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Summer 2012 June to August I had an exchange student all the way from Spain named Judith Martin Rodriquez. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard she was going to be living with us. The fact that she was from across the ocean and she spoke a totally different language was going to be a challenge because we didn’t know what to expect.
We didn’t know much about her, would she speak any English? This is one of the many questions we asked ourselves. Her family had sent us family pictures and emailed us with some information about them. This wasn’t a part of a formal exchange association, it was just through friends, which was pretty scary because we knew even less then we could have. I was really excited to have another ‘sister’ living with me because I had always wanted to share a room and clothes with someone my own age. Was I going to gain a friend or was I going to wind up having a ‘sister’ with a bunch of ups and downs go deal with along the way.
Finally the day came when we got to pick her up from the airport. We stood in the Toronto airport holding a sign with her name on it. That felt awkward… it was like we were looking for a long lost child. She walked out of the sliding doors and she saw her name on the poster board and came walking towards us. When I first saw her she looked nothing like the girl in the photo I had seen because, she died her hair a light brown colour and it looked good. She was dressed similar to me which was surprising, I was ready for her to come off wearing a coat because everyone thinks Canada is always cold. She gave us hugs and started talking immediately, I thought she would speak Spanish but she was speaking English with a couple errors here and there but overall it was really good. She told us right at the beginning she wanted us to correct her when her English was wrong so she could learn, that is the reason she came to Canada to learn to speak English better. She also told us that her luggage was lost and they were going to send it to our house when they got it back. The 2 hour car ride home was really interesting because we got to learn a lot about her life and how her life was so different in Spain. She was showing us pictures and we absolutely couldn’t get enough of her accent. We couldn’t wait till we got her to Elmira for her to experience the full-on shock of a culture so different from hers. She got out her camera immediately and started taking pictures of everything; the food, Mennonites, and the animals. When we got home we showed her around our house and all our pets. She always had a smile on her face; and was amazed at how different it was living in the country compared to the city in Spain. She was very tired because of the 9 hour time difference so she had jet lag a bit, and it took a couple days for her to adjust to our time zone. The next morning we had a surprise for her, we were taking her camping at Sauble beach, she had never been camping and that is my family’s favourite thing to do so we were extra excited to be taking her camping for her very first time. We found a bunch of clothes for her to wear because of the suitcase situation and we were on our way. By the end of the weekend she loved it and it looked like she had a lot of fun. Back at home sharing a room with her was the only option so I tried to make her feel at home as much as possible. It was awkward sharing a room with an unknown stranger but I got used to it pretty fast and actually didn’t mind it as she was becoming a good friend.
After the first week I introduced her to a couple of my friends and she got to know my youth group pretty well. She added all my friends on Facebook and I was getting a little jealous because I didn’t even have Facebook. So while she was here, she and I tried to convince my parents to let me get Facebook so we could keep in touch. Then it happened…one day she asked one of my best friends if I liked her. Really she had to ask ?! When my friend told me it was heartbreaking. I wasn’t doing my job and she didn’t feel welcome. I didn’t know what to do about that, I was trying my best to include her in everything I did and we laughed and talked about everything together and then she thought I didn’t like her…I didn’t really know how to feel about that. I was hurt, mad, sorry… in the end I resolved to just try a little harder by including her even more and treating her like a sister. Nobody understood me though, here was a complete stranger coming into my personal space to life for a month and took over my life with me, because we did everything together. Nobody is ever ready for that type of change last minute anyways.
I have never been so many places in one summer, my parents wanted to take Judith to see as many things as possible, which was awesome for my sister and I because some places we went, we had never been there before either. We took her to Toronto, Toronto Island, Eaton Centre, and a fair. We also took her to my mom’s uncles farm and he took us horseback riding and he has a horse and buggy so she really enjoyed that as well. I enjoyed experiencing new things with her, that she had never done or ever seen before. I realized we take everything for granted what we see every day such as beautiful country and I imagined what it would be like living where she does.
Finally the day she had to leave was here, I was really sad! Despite some ups and downs, I was going to miss her. I wasn’t sure if she knew that and our good-bye felt sort of awkward. Friends of ours were taking her to the airport so when, the time came to say goodbye I realized I wouldn’t see her for a long time and maybe never again. Mom, Ally, Judith and I all hadn’t all finished crying when off she went to the airport. Judith and I talk to each other all the time like sisters would, and we are closer than we ever could be. She will always be my sister in Spain, and I’m planning on going to see her next summer because it’s been way too long since we’ve seen each other. That awkward summer I not only gained a friend for life but I gained a sister from half way across the world.
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