My Alaskan Family
My exchange year is almost complete and I will go back to Turkey in just a few weeks. I am happy to be returning home but I am also sad because I have to leave my family in Alaska. It is so hard to leave this wonderful place and its wonderful people. Before leaving Turkey when I was dreaming about this year I never could have anticipated that I could have another Mom and Dad.
Let me start from beginning. When I applied to be an exchange student, I really did not know what to expect. People told me simply, “you might go to America for a year! Isn’t that cool?” Well, yes it is cool and so I applied. I knew lots of other students who applied who were just like me but I really wanted to be chosen to be an exchange student. It was my dream, but a dream I never thought would come true.
When I learned I was selected, I was so happy. It still seemed unreal until I received my family information and then I realized this was really happening. My new family was waiting for me in ALASKA!!! I was very surprised. Alaska is not the first choice for most exchange students but I was so excited; it seemed so exotic. I was also nervous because I will be living for ten months with a family I had never met. What will they be like? Will they accept me? Will I have a good relationship with them? They have a daughter who will become my sister? I do not have any siblings so can we really become sisters? Will Alaska be freezing cold? Will I live in an igloo? (I know that is just a stereotype but everyone asked me that before I left home!)
Before I left Turkey my conversational English was not very good, so I worried how will I communicate? Will my new family accept me? How will I affect them? Will I miss my family in Turkey? I was filled with questions about my coming year in a foreign country with a new family.
When this big adventure started, I felt like a little baby. A little baby who cannot talk and knows nothing about her new life. The baby does not know the new culture. The baby does not know her family or this new country. However, this baby has wonderful, supportive parents. They try to help her walk. When she falls down they are there to lift her up and over time she learns to walk. It was like that in my new life. My new family is always thoughtful and they are always there to help me. They are patient even when I ask a millions questions. With time they have come to love me despite my trips and falls.
I remember when I first came here they asked me, “Do you want to call us Mom and Dad or Julie and Tim?” I chose Mom and Dad because calling elders by their first names is disrespectful in my culture, but it was awkward for me. I did not call them Mom or Dad maybe during my first month. When I needed to ask a question I would approach them and say, “Hey, I need something.” But with time as I grew to become a real member of their family it started to feel natural. As I am about to complete my exchange year I realize I now have a Mom and Dad in America. I have an Alaskan FAMILY and I love them so much!
Thank you AFS for my amazing year! I have had wonderful experiences. I have matured in so many ways and gained so much this year - but the best gift of all is MY ALASKAN FAMILY!
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