Monday, February 11, 2013

Thirty years after

On Friday late afternoon they arrived and stayed until Sunday: I had four dear visitors from my year as an exchange student in Charlotte, North Carolina during the high school year of 1982/83. The five of us constituted almost 50% of the entire group which had taken part in the Charlotte Exchange Student Program. (Which, unfortunately, has discontinued by now.)
Admittedly, of these five, one had hardly any contact to the other four, and none after the first few years. The other four, however, had somehow been in touch, visited each other, and all four had met three times before for various anniversaries. Two had met by sheer chance at a party in a town where neither of them lived.
Thanks to facebook and our Swiss computer wizard’s insistence and competence we have recovered the addresses of another three members of the group, and it was through facebook that we had made arrangements for a meeting on this particular weekend. All in less than four weeks...
Such a meeting is part reminiscences and looking at pictures, talking about „do you remember?“ and „are you in touch with...?“ But a lot more is there: a large part of the conversations dealt with current themes, basic stuff, politics, opinions, filling in on life experiences. We were touched to realize how such a year spent together as members of an exchange group is a sound foundation for a long-enduring friendship. Which can be reconnected to after thirty years even.
All of us agreed that this year had been one of the most important ones in our entire lives, influencing our current lives still. All of us appreciate the openness towards other cultures and opinions which we met and learned during this year. All of us came out of this year with a strong internation orientation, which has been influential in choice of vocation and partners (all of us have at least tried a relationship with a partner from another country, three of us are currently in a relationship with these ‚international’ partners). All of us have been abroad for longer periods after that particular year, either traveling or living in another country for an extended period, although all of us are currently living in their countries of origin (one just returned from six years in China a few months ago). All of us could imagine packing up and moving to another country again. And it wouldn’t even really matter, which country, because you can learn a language, and it is always an enrichment to get to know cultural differences between one’s own and the host country’s habits and manners.
Conclusion thirty years after? Send your kids abroad, if they want to and are ready for it, for a whole year if possilbe. They won’t like every single experience which they will make during this year, but it will be a wonderful experience as a total year!

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