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I can picture it as if it was yesterday, on my plane, coming to a world that was so different from mine, and not knowing exactly, but so excited for what the future had in store for me.
My name is Clarisse Muterateka and I am an exchange student and a senior at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh thanks to the Burundi Education Fund. At my High School, I am involved in volleyball, Hello Dolly and The Little Mermaid musicals, Tomorrow’s Leaders Club, Chemistry Club, etc.
A breathtaking event came a few months after my junior school year had started, one of those that will forever be taped on my heart. I didn’t know what to think about cold weather. I had never felt winter nor seen snow before (since we do not have it in Africa). People were so excited for me and told me all of their own snow stories. Some things I liked about the cold; I was introduced to riding the snowmobile, ice-skating, building a snowman and having snowball fights with my host brother.
After the coldest, but most-fun time I ever had in my life, came spring and the best part of this was putting in a dock. While living with the Floras in Winneconne, Wisconsin, we lived in a house on Lake Winneconne, and at some point we needed to put in the dock, and boy was I excited about this dock! My host father explained to me what a dock was and I thought it would be great if I helped put this thing in. I didn’t know what was around the corner. I was putting in all my energy installing one section of the dock, and the next thing I knew I was deep in the lake! I didn’t know how I got there, but the whole family still teases me about it.
I am now very involved with Lourdes Madrigals which is one the most fun-filled musical activities I have ever experienced and which will leave me with lots of stories to share. This year, I am also working in concessions stands at the Green Bay Packer games to raise funds for the March For Life in Washington DC, in January, and I am excited by the thought of being a voice for those who can not speak for themselves.
Every other Friday, I meet with exchange students in my school. In the International Club, we discuss our own cultures, languages, foods, and I even shared my own traditional dances. I have made friends from China, Slovakia, Korea, Hungary, etc. I made friends with a lot of people, I have joined a church Youth Ministry Group -Aftershock, and it is like my second family.
When coming home to a faith-filled Catholic family, I have the opportunity to learn a lot about the American ways, and to grow in my relationship with God in a way that is so meaningful to me.
Being away for 13 months, I have grown dramatically. I now can say that I am open to new ideas, appreciate my family and friends more, and am more confident about myself. Having my own adventure has proven to me that I can do anything, and I am thankful beyond words to Burundi Education Fund donors for offering me the best way to live an experience that I will forever cherish.