A simple jog through the park can have a big impact. “I had long forgotten how to relax myself from the busy life,” Grace from Hong Kong said of herself when she first arrived in Washington to study. Then one day, a friend invited her for a run in a natural conservancy near her host family’s home after school. As leaves crunched under their feet and the packed earth stretched out below them, Grace felt a renewed sense of wonder at the pace of her American life. “[It refreshed] me, as I barely have the time to do sports in Hong Kong,” she said. “Living with an American family, making American friends, let me realize that sometimes life is not all about work and study.”
Grace, like so many Aspect students, has taken full advantage of the newly found freedom in her schedule. “There are so many interesting electives!” Grace said. She is in her school’s honor society and the Interact and Leo clubs, groups that come together to enact projects that help people in the community. “Through these activities, I learn to be a leader and cooperate with others,” Grace explained. She joined the swim and tennis teams, excited to have those options, and all the while expanding her circle of new, American friends.
And it’s not just her circle of friends that has expanded. She has become a “fourth daughter” to her host parents, fully participating in family life – from her host sister’s graduation to weddings and family vacations. A family trip to Hawaii remains a high point in the experience for Grace and her family. Strolling through flea markets, snorkeling, taking in a magic show, visiting cultural landmarks and memorials, and just lounging on the beach brought them all closer together. “We did all sorts of exciting things there together,” Grace gushed. “I am really thankful to my host family for offering me such a valuable opportunity.”
Back home in Washington, Grace and her host family take to the kitchen. “We’ve done a lot of cooking together, ranging from homemade American pies to authentic Chinese dishes, each learning from each other,” explained her host parents, James and Jenny. “I made four pies in the first two months!” Grace exclaimed. In the evenings, they watch movies together, James and Jenny introducing Grace to classic American favorites, like Star Wars.
Perhaps best of all, this spring won’t mark the end of the exchange experience for Grace. Even when she returns to Hong Kong, she’ll have someone who understands exactly what this time has meant. Her twin brother is also an Aspect student this year, experiencing his own high school life with a family in Utah. Even so, Grace plans to make her time away from the U.S. a short one. She hopes to attend college in Washington next fall, where she has a standing invitation from James and Jenny for any Thanksgiving holidays or breaks. Family time continues, and there seem to be many more refreshing jogs in the fragrant northwestern air ahead.