Temporary Sister-My Experience With A Foreign Exchange Student | Teen Ink

Temporary Sister-My Experience With A Foreign Exchange Student

January 30, 2020
By Anonymous

When my family told me we were going to host a foreign exchange student named Nia for an academic year, I knew my life was going to be different, only temporary of course. They told me a few months before she came to the United States. I spent all those months preparing myself, thinking about how she would reshape my life in nine months. I was going to the Junior-Senior High School (grades 7-12) that year, so that makes it two major adjustments in my life that are coming my way. I knew it would not be worse with her living in the room next to me but just filled with mixed feelings. 

Then the last day of July came. We drove to the airport. My dad found parking while my mother and I walked into the Arrivals Wing of the airport. The welcome sign that I made the night before that said "Welcome to America Nia!" suddenly felt shabby and stupid. We were waiting for a while at the airport gate with all different kinds of people walking out of the doorway. We knew what she looked like because the Exchange Program, FLEX, sends the host family papers that describe the exchange student. It talks about their hobbies, interests, where they are from, and of course, includes a picture. I had looked her up on Instagram and memorized what she looked like, just so I won't walk up to the wrong person and hand them the sign (I hate to say it almost happened).  

Then she walked through that door. I was suddenly worried about my appearance. I looked awful. I planned out an outfit the night before, but I guess I forgot. I put my hair up in a hair tie, but I regretted it because I forgot that I look dreadful and frightful without covering my face. I was so concerned and anxious about what her first impression of me would be. She too looked awful. She looked like she hadn't slept in days. Which of course she hadn't with all of those plane rides. We shook hands with her and we got her suitcase and got into the car. My father, of course, had dad jokes galore. 

Nia and I sat in the back seat together, with what seemed like miles between us.  My mom goes to The Republic of Georgia for her work, which was where Nia came from, so Nia found a liking to my mother immediately. I guess she was happy that someone knew her country existed. They talked about where she was from, but Nia was not paying that much attention because she was looking at the suburb New Jersey landscape, which I thought was really rude. But as my mom said to me countless times before Nia came, what Nia thinks is fine, we think it is rude. 

We got home, and she looked around the house for a bit. She stayed in her room for hours unpacking. She took a shower and came to dinner fresh and wearing clean clothes. She sat down at the table and we ate a simple grill out with hot dogs, the classic American dinner. We talked about where she was from and what our school district would be like. She always talked about where she was from and never asked us any questions, and I was about to start talking about us, but my mother saw me beginning opening my mouth and she gave me those devil mother eyes.  We finished our dinner and my mom told Nia she could go to her room and made me do the dishes alone. Nia went to bed early. I understood that of course. 

The next morning I wanted to take Nia on a walk around town to show her some things in the morning, but she woke up around noon. My mother and father were worried that something might happen that might impact our relationship for the rest of her time here, but I reassured them that everything would be fine. So I took her to the local bagel shop and she had her first bagel. She thought it was the most amazing thing ever. Of course, I told her that there were a plethora of flavors and creams you can put on the bagel. With smiling faces and full stomachs, I showed her around the small town of Emerson. I showed her the schools, the library, and the most popular restaurants. And I noticed that she was acting kind not being rude at all like I first saw her as. We got ice cream from the ice creamery the next town over, and she was very surprised with how sweet the ice cream was because where she came from, the food had flavor, but definitely not as much. We got home and I reported that things went smoothly. 

In the next few days, she got used to our time zone and started waking up and going to bed at normal times. We went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina right before school started. We realized that we shared many interests. When it was rainy and we couldn’t go to the beach, we made sure to binge Stranger Things and watch so many episodes of Law and Order. She discovered sesame bagels, her new favorite breakfast. And on that trip alone, I think she gained ten pounds. I noticed that she was getting way more attention from my parents then I got from them in my lifetime. I felt jealous and didn’t trust her. 

Nia has been here for six months now, and I think she is the kindest person I have ever met. I thought she was a rude person, but once I got to know her, I realized she was the total opposite of rude. She is astonishing and wonderous. When she first came, all I wanted was for her to leave. And now, I don’t know what I will do when she leaves. I know that I never should have judged her the way I did because I based it off of my first impression and the attention she was getting from my parents. What I am about to say is a huge cliché, but people should never judge a book by its cover.  

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