This is the first of a series of blog posts by our 2016-17 F-1 Student Scholars. Mieczyslaw will be telling us about his experience on the F-1 Program throughout the year. Thank you, Miecio, for your story!

By Mieczyslaw, 2016-17 F-1 High School Program Participant

Hi, my name is Mieczyslaw and I’m a 17 year-old high school exchange student from Poland living in Tampa, Florida and attending Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida.  For my entire life, I lived in Warsaw. I’m so happy about this huge opportunity to be a participant in the CCI Greenheart program.

The whole idea about going to the United States was very sudden. My parents were very surprised when they heard about it. What can I say? I’m the kind of the person who likes to do the unexpected and unusual.  August 12, 2016 was the day when everything began. I didn’t know what should I do. How should I react the first time I saw my host family? I was like a newborn child. Well, maybe not exactly. Unlike a baby, I knew I was responsible for learning as much as possible and experiencing as many things as I could. I was responsible for my joy and success.  My mind was full of different thoughts and I think I wasn’t the only one. I was scared, but I should not have been because my host family helped me with everything. They have been amazing and I’m so happy to be here. When we were going home from the airport in Tampa, that was the first time when I felt that they were incredible.  We were talking about everything, trying to find some common topics. We didn’t find one. We found plenty. When I’m thinking about it right now, I feel that was the biggest success.

In the beginning, it’s very important to have a positive attitude because if you’ll think optimistically all the time, for me, that’s half of your success. The first week was really wonderful maybe because I didn’t have to go to school, but I had to do a lot of things like buying stuff which I forgot in Poland or I just couldn’t take with me. My host family did their best to make me feel comfortable. I love traveling, so they took me to museums and the Florida Aquarium.

I love spending time in the United States and I’m so happy that I can be here and experience it all.

My first day in an American high school was really incredible. I had only about 10 minutes to learn the names of other students and to understand the lesson. I was very surprised because everyone tried to be helpful, showing me around the school and answering questions about courses.  I was a little bit lost, but only for few minutes. Not only students, but teachers helped me in this difficult moment. At the beginning, they were trying to pronounce my name, but after 2 weeks they “surrendered” and started calling me “Mitch”, “Polish dude” and many other nicknames. I didn’t mind. I was accepted.  I think high school lessons are a little easier than in my country, but that’s not a bad thing because I have more time to talk with people and understand the culture and education system.

Home life is a big difference for me because in my country, I only live with my parents. Now I live with host parents and their four children. It is something new and at the same time, very positive. I thought they might be loud and annoying, but the opposite was true. Even the youngest members of their family were very polite and nice to me. They shared sweets with me and they’re doing many other small, but very nice things.

Until now, the best travel experience of my stay in the United States was when we went to St Augustine, Florida. We were there only for four days, but for me it was amazing because it was just after Hurricane Matthew and the city was empty. The beaches were beautiful and I had a very good time with my host family. I’m so glad they took me with them. What can I say? I love spending time in the United States and I’m so happy that I can be here and experience it all. The biggest thanks go to my parents who let me be here. I don’t know how I can fully thank them for that.