A little rewind to July 2013, the first time I hopped on a plane without my family. It was time to start an adventure in Queen Creek Arizona, The United States. The decision to do an exchange year with EF (Education First) and live with an American family changed my life. It is one of the scariest things in life stepping out of your comfort zone. I left everyone and everything behind to start a life on the other side of the planet, but you learn so much about yourself and the world we live in when you start a new adventure in a different place and culture.
The confusing faces I get when I start to talk about ‘My American mom or Norwegian and Thai brothers’ are priceless.
The Matuzak family decided they would love to have this crazy Dutchie living with them for a year. I attended Queen Creek High School and I am so happy to share that I am still in contact with some of my American friends and internationals that were in the same situation as me. It is such a heart warming feeling to know families are willing to open their homes to a stranger from another part of the world and give them the experience of a life time. The Matuzaks did that for me: Kara (mom), Ryan (dad), Nikolas and Jonathan (brothers) and Kourtney (sister) taught me everything about the American culture (Thanksgiving, Christmas, love for football, crazy big meals and unlimited refills and other daily silliness) and gave me an extended family. They all amaze me. Together they have gone trough so many difficult times, but with their unconditional love and support they overcome anything.
Over the years they have hosted 8 other international students and this year two girls are experiencing their year abroad with them. Lisa from Germany (EF Class of 2012), Justin from Taiwan (EF Class of 2012), Wynn from Thailand (EF Class of 2013), Sebastian from Norway (EF Class of 2013), Baxley from Taiwan and me (EF Class of 2014), Simon from Germany (EF Class of 2016), Jonas from Switzerland (EF Class of 2017). This year’s additions to the family are Sofie from Norway (EF Class of 2018) and Carla from Spain (EF Class of 2018).
Two years ago Kara messaged all of us with the amazing news that they decided to renew their wedding vows. Every single one of us grabbed the opportunity to be part of this day. Around the end of April this year we all returned home to Queen Creek Arizona and spent a week full of laughter, craziness and love. As our mom beautifully described we are a global family with all the love in the world. This week brought all of us closer together and through Snapchat and Whatsapp we keep each other posted on a daily basis. I mean who can say they have family all over the planet? How amazing is that. The confusing faces I get when I start to talk about ‘My American mom or Norwegian and Thai brothers’ are priceless.
A glimpse of the day
The entire backyard was transformed into a magical western outdoor wedding. With fairy lights everywhere, a wooden bar and tables, games and a little DJ booth. Friends and family cleared their schedules to be part of this day. The boys dressed at Steve’s (family friend) house and the girls stayed home to arrange the last bits and get ready for the big day. All women wore boots and men suspenders. How American is that? This was such a fun detail to me. As the sun set everyone sat down and started tearing up during both beautiful vows. As Exchange students we prepared our own little speech to show them our love and gratitude for all years they’ve hosted and bringing us together. The moment the party started everyone was ready to show off their dance moves. Lets say the last bits are a little vague for me but I know for sure it was one hell of a day! Having family all over the world is something I cherish deeply.
The next trips are definitely planned for next year 2019. If you ever see a crazy international bunch in one place I can assure you there is a high possibility it is us!
Photos by: Simon Faber.