Bonjour Rotarians,

The last few months have been like a dream. I have done more than some people do in an entire lifetime. I am so lucky and I am extremely grateful for everything I have had the chance to see, do and experience.

          After the ‘Vacance d’Hiver’ my host family decided Miso, an exchange student from Taiwan and my host sister,   and I could take another week of vacation and took us to the Alps. We headed to the Foux d’Allos , Les Alpes in the south. It was a week of lovely skiing and a perfect chance to get to know my host parents. It was really warm and the snow was not fantastic but we had a great week anyways. Miso skied for her first time and by the end of the week she was pretty good. The Alps were unlike anything I had ever seen before, so gorgeous.

          A few weeks later I went on a little trip with my Rotary district.  We visited Luxembourg, Neufchatel, Switzerland and Colmar, France before arriving in Anncey, France where there was a huge weekend with all the exchange students in France. It was an opportunity for everyone to come together to share their culture, rejoin with old friends and celebrate our year in France. I saw Annie, the other Canadian from Simcoe who lives in the South of France which was really nice. We had a lot of fun and the Town of Annecy was so beautiful.

          Easter was the next weekend which was an interesting experience. In France, there is no Easter Bunny, it is the Bell from Rome that comes past and drops eggs in the backyards. The ‘Closh de Paques’ passed by and gave Miso and I slippers and lots of candy. Easter was not a big deal in my host family but my host sister and her boyfriend who live in Lille came for lunch and we had a big meal. We ate a typical Easter meal here that included salmon, duck, lamb, vegetables,  etc. I always have so much fun with my host brother, sister, Miso and Pierre. That night I went to my friend’s Birthday Party, so Easter was not like at home.

           On the 23rd of April, I went to Barcelona, Spain with Caio, a friend from Brazil and his host brother. It was one of the best trips I’ve been on this year. We spent four days exploring Barcelona; going to the beach, climbing to the top of a mountain to see the view of Barcelona, seeing the work of Gaudi, admiring the Famillia Sagrada, eating some tapas, going to markets, a football game, and getting a taste of the night life. I had never been to Spain before so it was nice to explore the culture and speak a little Spanish.

          I came back to my host house for less than a day and then left for the trip of a lifetime. During the twelve day bus trip of Europe, we visited Paris, Reims, Strasbourg, Nuremburg, Prague, Vienne, Vienna, Lido di Jesolo, Milan, Mont Blanc, Chamonix, Geneva and Dijon. I cannot even explain how amazing it was. The other exchange students were awesome and we had so much fun together, without a good group of kids, the trip would not have been the same. We had awesome supervisors and the bus driver was really cool. We had perfect weather during most of the trip besides in Milan where it hailed all day. Prague and Venice were my two favorite towns. The Czech Republic was amazing and I saw some of the most beautiful things. The bridges and buildings, the water and gardens are all so perfect. It was a town with character and I really enjoyed it. Venice was breathtaking, really, it was lovely. We took a boat to the island early in the morning and had a perfect day filled with a gondola ride through the channels, Italian pizza and gelato, getting lost in the little roads and enjoying the atmosphere of the city. The city was busy with boats and gondolas, tourists, people selling their art, street vendors selling masks which are typical to Venice and yet I did not see one car, which was pretty neat. The buildings are old and each unique, the bridges are so pretty and the waterways were filled with gondolas. It seemed perfect to me, I have trouble finding a flaw with this city. The whole Euro Trip was amazing and I have created memories that will be with me forever. If you’ve never seen Europe, I strongly suggest you embark on an adventure that will surely be amazing.

I never realized how beautiful our world really is. This trip has urged me to see more of the world; I cannot wait to explore Asia and Latin America. I feel like there is so much I have to see and I cannot wait to travel the world.   I guess that is what Youth Exchange is about. To give you a taste of the world and to make you want to see more and learn more. It allows you to make contacts all over the world which permits you to stay with your friends in Taiwan, India, Brazil, Argentina, etc.

I cannot believe that the trip I had been looking forward to all year is over. It always seemed so far away and it being finished means I am going home soon. In less than 40 days I will be on an airplane home to Canada, which seems so weird. I have my best friend coming in a few weeks and some other little trips planned that I am looking forward to.

I am not rushed to go home but I think that when June 19th arrives I will be ready to go home. I am not home sick but I miss home a lot. A year without a hug from your mom is hard. Although I love France a lot and I am super happy here, I do miss Canada. Who would ever think they could miss Brantford! Seems crazy!

          See all of you on June 25th.



Paige Smitiuch

Ps. Please excuse my English, it has become horrible in the last 10 months. I hope my University understand next year. Haha.