Every child has a dream, including me. It was a big goal for me to be an exchange student. Let me take you back to 4 years ago when my dream almost came true. Yes. It was just ‘almost’ because of the story that I am going to tell you.
My English teacher told me that there would be full scholarships to the United States for students who passed the test from AFS Intercultural Programs (or AFS, originally the American Field Service) which is an international youth exchange organization. At that time, I already started to dream about my life in the other side of the world.
The first step, I had to pass writing test. It was very difficult for me. Imagine that you are in the country that everyone only speaks Thai. You have nowhere to practice your English skills except in your English classes which are three to four periods a week. So now you know why I said it was very difficult. Fortunately, I studied and practiced hard enough to pass that test. After I knew the test result from the internet, I remembered that I told everyone in my family and my close friends. It really was something you can call ‘the happiness moment’ but I still told myself to practice more and more because it was not only me. There were many students from several schools in every part of Thailand got that chances as well. Next step was the interview. It was quite hard because there were two to three rounds for the students to go through. Finally, I was one of the eighteen students from Thailand who got the scholarship. I was very excited because it would be my first time that staying far away from home. I started imagine again but this time it was different. I was very sure that I would be in America. Counting down to my journey there was my favorite part of the day.
One day, I picked up the phone and was shocked. I felt like I was punched in the face. Someone from AFS Thailand told me that AFS USA could not gave me the scholarship anymore because of the economic crisis in the states. I could not go to America but they said it was not my fault. So they offered me to go to another country which was South Africa. I have to confess that at that moment, I did not know anything about this country. All I know is that there are only poverty and inequality so that drove me crazy. Changing from America to South Africa was unexpected for me. Then I asked my parents what I should do. They just said that did whatever I want. Lastly, I decided to grab that opportunity to open my world even if it was not my first determination. I went to South Africa for my exchange year. It was so great. My host family, school, friends, and everything I explored were the treasures of life. I remembered that the last day in South Africa, I cried so hard because I did not want to leave the country where I called my second home.
From then until now, I have never regretted the decision that I made. Even though my first dream was only ‘almost’ came true, this experience taught me that every cloud has a silver lining. I should never feel hopeless because difficult times always lead to better days just like this story.