We asked Belfast High School senior Ari Snider ’10 to tell us about his recently completed year abroad. He writes: “It was fun and interesting to tie my Ashwood years into my exchange experience. I believe that there is a very real connection between the two.” — Editor
During my years at Ashwood Waldorf School I would often complain about drawing borders on my main lesson book pages. I was never the most steady-handed or discerning artist in my class, and I found form drawing tedious and irksome. I looked forward to high school, where painstakingly detailed borders would no longer be required.
Freshman year at Belfast Area High School replaced main lesson book pages with printer paper; yet, I did not feel liberated. I missed outdoor recesses, hands-on specialty classes, daily singing, general cultivation of the creative spirit, and other keystones of Waldorf education. I especially missed the creative task of each carefully drawn Main Lesson book page. I craved a more wholesome experience akin to that of my Ashwood education.
The possibility of a year abroad had already begun to tempt me when, early into sophomore year, I learned about Rotary Youth Exchange. A year later, I bid my family farewell and set out for Belgium.
I left the United States as a cultural ambassador, only to arrive in Belgium feeling like a nervous child in a foreign land. The emotional turbulence of the initial adjustment period tested my resolve and forced me to reaffirm and reexamine my core values. Only then did I begin growing into a mature exchange student, a process that continued throughout my exchange year.
Three kind, caring, and adventurous host families provided me with a strong base of support throughout the entire year. Over time I developed fast friendships with my Belgian Scouts and schoolmates, as well as with other Rotary exchange students. In the end, saying goodbye to my Belgian life hurt, but the pain of the farewells was a testament to how wonderful the year had been.
A year abroad offered me the challenge and engagement in the present for which I had so yearned. In Belgium, I nurtured my creative spirit by becoming fluent in French, exploring my host country, and opening myself to new people and experiences.
Living abroad taught me that my own perspective was the most important factor influencing my life and how I reacted to and processed the challenges and opportunities that faced me. Throughout my exchange, I relearned the importance of framing each page of my life within its own carefully drawn border.
—Ari Snider ’10