Trying new things

I’ve been living in the States for a little over 6 months now. It’s crazy how fast time has flown by…

I remember when I left Australia, I thought to myself, “this is the year for trying new things, and if you fail, it doesn’t matter because no-one will ever know!” I can definitely say that I have tried new things this year. Probably the biggest ‘new’ thing I’ve tried would be cheerleading. Growing up, I always watched American movies and T.V. shows and wondered what it would be like to be a cheerleader. So when I found out they were having auditions for winter cheer (like fall cheer, except cheering at basketball games instead of football games), I decided to try out. Even though I’m probably the most inflexible and uncoordinated person in the school, somehow I MADE THE TEAM!

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I made lots of new friends, and all of the games we cheered at were so much fun. It was hard learning all of the cheers and chants that most of the cheerleaders already knew, and I never properly mastered the toe touch, herkie, and front hurdler stunts, but overall, I don’t regret doing cheerleading. I am so grateful to go to such a spirited school. The atmosphere at some of the big home basketball games was incredible- the stands would almost always be full with students. It really helped to motivate the basketball boys in their games.

Trimester 3 begins on Monday, and I’m starting another new sport- Lacrosse! Luckily, I automatically made the Varsity team because they were fairly short on numbers. I’ve been practicing for about 2 weeks now, and I’m slowly learning the rules of the game.

Something else new I’ve tried this year is all of the American food. There’s the classic Texas fried chicken, ribs and all the meat you can think of. Also, living so close to Mexico means that the cooking here has a slight Mexican influence. My host family likes to make chili soup, fajitas and guacamole. I used to hate black beans with a passion, but because of my motivation to try new things, I’ve grown to love them. And then there’s all of the new Jewish food that I’ve tasted from my host family’s Shabbat dinner (challah bread, matzah ball soup, brisket). I can’t wait to go back home and share all of these new foods with my family and friends.

Recently my mum came over from Australia to visit me for a week. She took me to New Orleans in Louisiana. We had an awesome time visiting all of the museums and historical sights, discovering cute little cafes in the french quarter, and listening to the local jazz music. A mix of influences from Europe, the Caribbean and Africa, make the city’s culture so unique. Once again, I tried lots of new food, like seafood gumbo (a thick, spicy stew filled with all sorts of fish), the famous New Orleans beignets, and bakes oysters.

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On the last day in the city, we went on a paddlewheel steamboat tour of the Mississippi where we learnt about all of the history behind the famous river. It was really nice seeing my mum for the week, and being able to share with her my experiences so far.

This year I’m also lucky to have had the opportunity to try lots of new subjects. American government, art history, video production, fashion drawing and black & white photography, are some of the new classes I’ve taken. My school has an awesome fine arts department that offers a large range of courses. Fashion drawing, a class I took in Trimester 2, was really cool. One of our projects was to draw a timeline of outfits inspired by fashion throughout the eras. The timelines turned out so well, that my teacher decided to get them hung in the admissions building!

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Black and White photography was another class I really liked. We learnt all about how to use cameras as they did in the early 20th century. When developing the photos, you couldn’t expose the film to light (otherwise the photo would be ruined), so we had to do a lot of our work in the dark! I always had photography in period 1, which was a nice start to the day (I could properly wake up considering we were in the dark most of the time haha).

black and white photography comp photoOne of my photographs actually made it into a high school competition in Fort-Worth. The photograph was made up of 12 small photographs, which joined to create a full picture of a power line. I ended up getting a “Landscape Honorable Mention Award”!

According to my countdown app, I currently have 95 days left in the U.S. It’s sad to think about, but I know that there’s many more memories to be made in the next few months. Hopefully I won’t run out of new things to try…

Until next time,

Lizzy Cox

Life at Greenhill School

It’s already been five weeks at my new day school, Greenhill School in Texas, and boy has that time flown by!

There are so many differences between this school and my school in Australia (Brisbane Girls Grammar School). For example, instead of going to an all girls school where I have to wear a uniform every day, I go to a co-ed school where I can wear my own clothes. Also, my old school was right in the city, whereas Greenhill is in a town called Addison and the campus is very spread out. It actually used to be a peacock farm so all over the campus, you’ll see peacocks wandering around (they’re looked after by the school now)!

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The first two weeks of school were really quite overwhelming. I found myself getting lost all of the time and feeling confused in class. It was also hard remembering all of the names of the kids in my grade and in my field hockey team. Field hockey practice is from 4-6pm every day and twice a week we have lifting (weights training)! I definitely wasn’t used to this kind of intensity!

But each day, I started to find myself feeling more comfortable in class and finding my way around the school. I got used to practising for field hockey every afternoon and was slowly learning everyone’s names. Being new can be hard but it is also kind of exciting too! I’ve been told by so many people that I have the coolest accent (I still can’t hear it haha). I’m also experiencing a bunch of new subjects: black and white photography, beginning video production, art history, precalculus, tragedy through the ages and honors physics.

I’ve already been to two school football games! The first game I went to was an amazing experience because it was the first time in two years that Greenhill had won! It was even more exciting because the game went into overtime and everyone was standing up in the bleachers cheering on the Hornets (our school mascot). When they scored the winning touch down, we all ran onto the field and screamed and cried 😀

I’ve made lots of great friends. Last weekend, I spent Saturday with one of my new friends, Sera, and we went and saw the Red Bull Flugtag in Las Colinas.  It was pretty much an event organized by Red Bull where competitors attempted to fly home-made, human-powered flying machines. The flying machines were launched off a pier about 30 feet high into the lake. It was awesome!

The weekend before last, I met up with the other ASSIST scholars from Dallas at the Greenhill college fair. Afterwards, we all walked to a nearby taco place and had an early dinner together. It was great to catch up with them all and to share our experiences so far.

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In these last five weeks I’ve gone through a lot of emotions but I’m glad to say that the majority of those are positive! As much as I miss my family and friends back in Brisbane, I’m really enjoying my time with my host family and new friends. And the exciting thing is, that this is only the beginning of my year in the States.

Until next time,

Lizzy

The fruits of work

As I reported last week, I am extremely busy. But now that the year gets closer to the end, the result of my hard work starts to show. I was featured as artist in the “Fort Wayne’s Almost Famous Artists” (Piece titled “Sharing Breath”, Upper right corner). It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other young artists! I also received a letter telling me that I would be inaugurated into the “Cum Laude Society” at my school. The “Cum Laude Scoiety” recognizes academic achievement in secondary schools for the purpose of promoting excellence (Areté), justice (Diké) and honor (Timé) (http://cumlaudesociety.org/). I cannot express how grateful and happy I am to receive such an honor from my school!

Yesterday, we had our last concert with the choir. The seniors traditionally receive a little dagger that signifies their contribution to the Fine Arts program at the school. My art teacher then, after naming all the seniors, called Toni and me up to the front and gave each of us one of these little daggers. It might not sound important, but it meant a lot to me. I had a hard time not crying.

I try not to think about the “end”, but it feels inevitable. What once was far away, so far from any grasp, is now coming closer at a terrifying speed. I try to keep my head clear and live each day to the fullest.

Alice, Canterbury School, IN

Spring is finally here

While time is passing by faster and faster, things get busier and busier. The activities I loaded on myself at the beginning of the year now become overwhelming – in a good way. Although I’m very busy and barely have time to sleep, I have the feeling I’m using my time to the fullest. I always tell myself that I can sleep when I get back to Austria.

And that is exactly something I am not completely looking forward to. Canterbury has become a home and a family for me. My host family has become a true second family for me and I can’t imagine not being here in Fort Wayne.

The only thing I haven’t been very lucky with lately was the weather. The one spring I’m here is the rainiest and coldest spring in years. The fields in our neighborhood were flooded last Friday when we left for school. Although the sun (finally) came out today, it is still freezing cold. My blanket we made on Sarah’s birthday is one of my best friends right now.

So much has happened since I wrote last time (which really was quite a while ago). I hope I will get this in the right chronological order and not forget anything important (which is very likely to happen).

76081_335545486564581_2095611850_n385809_335545099897953_709682172_nWe had another play starting after Christmas Break. It was the “Good Doctor” by Neil Simon. Very Russian, very funny and definitely very unique. It is built up from different little scenes joint by “author scenes”. The cast was a very talented group and 21773_335545213231275_347381251_nalthough no one felt ready the opening night of the play, we took the crowd in. This play was unforgettable and supported my love for theater once more.

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Now that I’m in my Junior year, well almost done with it (saying this with a tear in my eye), I need to make out the colleges I’m interested in, rule out majors I don’t care about and center my attention to a specific field of study so I can find the best college for me. I always struggle with decisions so this is in no way easy. My current idea is a double major, which would immediately rule out any colleges out of the US. Since I am very interested in theater and television, I am thinking about majoring in that field in order to become a producer. But I doubt that I can make it far in that business and I don’t really know if I would really like the whole atmosphere. Which is why I need a second major that can give me a safer career. And that is where I am as undecided as ever. It fluctuates from Journalism, to Law, Neuroscience or even Architecture.

But before I bore you with my Pros and Cons of those majors, I’ll better carry on with the description of the past months. I sent in a few of my art, photography and writing pieces into the Scholastics of Art and Writing competition and won an Honorable Mention, 2 Silver Keys (all in Photography), and a Gold Key in Poetry Writing. This poem got the chance to compete on National Level, but wasn’t recognized there. The region of Fort Wayne, on of the smallest in the US, is among the top 3 regions in the US, ranking before cities like Chicago and complete states like Texas.

The last weeks before Spring Break were a struggle – a combination between the need for a break, the general discontent about the weather and the overload of work. But when Spring Break was finally here, it was still meant to be working time (which I foolishly wasted). We went to DC, which was absolutely incredible (but cold!). We saw three of the Smithsonians, the Spy museum (which had an AWESOME 50 years of James Bond villain exhibition!!), all the monuments and Hello Dolly at the Ford Theater, where Lincoln was shot.  After that, we drove down to North Carolina (Davidson) to visit Ben and Hannah (the two older siblings that are in college). The weather was a lot better, even though Spring was delayed even there, at least compared to Furman, Hannah’s college.

One big part of Spring Break was March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. It was full of surprises, tragedy and cheer. Our favorite team, Michigan (go blue!), surprisingly made it to the Final, were it was defeated by Louisville in an amazing game. The biggest shock was Kevin Ware’s accident. Jumping to defend a three-pointer, he landed on his leg and broke it. I will spare you from the details since it is nothing you would want to picture.

IMG_7735But the best part of Spring Break was when my parents came to visit. Seeing them was surreal. Somehow they didn’t fit into the whole image. But after a day we were back to normal. Almost talking non-stop and of course some friendly arguing. When my parents were in Chicago, my parents discovered that Max Raabe (a German performer) would be giving a concert in Chicago two days later. I have been following his works for a while and had never had the chance to see him live, although he often performs in Berlin. My parents, awesome as they are, asked me if I wanted to go to that concert in the Symphony Center. They drove all the way from Chicago to Fort Wayne, had dinner with my second family, spent the night in my room while I was in Hannah’s room and then left for Chicago with me. We drove through Shipshewana, an Amish community approximately an hour from Fort Wayne, which was, as a lot of things seem to be around here, very impressive. The carriages on the side of the road were awesome to watch. When we finally came into Chicago, we stayed at a beautiful hotel (and went to Starbucks, like a lot). The concert itself was so good I can’t even put it into words. The best parts were probably when he sang in German and barely anyone understood. The time with my parents ended too fast, although everything just went back to normal when they left.

Now I am stuck with a lot of homework and cold weather. Prom is slowly approaching (May 18) and the drama around it seems to be as much a part of American culture as the prom itself is. But even then: I’m excited!

I couldn’t be more blessed with such an incredible host family who gives me the possibility to live this experience to the fullest.

I’m pretty sure that I forgot something, but I can always add that later.

Greetings from Fort Wayne, IN

Why I like living with the Mormons

Sorry guys, I have written quite a few drafts but have been too lazy to polish my writings and post them here. Yes, laziness. I really have no other better excuses.

Anyways, here is one that I finally take the time to turn into a complete piece of writing. These are just some thoughts of Mormonism (I’m in Utah) and religions in general. Please excuse the long post. I just can’t help myself!

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As soon as I knew a private school in Sandy, Utah admitted me through the ASSIST exchange program, I typed “utah” in the search bar. Listed in one of the search suggestions was the phrase “utah mormons”, which made the least sense to me and I soon forgot about it. But when my host dad emailed me later, saying “In case you are wondering, we are not Mormons.”, he brought back the intriguing mystery. Mormonism turns out to be a religion, and Utah seems to be quite a religious state. Coming from a country where spirituality and religion are often separated, I find my background beneficial in my journey of exploring the hub of Mormonism.

Excited as I was to arrive at Salt Lake City, I wondered how I would fit in this new community. At school, almost all of my friends (even the international ones) are Mormon. In my neighborhood, everyone knows each other well as they spend a large chunk of their time together in the local church. Considering the semi-Buddhist culture that I grew up in, this is a huge change. It is hard to believe what a religious community I have now become a part of. My zero knowledge on Mormonism made me feel uncomfortable, and so I contacted the missionaries to learn more about the religion.

During the weekly meetings I indeed learn a lot about Mormonism: my vocab now includes words such as “ward”, “priesthood”, and “tabernacle”. However, throughout my conversation with the missionaries, I find myself inquire them mostly about things such as their feelings when they pray or what going to church means to them. In short, the spiritual life is what I care most about rather than the sole theology.

While spirituality is often initiated by a certain religion, I believe that it is still possible to be spiritual without being religious. Although Vietnam can be seen as an atheist nation, we are by no mean unspiritual. We worship our ancestors and go to the pagoda monthly, even though more than eighty percent of the population do not have a religion. I do not have a religion myself, but I also visit the pagoda often to meditate and to pray to an anonymous God, who has gradually become an important part of my spiritual life.

The influence of spirituality on our everyday activities cannot be underestimated; in fact, it has the most power to make positive changes in our life. My interest for spirituality developed since I was a little girl, and my first exposure was through Roman Catholicism rather than Buddhism. My aunt, who lives in the U.S, visited my family and brought with her some Catholic magazines. I can still recall vividly how a beautiful picture of Mother Maria hypnotized me. The image touched my juvenile soul, and I have been keeping the picture ever since. Just like the transcendental feeling that nature often brings, the simple peacefulness and grace the painting evokes empower and motivate me. Gradually, I start to have faith in the power of spirituality to enrich our lives.

What I have observed in the Utahn Mormons further enhances the possibility to be spiritual as well as gain spiritual insights in a non-religious way. I sometimes join the local church’s activities or my neighbors’ family in worshiping, and I imagine such meetings to be full of discussion on religious theology which will likely alienate me. Indeed, such discussion contributes a large part in all these events; nevertheless, I am always able to find sympathy and understanding when people start to share their life experiences based on the scripture insights that they discuss earlier.

For example, I once attended a talk given by a newly-returned missionary from Tanzania who climbed mount Kilimanjaro and encountered people from all walks of life. The young missionary’s reflection of his journey enriched my experience as a Vietnamese exchange student in Salt Lake City. Indeed, he contributed more than just theological knowledge when he spoke about his struggle with Swahili or how he dealt with homesickness and cultural differences. “Great insights,” he said, his eyes filled with passion, “do not come only from sacred documents, but also from this eye-opening experience that I have been so blessed to be a part of.” He brought spiritual inspiration as he spoke, even to a non-Mormon like myself.

We tend to associate spirituality with religion, and as a result we often restrict ourselves from both acquiring and sharing our spiritual insights with people from other systems of belief. Nevertheless, anything related to spirituality should not be about being different or similar, right or wrong. I find Mormon doctrines greatly different from those of Buddhist and Catholic that I’m more familiar with; however, the differences cannot prevent me from enriching my spiritual life: they add more meanings to it.

Xuan – The Waterford School, Sandy, UT

College, at home or abroad?

Hey guys,

I do realize that it has been a while since my last post, but that’s gonna change from now on. For the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to answer a question if I want to study abroad or at home. I felt like on a roller coaster. At the beginning, I said to myself: “Alright, everybody around started to talk about colleges and the competition between St Mark’s students carried my away. Then I spoke to my parents. They fully supported my decisions, however, they didn’t seem to be very happy. So I started to think about it again. My friends in the Czech Republic immediately kept persuading me to study in Prague. Furthermore, I spoke to my grandma, and that was the absolute bottom of my roller coaster. After that conversation, I was not able to continue. However, after announcing my final verdict to my parents, it was my father (who doesn’t like America) who encouraged me to give it a try.

A new research began! I looked over a few colleges to where I would like to send my application. It turned out that by the end of this school year, I have to take TOEFL, SAT/ACT, 2 SAT Subject test and 4 AP exams in order to increase my chances for acceptance. After reading this information, almost fainted. After a deep breath, I scheduled this testing marathon, so that I have one test (counting all APs as one) per month starting with March.

This Friday, I am taking TOEFL, so please keep fingers crossed for me! Right now, I kind of feel like gambling. I am betting a ton of my free time, a few hundred dollars and huge amount of stress. The only thing that allays me is that if I don’t get a scholarship from a foundation in the Czech Republic and/or I am not accepted by the colleges, I will go and study in Prague at Czech institute of technology. After all, nobody guarantees that I would enjoy the one in Massachusetts more.

From now on, I keep updating my process and progress, so there will be at least some new posts at this blog 🙂

The flight of time

So many things have happened! I had my first real Thanksgiving, we had a Model UN conference, a speech meet, our musical showed, our soccer guys got 1A State champions, Christmas and so many more things I can’t possibly summarize in one sentence.

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IMG_0213It all started with a big game in Indianapolis on the IU soccer-field. Our guys ruled the field and easily won with a 5-0 score. GO CAVS! I really love the team spirit! And I might be changing the order of events, but such a big number of things happen so shortly after each other!IMG_0694 IMG_0689 IMG_0650

The Canterbury HS musical “How to succeed in business without really trying” was truly a success. We didn’t only have entertained spectators, but the cast also grew very close and it was a very depressing feeling when we were done with the rehearsals. Luckily, the winter play would start soon!

The musical was followed by the Junior college trip, probably one of the best class trips of my life. I got to see Furman and Davidson (my host siblIMG_1316ings happen to attend those two colleges, which made the visits even better!!), Emory, University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt  and Wittenberg. I have been considering to apply to American colleges. Vanderbilt is one of those for sure, Furman, Davidson and Emory will be taken under consideration. (top image: Vandy, bottom image: Furman, then: Ohio River, Cincinnati)

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But the trip was not only a highlight because of the colleges, but also due to the friends I made and got closer to during the trip and the activities after the college visits. We had a lot of fun at the CNN center in Atlanta, a bowling center and a river dance cruise at night on the beautiful Ohio river in Cincinnati. With a huge lack of sleep, but all in all very satisfied, we arrived at home after one week of  pure adventure and a lot of driving – we drove down to South Carolina, it took us 14 hours.

Then we had a Model UN conference at IUS, our team representing Morocco. After two days of constant discussion and arguments, everyone was tired but satisfied and agreed to have some fun during the last half hour. The world ended up declaring war against Morocco and we were “banned” from the Security Council. We then renamed our country “Rocco” and were allowed to come back. It was a lot of fun and some pretty serious discussion. My partner was amazing – he basically run the whole discussion!

Then came Thanksgiving! It was pretty memorable – I never saw that many people eating that much food at a time before. We had some family over and as much fun as we had food, which equals to a blast! The best thing was probably going to see Skyfall afterwards, filled up with the tons of food and ready to sit for a long time.

IMG_4887The next day was Cookie day, which is a family tradition. We drove up to Michigan to see the other part of the family to decorate cookies. I met so many nice people in those two days!

Then we went back to school and everything went by so fast. Finals came closer, the homework load increased a lot and my schedule was filled. Juggling between swim team, after-play practice and homework was not easy and will not be easy in the coming weeks, but then it is my decision to do so and I don’t regret making the decision to participate in both a theater production and a sport.

IMG_5372After finals, Christmas was finally there and the house was full again. Everyone was at home and every evening was fun in a special way!

I have too much to be thankful for in this situation. I wished for a chance to experience a different world. I got the chance to do so much more ❤

Alice