The End. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I gently trace the rim of my coffee mug, counting the seconds slipping away from before I have to leave. A tear falls on the pages scattered on the table before me, making the last words written bleed down in streams of black blood. The packing had been brutal, the goodbyes even more difficult than the first days I spent in this country dreading my decision to leave my family. I hadn't known then how much this experience would change who I am and what kind of impact it would have on my life. Sitting in the last moments as an exchange student here in Sweden, I looked back on those first days I spent in the country where I had no idea of what to even expect. Leaving your culture and country as a sixteen year old sophomore was by far the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Little did I know that leaving that same country that was once so foreign to me, would be a thousand times more difficult than it ever was to have to leave my home in America.

They are calling my flight over the intercom; it's time to go. It's time to travel back to America, and start a new chapter in my life. I have one more year to prepare for college, for leaving home and being on my own. This year has changed me in more ways than I thought ever imaginable, and I am going to miss this exchange experience so much. I enjoyed every minute I spent loving my host family, laughing with my new best friends, and speaking a language I became so fluent in during such a small amount of time. I had never dreamed I would grow up so much in a year, and learn so much about who I am as a person and how strong I am. Before this experience, I never thought I would be strong enough to leave my family to live in another culture surrounded by a group of people I had never met before. But this year changed my view on everything. And even though some could picture getting on this plane as the end of an unforgettable adventure, I see it as taking that experience and using it to start the next chapter of this crazy life I live in. I couldn't imagine a better way to have spent my junior year, but as an exchange student in Sweden, and I loved every minute of it.





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