Sponsor an AFSer

Being an exchange student

Travel is a life-changing thing.  After coming back from traveling around Europe I realized how much it had changed my life.  It had opened my mind to new cultures, foods, and people around the world.  Being back how for almost a year now I have realized just how much I miss travel and how important it is to me.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.  -St. Augustine

Seeing how much I miss it I have decided that in September I will be going back to France as an exchange student.  I can’t wait to immerse myself into the French Culture.

I am working on trying to raise money for my year abroad.  I will be selling paintings of Europe that I have taken like this one. 

Please donate!

However seeing how expensive it is to spend a year abroad, I would SO much appreciate being sponsored.  So if anyone can help by donating some money towards my year abroad with AFS I would very much appreciate it.  Remember every little but helps!

This is an online fundraising tool provided by AFS to allow potential sponsors to make easy, secure, and non tax-deductible contributions to my AFS program fee.)

Check out the program that I will be doing here: http://www.afsusa.org/study-abroad/high-school-abroad/display-program/?destination=29&category=151

I am getting more excited about going back to France each day, and I can’t wait to be trying French cheeses with baguettes and making more friends around the world.  Plus an opportunity to learn such a beautiful language!

I have been studying French every day and looking at pictures and history of France in anticipation for my time there.  I have also been in the process of editing my book on travels through Europe to publish to also help contribute a little bit towards the cost.

I think that being an exchange student is such a rewarding and amazing experience and that it is a wonderful thing that other students should look into as well.  I have been speaking at several schools and libraries about travel and what an amazing experience.  I always love the reactions I get from the young children as they start to discover how much they want to travel and experience the world.  I can’t wait to come back from France and speak to more classes and help more students to learn about the possibilities of studying abroad.

Thank you all so much for supporting me and helping donate so that I can make it to France!

To sponsor my AFS program, please click the Donate Now button to make a non tax-deductible contribution directly to my AFS program account.

Learning To Fly

I am SO excited for the first book in Summer’s Adventures to come out!  It will be called Learning To Fly.  The series is about all of my true adventures; cliff jumping in Croatia, our camper breaking down on the highway of Switzerland, learning why some cheese is banned from being on the subway, and MUCH more.  Learning To Fly is about before the trip, what I thought of it at first, and how much it changed my life for the better.

The book will be out in the next two months, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!  Make sure to follow me at my blog www.summersadventures.com

Here is a sneak preview of Learning To Fly (please keep in mind it has not been completely edited yet) I hope you enjoy!

Learning To Fly by: Summer Barcenas

LEARNING TO FLY

Prologue

Sitting here now, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, with the sun on my face, and the white sand under my toes, I am listening to the rolling waves and laughing to myself.  It’s funny how much my life has changed in the last two years.  My life is amazing now.  It is an adventure and I’m loving every second of it.

This is the story of the trip that changed my life.  So much has happened since the day my parents told me that in a few years I could be a world traveler, blogger, author, photographer, and most of all, an adventurer.  When they first told me that, well… I thought they had to be crazy!  But now thinking back on it, I guess they were right.  Because I am all of those things and more.

My name is Summer Sheridan Barcenas and I’m 15 years old.  This is the beginning of Summer’s Adventures!


IT ALL STARTED IN 7th GRADE

“You’re kidding, right?!”  I asked my parents.  They had just told me their master plan.  To leave our town, friends, and family and take off on a year long trip to tour Europe.  The plan was to buy a camper (a tiny tin box on wheels) and to have lots of quality ‘family time.’

“It’ll be good for you!” they kept insisting.

No way.  I was not leaving my life to take off on some crazy trip right before my eighth grade year.  That was my home, everything I’d ever known.  I was not leaving everything for some trip.  I would have to get rid of most of my things and attempt to fit-in in Europe.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

I did everything in my power to make sure my parents were fully aware that they were in the process of ruining my life.

The first day of school, before class started I told my best friend all about how absolutely bonkers my parents had gone.

”You know, they are NEVER going to actually go through with it!  I mean Europe, for like, a whole year?  Who does that?  I’d come back to school, and nobody would remember me!”  I couldn’t stop talking about how unlikely it would be for us to actually go, and how they were crazy if they thought for one second they could actually drag me along on their ‘trip.‘

”You know, maybe you should just go and see what happens.”  She had been to Europe a few times and loved it.  But I mean that was just a short trip!  If it was a small trip like that, I could handle it!  But a whole year?  She just didn’t understand what I was going through.

Everyone around me kept telling me how lucky I was, how much I would learn, and how this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, blah blah blah blah.  They just didn’t understand how hard this was on me.  I had finally found a group of friends that was perfect for me.   I was finally coming out of my shell and starting to be more outgoing.  I can’t leave now.   I would end up missing eighth grade for goodness sake!  I would have to start all over again when I got back.  I would have to be that new girl who nobody remembered.  I just couldn’t do it.

All through seventh grade I kept the mindset that I was NOT going to Europe, I would figure something else out.  I had to.  I would make a big fuss every time my parents so much as mentioned travel.  I refused to thin down my things for the trip.   I tried to ignore the ‘Europe trip’ scheme as long as I could.

Near the middle of the school year, I started getting stressed.  I never had any free time.

My daily life went something like this:

-I woke up at 6am  and ate (if I had time)

-Got ready for school, and waited at the door till Stella and her dad pulled up to take us to jazz band at 6:30

-At 8am school started

-At school I was in advanced classes, which meant taking notes till my hands cramped

-I got home around 3pm then I did homework, practiced playing the trombone, and studied till 5:30pm

-After homework I would have about a thirty minute break to relax

-After the short relaxing, I had swim team for two hours

-Once I got home everyone was done eating and I would get a plate of food to warm up in the microwave and eat while I finished homework

-Later I would spend time to get everything ready for school the next day

-Around 12:30pm I would finally go to sleep

Everything just went downhill from there. My grades were slipping and I was still trying to avoid any talk of ‘The trip’.  Everything was finally catching up to me, I wasn’t able to handle it anymore, and I didn’t like it.

A few months later my uncle passed away,  we all went to Minnesota for a month.  By the time I got back I had missed so much, I spent the rest of the year struggling to catch up.   I was staying after school in study hall to catch up on my tests and learn the lessons I missed.  I had to quit swim team and replaced the time with all the extra homework.

By the end of the year I was so stressed and unhappy, I started to believe the whole Europe idea might not be so bad.  Yet, I was happy to know that I would at least be able to spend my summer after seventh grade with my friends.  We spent the school year talking about sleepover ideas and places to go during the summer.

One night after spending a couple hours in my room working on some math, I heard

“Family meeting!!!”  Oh boy…  Last time I heard that I found out we were going to be traveling around Europe for a year.  I wonder whats happening this time!  That’s when I found out the crushing news.

We would not be staying the summer after all.  We would be living in Yuma Arizona for the next two months, while my dad worked at a Skilled Nursing Facility to ensure we would have enough money for our trip to Europe.

To be able to spend one last memorable summer with my friends to ensure I wasn’t forgotten, and it was all gone.  Just like that!  I was so angry I used the

“Your ruining my life!” for the hundredth time in the past few months, and ran up to my room.

I have to call someone.  I need someone to be here for me and understand how upset I am!  I called my best friend, not home; my Grandad, not home; another friend, not home; another friend, finally answered.

“Hi….”  I didn’t know what else to say, I was so upset, I didn’t even know how to break the news.

“Hi Summer, are you okay?”

“No.  I just found out that I can’t stay the summer after all.  My dad got a traveling job in Yuma Arizona for two months before we leave to Europe!  AND, I looked up the temperature of Yuma in the in the summer and it is an average of 110 degrees!!!  I’ll just die!”  Once I started talking I just couldn’t stop blubbering.  This wasn’t part of my plan. 

“I’m sure it will be okay Summer, I mean we will miss you, but it’ll be okay.”  Really?!  It’ll be okay?  I’ll be in another state sweating to death and my friends will be living it up here without me!  This call wasn’t helping me feel better after all.

“Um, I have to go.  Talk to you later…”  I hung up and sat alone on my bed for what seemed like hours.  I felt wet on my cheeks, funny, I hadn’t even realized I was crying.

THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL

The last day of seventh grade felt like torture.  I kept a smile on my face trying to keep it together.  All I could think about was how much had changed this year, how much more it would change next year…when I wasn’t there.  I put on a pretty good front through because nobody seemed to notice.

While we were all signing yearbooks it was clear nobody remembered the week ago when I had told them, I was leaving in a few weeks.  It was all:

“See you next year!”

“Maybe we should hang out this summer!”

“Have fun in eighth grade!”

As soon as I looked over what they had written, I would always correct them.  I WOULDN’T be there that summer, I would be stuck in a freakishly hot town in Arizona.  THEN, I would be flying to Europe for the next year!  They would just look at me funny

“Right….”  They would say, and you could tell they didn’t believe me.

By the end of the day, me and my friends all were in our favorite teachers classroom to tell them goodbye.  The teacher gave us hugs and told us she would see us next year.  Me and my friends all looked at each other, and the next thing we knew we were all crying.  I went home and spent the rest of the day looking at the goodbyes my friends had written in my yearbook, and crying.

“Have an awesome time in Europe, I’ll miss you!”

“Don’t worry I’ll never forget all the fun we’ve had together!  It won’t be the same without my Summie!”

“You are the best friend that anyone could hope for.  See you in high school.”

“Things will be so different without you.  I’m glad we’ve gotten so close these past two years.”

And then the one that made me cry the most, from my best friend.

“It’s been a great year!  After all these years of being friends, seeing you at school everyday for, what? Now 8 years, and now YOU’RE LEAVING?!?  Oh well, I guess I’ll live. But we’ve had so many great times together, especially this year (I’ll always remember that.)  Well I’m sure I have more to say, but class is over!  Talk to you soon!”

This was it, we are really were going.  Maybe, just maybe it’ll be okay in the end?

THE FINAL STRETCH

Once I decided that I would give Europe a shot, I had a lot of work to do.  I had to get rid of fourteen years of clutter and clothes.  Everyone else had been slowly getting rid of things from the beginning of the year, so I would spend most of the days cooped up in my room frantically trying to get rid of things.

A week before we left, I had all my friends over to get rid of my jewelry and clothes.  I handed out garbage bags and told them to take whatever they wanted.  I had so much to get rid of I remember pushing earrings on them practically begging them to take things!  I wanted it all gone as fast as possible.  Because then I wouldn’t have time to wonder if I really should have gotten rid of it.

After getting rid of all the rest of my clothes, my friends and I headed to a local frozen yogurt shop for our goodbyes.  The first half was lots of fun.  Taking silly pictures, stuffing ourselves with frozen yogurt and candy, and just having our last hurrah as best friends before I left.

Then we were went to get in the the car to go home.  The adult who’d brought us asked what order we should drop people off, I lost it.  Knowing that that was it, I just couldn’t hold it together anymore.  As soon as my first tear slipped it was like a chain reaction.  In thirty seconds we went from being fine, to all bawling our eyes out.

We spent the entire car trip all crying and hugging till I got home.  My eyes were all red and puffy, I had a pounding headache, and I felt miserable.  I got inside the house to find a note left for me.

“Summer, we are at the neighbors saying goodbye, come by when you get back.”  I couldn’t bail, my neighbors on both sides are the best we could have hoped for.  They’d watched us grow up and had grown to be like ‘adoptive grandparents’ to us.  I tried my best to pull myself together, I splashed cool water on my face and drank a few glasses of ice water, then I headed next door.

I think everybody could tell that I was hurting, I got lots of hugs and was told that, no matter what happened this trip was important for me.  After some juice and cake at their house, we once again had to say another goodbye.  This time though, I had cried enough before-hand that my eyes were able to stay dry, but that didn’t mean that it hurt any less.

The last few days my aunt, uncle, two cousins, and grandparents started coming over everyday to try and help us pack.  It was nice to have the extra support, spending as much time with them as possible before we left.  My cousins Isaiah and Lucille made things about fifty times better, having them around always had me smiling, we had all grown up together and were more like siblings than cousins.

Then on June 21st the day came when we packed our last suitcase into our van.  It was time to head off for a life of travel.  We all tried to stay strong at first, but as soon as my aunt started crying, I couldn’t hold it together any more either.  Just the thought of not seeing all my family (who was standing around us, wishing us safe travel) for a WHOLE year made me sick to my stomach.

Isaiah stood at the end of the driveway by himself, you could tell he would miss us just as much as we would miss him.  I went over and gave him a hug and promised him we would still keep in touch, and that when we came back we could still do lots of fun things together.

I gave everyone else a hug too.  Then we got in the car and drove away, to the start of something new.

 

New book available NOW!

A DOG FOR THE HOLIDAYS

New book A Dog For The Holidays is now available on amazon!

A Dog For The Holidays is based on a true story of my experiences in Spain, living in a small sugar cube village overlooking the Mediterranean sea.  The village is lined with orange trees with cobblestone roads and one of my favorite places in Europe.  When I met a little red dog that stole my heart forever.  The dog stays with us throughout the holidays and makes them even more special then they already are.

Make sure to check out A Dog For The Holidays to find out what happens and fall in love with Spain and the little red dog just as I did.

This is the real village where this book took place in Andalucia Spain.

Summer frigilianaSummer Saffron

I hope you enjoy my new book A Dog for the Holidays!