High School Cultural Exchange: Why You Should Skip Your High School Prom
I did the unimaginable for most teens living in the United States; I skipped my senior prom. Yes on purpose and with great intent. Why would I do this? Simple. I had the opportunity to travel…for free.
I wasn’t headed to some exotic, romantic location like Paris or Rome; I was going to Moldova.
At the time none of my classmates had a clue where Moldova was (it’s a small country between Romania and the Ukraine). Other students were excited about the free trip, but they weren’t willing to skip what they viewed as the most important moment in their high school lives. I, on the other hand, jumped at the chance, knowing this trip would stick with me far longer than any dance with some guy I would probably never see again.
The opportunity to explore the country of Moldova came about through the government sponsored Junior Achievement program. Our school had been partnered up with a school in Hincesti, Moldova. We were to start a small business together selling local cultural goods from their community. Although the business didn’t exactly go well, the exchange would change my life.
Junior Achievement exchange to Moldova
Twelve students from our sister school in Moldova were paired up to stay with students from my high school. My host sister was Ludmila, a spunky 17 year old who was determined to perfect her English in her few short weeks living with my family and try everything she could. We bonded instantly.
First flight to Moldova
A few weeks after her school came to visit us, four students from my high school headed over to Moldova for some sightseeing, cultural tours, and a home stay with our host families. I was able to meet Ludmila’s parents, who welcomed me with open arms, along with her brother, cousins, and two rambunctious kittens. Ludmila’s mother deemed me too skinny. She made it her mission to fatten me up. No complaints from me. Her cherry dumplings with cream exploded in my mouth like sweet and sour grenades.
I was treated like a daughter, possibly even better. I went to school with Ludmila and even got to attend one of their dances. I guess I didn’t miss my prom after all.
With host family, Moldova
The opportunity to jump right into someone’s family was an experience I’ve yet to forget. Ludmila and I are still in touch 10+ years later. I haven’t been able to visit her since that initial trip, but through the power of the Internet we were able to announce when we were both pregnant with our little boys, who are only a few months apart in age, and share pictures as they grow.
I may have missed out on my prom, but I have no regrets. Because of that home stay my life found its’ purpose- to travel the world one country at a time, meeting as many people as possible.
Mom and active blogger Keryn Means left the publishing world in 2011 to take care of her growing family and follow her passion for travel. A native of Philadelphia, she spends her days exploring her new home in Seattle with her toddler and newborn sons. When her kids are asleep you can find her editing photos and writing away on Walkingon Travels. Keryn follows the mantra that just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to put your travel dreams aside, if anything they just get bigger and more exciting. (All photos courtesy Keryn Means)
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