This article was written by Panna Laura Kovács, AFS student from Hungary on exchange in Costa Rica. Panna is one of the young deserving students who received the 2016 Changemakers scholarship to participate in a year-long school exchange program with AFS.

This year has been more than anything I could have imagined. I’ve had highs and lows like most people, but these highs and lows have been more intense than anything I have ever been through. It really felt like this year was just 3 months, but then again it also feels like I mentally matured 3 years compressed into such a short time in my life.

Panna Laura Kovács

One of the greatest things I’ve learned here is unconditional love. Can you imagine loving someone as much as your family by blood, just after one year? Maybe not, but YES it’s possible! That is what makes it so hard to leave. Could you leave your family and siblings without knowing when you’ll see them ever again? I don’t know if I could, I don’t want to know what it feels like and I don’t want to find out yet. I try to put these thought aside because Papi, Mami, and my two sisters have been the best part of my exchange year and I will never be able to thank them for their unconditional love.

Another thing this year has taught me is to see things with different eyes. Living in a different culture with different views about the world has made me that much more open-minded. I’ve learned to listen, to be more tolerant and to never stop learning.

Panna Laura Kovács

Now that my year is almost over, I really don’t know how to behave at this time. One second I’m super happy and the next moment I want to cry and scream on the top of my lungs. Actually there’s not a correct way to behave, feel however you want to feel, don’t be ashamed of your emotions. I’m getting by though, enjoying every moment and taking every opportunity to talk to people and make memories, because I know I will never ever forget this adventure.

Thank you everyone who was part of making my exchange year amazing!

Gracias a mi familia Tica! Köszönöm a Magyar családomnak!