April 28, 2013
When people constantly underestimate you:



April 3, 2013
Letter for International Night

Every year, my home district in America (7950) has an “International Night” where all of the outbounds and their clubs get together for a dinner. Everyone says where they are headed off to, and the kids who are on exchange from the district send in letters and are read out to the whole crowd. Here is the letter I wrote:

I can’t believe that it’s now my time to address the newbies, when it seems like just recently that I was one. I can remember back to this night last year; sitting at the Exchange Student table with a practically empty blazer, making awkward conversation with the other students, and listening to someone go on about their friend’s step-daughter’s husband who visited your host country in 1987. This is the night where this whole experience suddenly becomes real. Your rehearsed saying of, “I will be spending a year abroad next year” is becoming more of a reality each day. In a few months, no longer will your host city, school and family just be words on a piece of paper, but actual tangible places and people. In a few months, you will step onto an airplane and leave your real family behind, only to be greeted by a new, real family. The things that seem different and bizarre at the beginning of your exchange won’t even stand out after time. These cultural differences that are sometimes hard to ignore at the start, will become your new norms. Going days without speaking English, attending school in another language, and having meaningful conversations with people who you didn’t even know existed last year, will be normal occurrences. You have made the decision to explore a completely different life than the one you have grown accustomed to. It is the most frightening and crazy thing you could ever do, but also the most rewarding. Becoming an exchange student is a decision that only 8,000 teenagers around the world make each year. You should feel proud that you are part of a brave few that chose to change the path of their life. I have experienced so many incredible things while on my exchange. I’ve learned how to ski in the French Alps, I know my way around world class places like Cannes and Monaco, and have met best friends that I will be connected with in years to come. March 28th marked my 7 month here in France, and there are only 3 short months left until I return on June 30th. I don’t ever want to come home from my exchange (sorry Mom and Dad) because I love my life in France. I would just like to say thank you to the Portsmouth Rotary and Rotary Youth Exchange in general for giving me this unforgettable experience. And my advice to all of the exchange students is: Live everyday to the fullest and keep your hands out of the Nutella jar!

Profitez bien de votre échange, parce que ça se passe trop vite. Bon courage les gars! (Translation: Enjoy your exchange, because it happens too fast. Good luck guys!)


                                                                                          Charlotte Akin               

March 9, 2013
March 9th, 2013

So…. Hello again…. I win the award for lamest updating exchange blog ever.

Since the last time we spoke I have changed host families, learned how to ski (sort of), celebrated my birthday, had my 2 week February vacation, and probably more things have happened but don’t remember lol.

First off, I changed host families. I live in the same town as my school now, so I have a 3 minute walk in the morning, which means I sleep later, and that rocks. The change was not difficult or scary, it was just strange. I went from having 7 to 8 people in my family/house at all times, to living with just 1 other person. I got used to the noise, chaos, and general energy that ensued whilst living there. I got used to living and hanging out with my best friend all the time. (I sound lame, but I would call my host brother William, my best friend in France, or in the WORLD MAYBE?!). We got/are extremely close, and have a real brother-sister relationship. He is doing a Rotary Youth Exchange next year to Argentina, and I am planning on visiting. Here is a picture of us in Monaco (photo cred: Eamon). #sobbing


Next up, we have skiing. My lycee is a super sporty school, and practically EVERYONE is good at skiing/snowboarding/other sport. We are 9km from a ski station (Station de ski, I guess ski station is the translation? I have no idea what it is called in English. Resort? Mountain? Whatever). Anyway, we have a program where if you are on the ski team, you miss either Monday or Friday afternoons of classes to go practise, and a “free ski” Wednesday afternoons where you get a discounted lift ticket of 5 euros. William and I both did the Wednesday afternoon “free ski” every Wednesday until February vacation (program stops then). I have been skiing one time in my life before this and I was 8 years old. This certainly does not count. I wasn’t terrified of skiing in general, but was terrified skiing with practically everyone in my elite skiing school. I wasn’t horrible the first run, and by that I mean I didn’t fall, so I considered it a victory. I basically went straight down, screaming. I did the same green trail over and over again to try to get the technique. After 3 times of the same green, the people I was skiing with, coaxed me into going on a blue and red run: horrible idea. I had 0 control, went straight down and almost took out 12 small children in the process. But now, I can slalom decently, and am a lot more comfortable on the runs. I still have barely any control when I go on a blue, but hey, I have time to improve. 

Now we are onto February vacation. William and I both got invited to a party on my birthday, (I now realize how much I talk about William, lol sry). I’m not really friends with the people who were there, but I went anyway. It was awesome because when it was midnight, everyone sung “Happy Birthday” in English. I couldn’t hide my happiness, hahaha. Here is a photo of me being obnoxious as usual. (I wore a ribbon to be a troll that said “Birthday Girl” that my sister sent to me. )


My host mom and her mother went to Italy for the majority of the vacation, and they booked the trip before she knew she was going to host me. I wasn’t that heartbroken because living with 1 person, makes you a bit sick of them after awhile. So I stayed at Gabi’s (my American friend) house for a week and a half. We visited Italy (Ventimiglia) on the train and other cities in France along the coast (Villefranche-sur-mer, St. Paul de Vence, Antibes, etc). We didn’t have the best weather in France but whatever. Here are some photos:

Villefranche sur mer





I passed my 6 month mark on February 28th. I have benchmarks to look forward to from now until the end of the year. On April 12th, Gabi and I are going to LONDON for 10 days. I cannot WAIT. It’s all that I think about. And June 3rd, we have EuroTour for 2 weeks, then I leave June 30th. The weeks go by extremely fast, and right now I’m on the downward slope of going home. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when I get home, because what I’m doing right now; skiing, taking the train to world class cities, going to school in French, and just being here, is my normal life. I’m trying to live in the moment because I don’t want to spoil what little time I have left here. It’s not that I am in love with France/French culture/etc, because I’m not. At all. It’s the fact that I am in love with the fact that I am on this exchange, “belle experience” (hahahahahaha), and that I get to do extraordinary things every single week, that some people cannot even dream of doing. I give props to every single exchange student for doing this program for themselves. We are all truly freaking AWESOME people. 

That is pretty much it, and I will try to write more frequently, because I don’t have an excuse not to. Bisous!

January 23, 2013
"To come home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. You expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible. Maybe it’s impossible to even truly come home once you’ve gone away because of those changes. Coming home is strange, because now that place is just a tiny bit less of a home."

— Alex Brueckner,How To Come Home (via perfect)

(Source: larmoyante, via perfect)

January 12, 2013
January 11th, 2013

Oh hey…. Yes, I am still living, sorry I have not posted in almost 3 months, lol oops. I will apologize in advance for my scatterbrain-run on sentences in this post. 

So since the last time I wrote, I have been on 2 vacations. The first one was the end of October/early November. I went to Normandy with my host family. We stayed in Port Bail for a few days at their vacation house, and then went to Rouen for the rest of the week. The house in Port Bail made me have terrible cabin fever, and I was so incredibly bored because my host brother was at his grandparents house, so that was a super bummer. I did get to see my friend Sarah and her family (who i stayed with for my short-term exchange). They took me to Caen, and the beaches of D-Day. That was really cool but as usual in Normandy, it was pouring bloody rain, so I couldn’t enjoy it as much. I got super homesick when I was with her, and then was super homesick the rest of the vacation. I think it was because I fell out of my usual routine of going to school everyday. I felt better when we went to Rouen, because we stayed right in Centre-Ville at their cousin’s house, so there was actually stuff to do. We went to a carnival, where again, I blew a lot of my money. I went on this absolutely terrifying ride that went really high in the air, and just flipped out around constantly. I’m pretty sure I got a concussion, but the view of the city was magic. The rest of the vacation was pretty uneventful. I should probably update more frequently, because cool stuff might of happened, but I don’t remember that far back. I probably went to Nice and hung out with Gabi (the usual). OH! I remember, a week or two after the vacation all (most) of the exchange students in the district came to Nice to go to the marche de noel! It was really fun to be with everyone. We went ice skating (I was peeing myself because I was so happy. I love ice skating), walked around (the usual), and went on the ferris wheel. The week before Christmas vacation we had a Rotary outing in Monaco. We went to the museum of oceanography. It’s like an aquarium/museum thing. That was my 4th time in Monaco, and it is gorgeous. Nothing is dirty or out of place. The weather was spectacular too.

Sarah and I enjoying some Normandy Cider!

Omaha beach!


We hijacked a mo-ped.

Marche de Noel in Nice, Place Massena.

School is going alright, I have kind of given up trying in a lot of classes. Italian is my best subject, and I like the teacher so I make an effort, but in the other classes, I just don’t really bother anymore. I take the notes that everyone else does, answer questions about the US once in a while, and try not to fall asleep. I should probably try a wee bit harder, but my entire day is based on social interaction in another language, and it is tiring enough being at school in French all day, and trying to write an essay (I use the term essay loosely, it’s like a two-paragraph kind of thing) about the Holocaust for History in French, just flat out sucks. I hate to be a complainer, but yeah, lol.

Next up, Christmas vacation. It was really nice! We went straight to Rouen the day after school ended. We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. Pretty much the entire family came to the Aunt’s house I stayed at. We were about 45 people, and there was enough food and desserts and champagne for about 65. I felt at home, because Christmas in Montreal at my grandma’s house is always full of people, food, and good times. I didn’t have time to be homesick, because I was having fun being with a second family, and an open bar of fine French champagne. (IM KIDDING. not really. okay i only had 4 glasses…). I actually got presents too!!!! Perfume and a giftcard to fnac (kind of a best buy/barnes and noble thing) from my host parents, a scarf from the grandparents, and other little trinkets from the family. We chilled the rest of the week in Rouen, and made me want to live in a city when I grow up. Being able to walk everywhere, and always something to do was awesome. We came back the day before New Year’s Eve where William and I went to a party with the kids in his class in some random village where there are 5 yearly inhabitants. Getting there was a biotch. We took a bus from Nice to Menton at 10AM, the last city before the border of Italy, then we took a bus from Menton north to Fenton at 4PM. We drove through Italy, so that was kind of cool, then we had to catch a ride from a girl’s mom who was driving up to the village, and got there around 6PM. That explanation was a lot more complicated than it should have been, but yeah. The party was fun, and it was good that it was people from school, because now they know I have a personality. We got back home the day after, and William and I pretty much slept from 8PM to 2PM the next day. The rest of the vacation was chill. I hung out with an actual French person on the Friday, so I was very proud of myself with that, and then slept over at Gabi’s house that Friday. 

Yesterday I stayed home from school with William (he doesnt have class on Fridays) and packed all of my stuff. I am moving families in about 3 hours. I had a bit of breakdown because I found a bunch of my mom’s letters, and packing reminded me of leaving home. It’s going to be hard to change, because I have gotten so close with William, he is basically my brother, and I will only see him at school, and occasionally on the weekends in Nice if we plan to cross paths, but it’s not the same. I really love my host family, because there are 6 kids, and there’s always something going on. My next host family, is a single woman who lives in the same town as my school. She’s an English prof at the school. But, like my cousin told me yesterday, “it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.” Which is going to be my motto. I don’t want to compare families, because I am going from two completely different ends of the spectrum here. A house where there is a usual 7-8 people at the dinner table every night, to a house where we will be 2 every night. 

I can’t believe how fast time is going by, and how fast things come and go. I will only be at my next house for about 12 weekends, and then my next for even less time. I have been here for about 4 and a half months, and have about 5 left. I feel like right now is when things will start to get awesome. Nothing SUPER exciting has happened, and it can only get better and funner. Well, thats all I have, hopefully my writing wasn’t too difficult to read. (give me a break, I haven’t wrote an essay in like 7 months!) Love and miss everyone!!!! Wish me luck for changing families!!!!!

October 23, 2012
October 23rd, 2012

Hello. It has been officially 2 months since I’ve been here in France. Whaaaat?! How is that possible? It doesn’t feel like that long at all!!

This weekend I went to Nice with Gabi (an American) and Eamon (a Canadian) and it was pretty fun. Gabi and I went shopping, and then we pretty much just chilled and walked around Nice. It was really fun, because we all shared what our experiences were. And by shared our experiences I mean we complained about: the teachers at school, school in general, not being able to travel alone and not being able to speak French fluently. We’ve been here for 2 months… how come we’re not fluent yet?! Not being able to speak the language isn’t really a problem for me, I just wish I could wake up and be able to speak it, but that isn’t going to happen, so I actually have to work at it. Gabi and I took the bus back to her house in Vence, and in the morning we made rainbow pancakes:

School is school. It’s boring because I literally don’t do anything. I have gotten used to finishing at 5:30 everyday, and it doesn’t seem that long and I don’t have many problems with staying awake during class. Sometimes I fall asleep, but those are rare occasions that I try to avoid because I feel super guilty after. But it just sucks because I don’t understand anything, and the teachers still like make me take tests and whatnot, that I know I will fail. Beginner Italian is okay, I do pretty well in that, and Maths is really easy and good SOMETIMES. When we do Algebra, I breeze through it because I’ve been learning what they are learning since 7th grade, for example, I was the only person to get a 20/20 on a controle (test) when everyone else got below  13. (The grading is a lot different here, and anything above like an 11 is considered really good) but when the math is like word problems in french, or just really bizarre ways of going about solving the problem, I fail epically. Economics is impossible because the teacher gives notes orally, so I attempt to take notes but pretty much just try to stay awake and draw in class. He saw me not doing the work this week, and then asked me to come up to the board and show how to calculate some cost that I had no idea how to do, so the girl next to me gave me her paper, and he was like “she just copied what you did, she didn’t do that, blah blah blah”. Lol, sorry brah… French class is exactly like English class in America, but instead of analysing Shakespeare and translating old English into regular English, its analysing French Shakespeare equivalents, and writing essays. English class sucks because my teacher has a wicked French accent, and the class is so unstructured. She makes me translate the lessons into French, but I should be talking so the kids can here a native speaker but whatever. And the other classes are uneventful. 

So Friday is my last day of classes and then I have a 2 week vacation!!!! CANNOT WAIT. This weekend I’m going to Cannes, Monaco, and maybe other places with the American girl in my district. It will be so fun!! I have already been to Monaco, (pshh, old news… I am completely kidding. It was AWESOME and I really want to go back. Here is a picture from Monaco by the way….)

I really like where I live in France because every sort of big city in the south is really close and accessible. A few weeks ago there was a Rotary get together in St. Tropez, and that was sick. St. Tropez is awesome! We took a boat from St. Raphael to St. Tropez and walked around. I saw a boat from Newport in one of the ports there, but didn’t find the owner. Dommage. 

My host family and I are taking the train up to Normandy on Wednesday (the TGV, which is super fast so it takes about 5 or 6 hours to go from Nice to Paris). Then my host brother and I are taking the train from Paris to Rouen, and staying there for a day or two with their cousins. And then on Friday, Sarah (my friend from France who I did the Short-Term Exchange with) and her family are going to meet me (somewhere) and take me to the WW2 beaches! I am SOOOO excited to see her and the rest of the family, and plus, my French has improved since the last time we were together.

That is pretty much all I have to report. Everything is really really good here. I love my host family, the food is ridiculous, and I’m really enjoying myself. Well, bye bye for now!

October 22, 2012

Anonymous said: UPDATE YOUR BLOG!

sorry i will tomorrow!!!!

September 17, 2012
September 17th, 2012

I’m sick and home from school today (its a good and bad thing, haha) so I am going to update about school/life. 

School has been pretty good. I’m getting used to the fact that I go to school until 5:30 everyday except Wednesday when we finish at 12:30 (everyone else but me, I have 2 hours of gym class, then I finish at 1030 because I don’t have an English class because there isn’t a professor, and then I don’t get what the other class is, but I don’t go to it) and Friday we finish at 4:30. I am starting to understand class more (well everything except SES, which I can’t even begin to explain how awful that class is, sorry M. Pradeau, you’re a nice guy, but I fall asleep in your class, and your class only…). Teacher’s still don’t really expect anything of me, like when I don’t do my homework, they don’t say anything. (lol sorry I didn’t know you assigned any). I had a meeting with the 2 vice principals, and principal of the school and he changed my schedule around a bit, so instead of 5 hours of SES a week, I have 3, (I take art with the kids from 2 grades below, and Italian instead). Italian is super hard, because I am in 2 different levels of difficulty. Like in the states, I would be in the equivalent of Italian 1 and then Italian 3. I really have no idea why I’m in Italian 3, because I don’t understand anything… Maths is so easy I want to cry. The process that they do the work in is so ass-backwards and makes the problem 10X harder than it actually is, and I get marks off on my tests/homework/classwork because, and I quote Mr. Rose on this one, I “work smarter, not harder”. I enjoy French class because my teacher is a riot. He is so bizarre, and has such witty banter with everyone, I’m engaged the entire time. We were analyzing a sonnet (well I wasn’t but everyone else was), and he asked me to read it outloud. I was terrified, and tried to not sound so American, but I did anyway, and when I was finished, everyone was foaming at the mouth at my accent. I am so glad that people actually LIKE American accents! The kids here are really nice and welcoming, and once I’m talking to someone, other people come and start talking to me. I have a group of friends that I hang out with on breaks, and eat lunch with and I am SO happy I don’t have to follow my host brother around. He actually likes me though, and we always talk when we have a free period and on breaks. Enough about school though, and on to more exciting things.

Two weeks ago we had our first District get-together. All the exchange students in our district and our host families met somewhere…. I don’t really know where it was and had a picnic. It was awesome to meet everyone and to just talk and compare notes on what we had been experiencing. Everyone is awesome, and I can’t wait to see everyone in 2 weeks when we go to St. Tropez to go on a boat. Hell. Yeah. Here is a picture of everyone…

On Saturday William and I went to Nice for the day. I bumped into a girl from my class (this was awesome because William is always running into people, and now I ran into someone, muwahaha). We went to McDonald’s (I have been there twice since I’ve been here, and that’s more times than I would go in a year in America…) and then to a cafe for a COFFEE. I was literally so freaking happy to drink coffee. We took the bus to Antibes at around 9 to sleep at my host mom’s friends house. Then yesterday we went to the beach in Antibes and walked around and got gelato (it was so good, I got cappucino and chocolate and I was dying). The beach was great, because it was warm, but the sun wasn’t hot at all, and the water was really nice. It was pretty salty, and it did wonders for my hair and skin.

We went back to the house and walked around the park that was near and did PARKOUR. Lol not me, but William did. My whole family came to Antibes to have dinner and then we got home around 11. I felt pretty awful because I’m so congested and my host mom said I could stay home from school, and I’m pretty sure William did too, because I just heard someone coughing… Pretty sure we have the same thing.

It’s been 3 weeks, and I probably should have made this blog post at a better milestone like 1 month, but whatever. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 3 weeks, and the more I think about it, being here for 11 months is actually a really short period of time. Sure, sometimes I wake up and realize I’m not at home, and get freaked out, or think about not going to Starbucks every week with my mom, but then I realize how awesome what I’m doing really is.

That’s it for now! Ciao!

September 5, 2012
September 5th, 2012; First Day of School

Today was my first day of school. There was a meeting with everyone in my year (Premiere) and their parents at 10AM for half an hour, and then we dispersed to our classes. I’m in the ES (Economic and Social) block of classes so I have a scheduled centered around social studies, etc. Today was sort of an introduction day, so my head teacher just sort of talked for 2 hours and gave us our books. We did a “get to know you” sort of survey and one of the questions was “Do you have any personal problems?” and I wrote “I don’t speak french…”. Hopefully he finds that funny and not disrespectful lolol. 

He started talking to me, and I’m pretty sure he asked me to introduce myself and in my head I was like….

But even if he didn’t, I still said to the class, my name is Charlotte, I’m 16, and I’m from the United States. And then people just kind of stared at me hahahaha.

Then we were dismissed at 12 to go home. I found William, my host brother, and we hung out with some of his friends and then went to lunch. Its a full meal deal in the cafeteria… And was actually pretty good. At lunch some kids asked me questions and I was like…

So William translates for me…. I am actually so dependent on him, and I feel bad because I follow him around like a dog. The people seemed pretty nice, but if I didn’t have William introduce me to people, I think it would be SO much more difficult. Also, most people think I’m British or Irish because I’m not tan hahaha, but they become a lot more interested once I say I’m American.

We took the bus home, which is the size of a large minivan, or an airport shuttle. The drive actually sucks because its 30 minutes of constant twists and turns, but whatever, I’ll live. 

Well tomorrow will be a lot more difficult because we actually start learning, (well not me, but everyone else that can speak french) and we start school at 8:15 and get out at 5:30. 5:30!!!!!! It will definitely a huge adjustment to be at school for that long and not understand anything. Even today with 2 hours of “classes” was tiring, so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like. But, like everything, I will need to adjust to be happy.

I have to present at my Rotary Club in Nice on tomorrow and I’ve been practising my speech in front of my family, and only now I realize how American I sound when I speak French. But, accents are cool, so I will get over it.

I will update about how school goes at the end of the week and how my presentation went.

August 30, 2012
August 30th, 2012

Today is my third day in France. It is spectacular here, my mom would freak out if she saw the mountains and scenery. I need to take/post pictures to show everyone.

Leaving Boston sucked because I was crying like a little baby and it was just really hard. We arrived in Charlotte 2 hours later and met up with 19 other exchange students. It was fun to see everyone’s excitement, and to just talk with everyone. We all travelled to Paris together. Our flight got in at 7:00 AM and we all got our bags. We were greeted by some Rotarians that took us through the airport and to our connecting flights. Going through Charles de Gaulle was a nightmare because I had so many bags, and some areas didn’t allow carts -_- But thank god my mom called Air France and got the confirmation number for my Paris-Nice flight or else I wouldn’t have been able to check in!! I waited for my 2 o’clock flight for about 4 hours with some other students at the gate. I slept for the majority of the 2 hour flight, and then landed. My family and my district Youth Exchange Officer greeted me and another girl at the airport. We drove about 40 minutes to the house and I took a shower and slept for a bit.

The next day we went swimming and played monopoly. At 2 PM, it was 104 degrees F ahhhh, luckily the pool kept us cool. My host club president came over for dinner to say good bye to Adrien (my host brother who left for his exchange to New York today) and to meet me. He drives a Porsche and owns a boat… Hopefully we will become good friends hahaha. Today we watched The Avengers, without English sub-titles because we didn’t know how to put them on. I was pretty lost, but Captain America and Thor were just very nice to look at lolol ;). Tomorrow we’ll go to Nice and I will take pictures. Driving in from the airport, it looked so lovely, and pretty much like California. 

School starts on Tuesday, and I’m concerned I will just fall asleep because of the lack of understanding. Watching a movie today in straight up French made me so tired, and that was a leisure activity. And I can barely understand anything that it said to me too, so I just nod and say “oui” and hope that yes is the right answer. 

I will update as much as possible without being too boring!!

July 9, 2012
July 9, 2012. 50 days left.

I feel weird and unnecessary for writing on this blog now because I haven’t left yet but whatever, I will continue.

Background information: I’m Charlotte, 16 years old from Portsmouth, Rhode Island and I am an outbound Rotary Youth Exchange Student to District 1730 in France in 2012-2013.

The reality of leaving sinks in more and more as time goes on. Many of the times I have “What. The. Hell.” moments, when I think about the fact that I will be gone for an entire year. The feelings of excitement and anxiety hit me every waking moment of every single day, (hence me writing this at 1:30 AM). The rehearsed saying of “I’ll be living in France for a year” is slowly but surely becoming a reality. No longer is it just something I will be doing in the distant future, it’s something that is almost upon me. No longer will the names of my host families going to be just text on a piece of paper, but actual people that will care for me, for 3 months at a time. 

That was a bit over dramatic and faux philosophical but still. This experience will be the best experience I will ever have in my life. Over analysing and over thinking will ruin it before it even starts. Whenever I am having anxious and remorseful thoughts, I just think, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. I know, I stole that from Bob Dylan but it applies. Everything will turn out all right in the end. I could not ask for a better opportunity. I don’t know what this next year will bring, but I sure know that it will be an unforgettable and life-changing experience.