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Exchange is Not a Year in Your Life. It’s a Life in One Year.

Dominika+Augustyniak
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Exchange is Not a Year in Your Life. It’s a Life in One Year.

Dominika Augustyniak

Dominika Augustyniak

Abigail Cloutier

Dominika Augustyniak

Abigail Cloutier

Abigail Cloutier

Dominika Augustyniak

Dominika Augustyniak, Ranger Review Contributor

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Welcome home! It was the first thing I saw when I left the plane in the Portland Airport. With this sign I began a new chapter in my life. It took over 17 years of preparation to be able to take this one important decision to leave everything that I was used to–my beloved family and friends–and to start a completely different life.

I left my country ready for a huge change. I knew that it was going to be my job to adjust to a new situation.

The beginning of the year was a reminder of my childhood when everything was new and exciting. New parents, new sisters, new school, new bedroom, new dog and cat, new language, new food every night, new teachers, new view from the kitchen window, new everything.

I had to learn everything from the beginning.

One day I was driving with my new mom to church and she told me that I should say please and thank you more often. Solving this cultural problem took me a while, but it brought to my life not only a couple of new words, but also a greater appreciation of what happens around me.

The first day of school brought a new wave of people into my life. With the first ride on the yellow bus, the part of the exchange year called childhood was over. Then the real challenge started. I remember on the first day after school waiting for bus number 16. I saw Sophia, the other exchange student, was in my English class. When she told me that she was going to take bus number 16 as well, I was probably one of the happiest people in the world at that moment.

Sometimes I felt like even cutting vegetables was more fun here.”

— Dominika Augustyniak

It was a big step for me to move from my summer vacation to school work such as writing poems in English, understanding math and learning about the Civil War. The dictionary became my new best friend and Google translator was the only tab that I never closed. I spent the first couple of weeks trying to understand my schedule, to not get lost in the hallways, to use hall passes and to answer questions about Poland. None of these things would’ve ended with success if I hadn’t gotten help from other students and teachers.

After some time things started to repeat. I started to see the same people in my study halls and lunches. I felt that I started to belong here.

One afternoon when I was waiting for my bus I thought to myself that it’s a great feeling  knowing so many unique things, little details about everyday life in a small town in Maine. I felt like I loved everything about this place. Positive attitude is contagious, and I slowly started to catch it. Sometimes I felt like even cutting vegetables was more fun here. It wasn’t about the things that we were doing, it was about the people who were with me.

I started to become closer with my host family. My new mom, who is a wonderful person, sets a good example by respecting differences and after spending so much time with her, I have learned not to judge without knowing the whole story. I want to be just like her. She repeats all the time: “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.”

The next part of the year was like becoming an adult. My English skills have increased and I have had to take care of things that I’ve never had to think about. The hardest thing to adjust to was to deal with my own money. It took responsibility but also gave me freedom.

I was never a huge fan of shopping, but I remember once when we were in the mall, I discovered that it’s really amazing to have more freedom than at home. I wasn’t used to making my own decisions even in minor purchases, like buying a shirt. I used to ask my mom about everything. Since my first day in Maine, I had to make my own choices many times a day. After a little practice, I have gotten used to it.

The decision to come to the U.S. was the best decision of my life. I have gained new experience in dealing with people and adjusting to completely new habits and have made life-long relationships. From now on I have two moms, two dads, and two more sisters. They will be my family forever and nothing’s going to change it.

I don’t know how exactly my life is going to look in a couple of months, but I know that I will come back home as a full time adult and be ready to start my own life!

** Dominika Augustyniak is an exchange student currently attending Greely High School.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Exchange is Not a Year in Your Life. It’s a Life in One Year.”

  1. Margaret Corral on February 8th, 2019 12:27 pm

    I continue to be so impressed with you Dominika. You are so positive and engaged in your classes and life here. Thank you for sharing your perspective, and for having the strength to leave everything you knew in Poland to take a chance on life here. We are so lucky that you are here at Greely.




The Student Newspaper of Greely High School
Exchange is Not a Year in Your Life. It’s a Life in One Year.