Actually I was about to turn 16 when I flew out of Darwin on a great big adventure. I had been accepted as an AFS (American Field Service) Scholarship Exchange Student. If the truth be known, I had not really wanted to go, but had applied for the scholarship because my beloved older sister (by 18 months) had previously applied and been rejected.
I was determined to go through the process to find out what was wrong with it. In fact, there was nothing wrong with the system, it was just probably because there were so many applicants that year.
My Year in the USA
Anyway, there I was, committed to spending a year in the USA, staying with a family called the Cunningham’s in a little town called Longmont, Colorado.
I was really scared, not sure what I had got myself into and also leaving in the middle of my Year 12, with my teachers telling me it was highly likely that I would have to repeat after being away for so long.
The only time I had been away from my family was for the school camps, and I never really enjoyed those.
The Cunningham’s, Mum Marilee, Dad Lynn, Kids Amy, Laura, Lynn Jr and Sara were originally from the East Coast but had ended up in Colorado. They were the best family a girl from the tropics could land with.
Why they wanted to take on the responsibility for another teenager is beyond me, but they did.
The AFS exchange is about embedding you into a family and a community so that you can fully experience the different culture.
It was an outstanding opportunity for me.
With so many highlights like learning how to ski, working on the school newspaper and being part of the speech and debate teams. The Cunningham’s did a lot of weekend travelling and I got to see a lot of the surrounding States, as well as some further afield like North Dakota.
I lost track of them for quite awhile, until one of my sisters moved to the USA. This offered us a chance to travel there more often and sometimes catch up with various family members.
The advent of Facebook has allowed me to share in some of the life events of this wonderful and extensive family.
This week for the first time, my host mother Marilee, will be travelling to Darwin. It’s going to be great showing her around Darwin and surrounds. I hope she will get to love it as much as I do.