.
After 9 months living in Oklahoma, my life has completely changed. It transformed both my physical looks and mentality. I was really shy and timid when I first arrived in America. I was not happy about it, so I put myself in situations I normally wouldn’t want to be in. I talked to strangers whenever I could and learned to be independent. I learned a lot about different people and their outlook on things. I completely transformed my body to look a bit more fit. I got more confident and happier. After all, if there are important lessons that I learned in this exchange year, it is to be open to new things and be wise about who to trust.
All these brand-new experiences were made possible by my host family, especially my host parents Jay and Tricia. They were the hero of my exchange year and have helped me, taught me a lot of things. Tricia was always there when there were any problems and Jay taught me a lot about building good habits, mindset, and money. My host siblings have always shown me things that were popular in the U.S. and encouraged me to do new and sometimes weird things. My double placement exchange student Daniela taught me to take life less seriously at times. It’s truly been an eventful year.
By Chihok Gauy