Network Reflection Essay

I just want to apologize about the lateness of this essay, I had so much catch up work when I returned, I didn’t get a chance to write this until now!

For my exchange I went to Pinewood Preparatory School in South Carolina. It was an amazing, eye opening experience that I fully enjoyed. I spent the first weekend with my family friends, which was nice as a sort of transition phase into my trip. After that I met my host family, the Stricklands. I was so nervous and excited to be going to my host family’s house and settling in. It was really nerve-racking because I had never been away from home, so far, like this before, but luckily for me, the Stricklands were very supportive and I quickly grew comfortable in my host house. That first long weekend, I also visited the school before I went there for my first day, and I was so excited to see the beautiful campus. It was so interesting to see the similarities between my school, The Academy at Charlemont, and Pinewood Preparatory. The campus was much bigger than my school, which is reasonable considering the student body is four times the size of my school. However, I really enjoyed looking at the differences because my school is so small and I feel I often lose perspective because of the size.
My first day at Pinewood Preparatory was also very nerve-racking, but so exciting! My host sister Taylor was a great person to shadow, she explained all the teachers and classrooms, and just how the school functioned. I really was given insight into the spirit of the school. I felt that Pinewood is a very open community, full of people who really care about each other, and even though it is much bigger than the Academy, I sensed the same kind of school spirit and commitment to the community. The lockers did not have locks, did not need locks, which I think is something a school should really pride itself on.
Additionally, all the teachers were very welcoming, and immediately made me feel at home and comfortable in their specific learning environments. Mr. Sterjn and Senora Girgan especially helped me feel part of the community, encouraging me to participate, especially since I was too shy often to contribute on my own. Similarly, the student body was the same, people walked me to my classes, helped me if I got lost, and seemed genuinely interested in me and my school. It was an amazing welcoming community.
I really enjoyed my network experience, and I would, in a heartbeat, go on another. The cultural differences were interesting to me, I really enjoyed seeing the differences between the south and the northeast. Additionally this trip helped me gain perspective, I could learn about myself and my own opinions about other different communities, and from learning in a more indepth way about them, this trip helped me develop a more open mind about other people and places different from what I am accustomed to. I had a great trip, and I am very grateful to those who helped me.

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Last Week in South Carolina

I decided to do just do my last week in one post, because there is so much to cover and I haven’t posted recently. 

This week seemed to be just another normal week at Pinewood Prep. I sort of settled into a routine and got more comfortable with the environment there. 

Wednesday was dress day which was fun because everyone dressed their best, the girls with either khakis or skirts and dresses and the boys with ties or bow ties and button down shirts and khakis. It was also really warm and windy on Wednesday, almost 80 degrees and the wind was very strong! It stormed later that night, which apparently is typical weather in South Carolina. 

Today we had a speaker for MLK day come in during 2nd period. He had been a young adult during the civil rights movement and even met MLK himself! His speech was really interesting and made me think more about MLK day. He approached it as not necessarily as a day to celebrate only Martin Luther King Jr., but a day to celebrate the civil rights movement in general, which MLK has become a symbol for. He also reminded us that the civil rights movement was successful because of all the unsung heros that helped behind the scenes, and weren’t always front and center. Finally, he told a very sobering story about how he went outside at night at a college in South Carolina because some students were out there, and the police were down the road with Ku Klux Klan uniforms on and opened fire at these students as well as our speaker and a large number of people were shot, if not all of them. Everyone was paying attention at this point because it seemed so awful it was almost unbelievable! The students were doing nothing but soliciting in a field, and many were killed for this! The idea that the man speaking to us had experienced all of this made it seem much more real to me because although I know it is an important part of our country’s history, until today, it had never seemed quite as real to me as I realize it is now. I thought of it as history in an issue not resolved yet, and since I live in such a liberal place, it was hard for me to even comprehend the situations these people were put in. But now that I have met someone who experienced all of the hardship that legendary people such as Rosa Parks and MLK experienced, it seems much more real to me. I was really glad he came to talk to all of us! 

But that, I think, is one of these reasons I came to South Carolina. I wanted to break out of the community that I live in, and experience other cultures and ideas and ways of life, rather then staying in my comfort zone. Even though it was hard at times, it was definitely worth it, and I feel like I have become so much more open minded and aware of other places besides my own community from this trip.

Tonight was also my last night with my host family, and they gave me a couple gifts which was really sweet of them. I will be so sad to leave Summerville, it was so fun and such a great experience to go to a different school for two weeks not knowing anyone in a completely different part of the US.

Tomorrow I am going to school until lunch, and then my host sister’s mom will take me to the airport and I will be headed back to Massachusetts and the freezing cold weather! But I will be glad to be home. 

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Day 8, 9 and 10

Friday, my 8th day in South Carolina was great, after school we went to a basketball game which was a lot of fun! There was a theme for blue crew, which is the high school students who are supporting the players. We were supposed to wear rain gear, since the other team was the Hurricanes. On blue crew, we stood on the bleachers and did cheers supporting our team, which ended up winning, by about twenty points. Another exciting thing about that game was that Bill Murray was there! Either his grandchild or just child (I’m not sure which) was playing on the opposing team and so we saw him from across the gym!

Saturday I actually ended up spending another day with my family friends because I wanted to see them one last time before I left. We went to the beach, where the son of my mom’s friend was playing at the Windjammer, a sort of locally famous bar where many famous musicians played before they became famous. A lot of different bands played and there was even a little auction at one point. After that we had a humorous dinner back at their house, it was really nice to see them one last time, and really nice of them to have me over once more.

Today, my tenth day in South Carolina was very busy. We started off the morning by going to my host family’s Episcopal Church. I have never been to church before so this was a really interesting experience for me. I was excited to attend and learn about something that I had never really experienced for myself, just heard about. When they did communion, my host family wanted me to go up, but I was reluctant at first. I was nervous to do something that I wasn’t sure if I believed in, or had ever really done before. I ended up doing it, because I decided that I am here in South Carolina to do things exactly like this. I cam here to experience a way of life that I am not used to, and to learn about a culture that I know very little about, and I thought that doing what my host family is usually accustomed to doing was a good way to learn. Overall it was a really interesting experience and I’m glad I went to church with them.

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Day 5, 6 and 7

Day 5

Tuesday was my first day of school! I just shadowed my host “sister” for the day, going to her classes and meeting her friends. Senora Girgan, the network advisor for Pinewood was very nice, and let me put my bags in her room but also helped me figure out the members of faculty I needed to meet, and then last period, I formed my own schedule. Something immediately different from the Academy, at Pinewood, was not only the size, but also the feel of the school. Pinewood manages to pull of a public school atmosphere, while maintaining a private school feel of a community with very nice people. I was immediately welcomed and people introduced themselves to me the minute I stepped into my classes! 

Day 6

Today was my first day on my own, with my own schedule, different then my host “sister’s”. I had generally the same classes as the Academy, the only difference was there are 7 50 minute periods, and school goes until 3:10 and starts at 7:45. Next week I am hoping to take marine biology! Advanced art and British Literature are probably my favorite classes right now, because in British Literature, they are also reading Frankenstein, so I can relate to what is being discussed. Additionally, the art teacher is very funny, but she is also a great art teacher. 

Also we had all high school assembly in the gym where there were announcements (similar to morning meeting but only once a month), and practiced cheers for the upcoming basketball game, finally we also pledged allegiance to the flag which was different because the Academy doesn’t do that, and Pinewood does it everyday during homeroom or if there is assembly, during assembly.

Today was my 7th day in South Carolina, and just as fun! Another day of school (we have the same classes everyday), I met many more people, and my classes were more interesting because most of my classes yesterday were tests. Also, we went to the barn where my host family keeps their horse, and we fed and blanketed all the horses. This was really fun, but it got surprisingly cold fast! Tomorrow is the basketball game which I am really excited to go to!

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Day 4

Today was great! My first whole day with my host family, we went running in the morning (they are really into sports) and then later that day we went into the downtown of Summerville. It is the cutest town! There is an old fashioned drug store, but also a few vintage shops, as well as bakeries,  plenty of restaurants and a couple cafes and clothing shops. I really had fun going into one of the vintage shops and buying vintage-y items.

Before dinner I went to the Bi-Lo and the Piggly Wiggly to get some food for lunch which wasn’t very exciting to anyone but me, because the Piggly Wiggly and Bi-Lo are funny to me since I never go to these classic southern grocery stores.Tomorrow I start school which is as exciting is as it is nerve racking!

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Day 3

Today was my first day with my host family. I was sad to leave my family friend’s house, they are so nice to have invited me for a weekend. However, I am excited to do something new!

In the morning, I went to out to breakfast, and then to my family friend’s Unitarian Church before going to lunch to meet my host family for the first time! I was so nervous!

After a nice scenic drive down to Summerville, I visited Pinewood Prep for the first time. I was so impressed with it! It has a huge campus with about 5 buildings and 5 sports fields including a football field and tennis courts. I won’t really get to go inside the school until Tuesday, but it was exciting to just walk around and see where I am going to be spending most of my time the next two weeks.

Tomorrow I am going to the center of town with my host family!

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Day 2

Today was another great day! I spent about 2 hours at the beach today, it was a little too chilly to swim, but I walked along the coastline and saw not only a horseshoe crab, but also some spots where The Notebook was filmed! Today is my last full day with my family friends, and tonight we went out to this restaurant that was open to the outside and had huge fires in the middle, which was pretty cool. After that, we went to a bluegrass concert at my family friend’s unitarian church.

Tomorrow I am meeting my host family for the first time!

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