sábado, 25 de janeiro de 2014

AFS Intercultural Programs - and story of an exchange student!

   Olá todos! Well, I know much more things in Portuguese, of course, but still not good to write such a long text. Because I’m an exchange student in Carlos Amarante, who is from Turkey and will stay here until the end of this year. In this text, I’m going to tell you about the program which brought me here, my story about the program and in Portugal. Actually I’m an amateur blogger and I’m going to write this in my style, hope you guys like it! And I hope this will be an inspiration to whom likes travelling, knowing new cultures and languages and wants to be an exchange student!

   I guess it’s better if I introduce myself before talking about all the stuff. My name is Hilâl Uzman. I’m Turkish and 18 years old. I already graduated from high school in Turkey, and made true two of my biggest dreams; got my place at department of International Relations, then won AFS Intercultural Programs and accepted by Portugal! (You can’t imagine how happy I was when I got the acceptance letter. Yeah, I was jumping and screaming ‘cause my new life was about to start!) Let me give some informations about the program.

   AFS Intercultural Programs (or AFS, originally the American Field Service) was established in 1915. Begun as a service of volunteer ambulance drivers in 1914, AFS has evolved into an international youth exchange organization.

Worldwide, AFS is a group of over 50 independent, not-for-profit organizations called partners, each with its own network of volunteers, professionally staffed offices, volunteer board of directors and website. It’s world’s one the most trustful student exchange programs in my opinion. In 2007, almost 13,000 participants traveled abroad on AFS cultural exchanges between 65 countries. (Well, wikipedia says like that.) Actually it has a really interesting history but I don’t want to be boring, so if you really interested about it; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AFS_Intercultural_Programs#History .

   When I first heard about the program, I was in my first year of high school and I promised myself that I’m going to be part of it. Then it became my dream and in the senior year I applied for the program. I don’t know how it works in Portugal, because every country has it’s own way to choose students. But in Turkey, there are lots of students. So they’re really scrutinizing. I passed a test about general culture, IQ test and psychologhy test. Then I had an interview with three returnee AFSers. It was a 4 months long process, and by that time I was preparing for university exams. I still remember when I got the sms of acceptance for the program; I was in a bus with my friend to take extra courses, we saw the message and started screaming and hugging each other! Everyone was looking at us but I was so happy that I could even hug all passengers in the bus!

   Then I filled many forms about me. When the time of making preference list of countries has came, I was thinking about countries but my family were not sure about letting me go abroad. One way or another, I made them saying “yes”. In my list, I had Latvia and Czech Republic afterwards Portugal. I can’t imagine how my life would be so different than this if Portugal hadn’t accept me. Because they all completely different than here. But in every way, I’m sure that it would be unique and amazing experience. Because my willing to learn different cultures, languages, travelling and meeting people brought me here, it doesn’t matter where I go. Everywhere has it’s own beauty with it’s culture and all that stuff. Everywhere has things which are waiting for being discovered. And in the other hand, this exchange year makes an 18-year-old girl independent, teaches how to take care of herself, how important her own family, friends and life. While I’m learning a new language and this beautiful culture, I realize how beautiful my own culture is. It breaks prejudices, it teaches “There is no right or wrong. Just different.” It’s completely life changing and putting the fire in ourselves, fire of willing to travel, to know much more about countries, and being tolerant.

   That’s all for now, thank you for reading! Até já!

Hilâl Uzman

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