I have been sitting in this tiny 2-person helicopter for about 30 minutes now. The pilot, who I just met this morning when he came to pick me up at my house, has been trying to warm up and start the engine this whole time with no success. I wrap my scarf around my face and clutch the camera through my mittens because it is about freezing inside the helicopter too. Oh man, mom is not going to like hearing about this, I thought as I glanced back up at the looming Alps, how did I even end up here? The pilot jumped back in the helicopter and roughly said in German “Let’s try this one more time.” Finally came that long awaited hum of the engine, and we were ready for takeoff! I looked back at the pilot one last time thinking are you sure this human-hamster-ball-sized helicopter is going to make it over those mountains??
Thankfully we did make it over those mountains, and better yet I didn’t drop my phone out of the helicopter! This experience was definitely one of my top favorite memories of my year abroad as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student. Not only did I survive daring feats, like leaning out of the doorless helicopter (yeah, we took my door off to get a better video….yolo?), I also got to learn a new language, integrate myself in a new culture and make friends I will have for life. Before this experience, I never even thought I could actually learn another language. I mean we all “take” Spanish or something in high school, and if you told me back then that I was going double majoring in German and learning Chinese in college, I would have laughed and said you were lying. I guess that is kinda what exchange does to you though. It takes you out of your comfort zone, embarrasses you half the time (rip…when I mixed up the words “awful” and “fertile”), makes you feel every other emotion you didn’t know you had until that year, and then spits you out with so much growth and experience. I cannot be more thankful for this experience because it was probably the most influential year of my life. It was also maybe the greatest cookies making year of life: a zillion “american” chocolate chip cookies for everyone made by me, a half a zillion peanut butter thumbprints made with my friends from Syria and Austria, and maybe a zillion and half more tiny, perfect Austrian Christmas cookies made by my host family and me. So what do these three zillion cookies mean to me? They represent all the random memories, laughs and new experiences I had during my exchange.
Making cookies is a pretty good analogy for how exchange works, so if you are interested in going on exchange, here are my tips:
- Cookies aren’t just going to make themselves if you just sit there
- If this oven isn’t like your oven at home, you have to adapt or else your cookies or you will get burnt
- You can add a little cinnamon or something to your cookies, but make sure not to make them too spicy
- If your cookies don’t look the same as your friend’s cookies, that’s okay. Yours are not better or worse, they are just different
- And if someone asks you to go make cookies (within reason of course, let’s keep these cookies legal), say yes! Because you never know what kind of cookies to expect!
- When going to a Rotary meeting that I didn’t expect to be the most interesting (yeah, the meeting itself was still not all that interesting due to my limited understanding of German dialect), I happened to be sitting next to my Rotary President when he realized he still needed a small person to go up in a helicopter to film a race the next day :)
So if you think you are up to this cookie making challenge, feel free to contact me or your local Rotary Club to find out more about Rotary Youth Exchange!
If you were interested in what I filmed here was the video my footage was used in to show off this skiing-up-a-mountain-and-the-back-down-the-moutain race:
https://vimeo.com/155393602?fbclid=IwAR1Qxsg4uNU2azTRZZQA7HGYUi_Z06YJ–i_PxyzuQU0r_fZ5driapoxpyk (I think the footage right at the beginning and all the really faraway parts between 1:43-2:20 is mine + plus you can see the tiny shadow of the helicopter from 3:04-3:06!)