Hello, my name is Trinity Vogel and I am a member of the AR community as well as an AFS foreign exchange student, spending my third year of high school in the plains of Northern Italy. The last two months have been filled with so many new experiences and I am so thankful for my decision to see the world, despite the difficulties of the pandemic. While this wasn’t the most ideal year to choose for an expedition into the vast reality outside of Humboldt County, I wouldn’t trade in any of the unique experiences I have gained for a more “conventional” year abroad.
I will not lie, not everything has been perfect. Covid-19 has proven as a point of frustration and without it, I’m sure my year abroad would have had a much different outlook. Because of the pandemic, I have not been able to attend school physically, but I have still found all my classmates to be welcoming and kind to me, even without meeting in person. Covid for me has brought both positives and negatives. While I’m sure I would have had a more eventful ordeal without it, I am grateful for every piece of insight I have gained here. We have not been able to leave the house much due to the regulations implemented by the Italian government, however, I have had the opportunity to visit the city of Mantova and another charming town along the shores of Lago di Garda. As well, in the near future, my host family and I plan to visit the city of Venezia and Verona, if the regulations slacken, as well as have my host sister and I attend school on campus.
For me, the most rewarding part of my trip so far has been the relationship I’ve made with my host family, they have really made me feel at home and I am so lucky to now consider them as a second family. While staying with them I have learned how to play Italian games, cook some authentic dishes, crochet (a bit), and have been able to practice Italian both with my family and teachers. The bond you make with your host family is so special and uniquely yours. It gives you the opportunity to learn so much from each other about your respective cultures, as well as make a connection that will hopefully reward you throughout your life. This experience has also given me a chance to get to know people from all over the world and make friendships that I would never have made without AFS. While I still haven’t been able to physically go to school yet I have met some great people who I have been able to talk to virtually. I have made friends mostly through the AFS program, meeting people from Turkey, Finland, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and more. We have all been able to bond over our common experiences and share our differences, which I have found to be extremely rewarding.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to do as many things I would have liked, I have still found my time here extremely refreshing. I think it is really easy to get used to standing in the same place and sometimes you need a shocking change in order to find the motivation to keep moving forward. For me, moving to another country has been that jump-start I was looking for, and it has made me so much more excited about all the opportunities and realities available to me. My experiences have also made me appreciate what I have back home so much more and has given everything a new and brighter outlook on all the possibilities there are.
I’m sure that everybody has a different story to tell you about their exchange, but I think that due to Covid mine has been especially unique. But despite the challenges, I have found that the important thing to do is to look for the bright side of the situation, especially when it is so easy to slip into dwelling on the pessimistic outlook. Going abroad to me has helped me view things through a wider lens. I no longer see myself as just an average American, instead appreciating the world from the perspective of someone who has been able to experience the connections and differences we all share. Seeing that no matter where a person is from or where they’re going, we are all innately intertwined and linked.
For anyone who is interested in becoming an exchange student, I would without hesitation recommend this experience. It helps you mature and flourish as an individual as well as heightening your appreciation for the support that comes from a community. During my time at AR, I have grown so much, from a shy girl that couldn’t even choke out a word during her first book seminar, to someone who knows exactly what she wants and is not afraid to pursue it. My time abroad has only forced me to transform even further, becoming more independent, confident, and aware of both myself and the world around me.
If anyone is interested in becoming an exchange student, or just wants to know more about my experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Instagram at trinityvogel.