When I was 16, I had the privilege of being an AFS exchange student in Brisbane, Australia for the summer…I mean, winter. Well, it was winter THERE and summer at home in Wisconsin. But, even though I’d read up on our climatic differences in advance, I found the Queenslanders’ idea of “winter weather” to be really delightful, given the ice storms and snow days that I was used to back in Madison.
I remember one late June day in Brisbane when I was chatting with my new Aussie school friends, and they were bundled up in their jackets. They had their gloves on without complaint. (Technically, we were required to wear these white gloves that were part of our uniform when we were off school grounds, but that didn’t always happen…) And they were seriously whining about the temps, which were, to my Midwestern bones, a balmy 50-degrees F./10-degrees C.
“Are you guys kidding?!” I asked, wondering if, maybe, they were just pulling my leg, being that I was the new girl and all. “You don’t really think this is…cold, do you?”
Turned out, no, they were not kidding and, yes, they really did consider what would have practically been shorts and t-shirt weather for me to be, in my friend Susan’s words, “Freezing!”
It was a very valuable lesson in Point of View (POV), an important tool authors use all the time when crafting their characters, but I didn’t think of myself as an author then. I was just a high-school kid from from the States on this grand adventure halfway around the world. Sometimes I still can’t believe my parents actually let me do that.
Which is yet another POV lesson because, now, I am the parent and my son is entering high school at the end of the summer (or winter, depending on your location, LOL). He’s already telling me about trips he wants to take and various excursions he’d like to go on sometime soon…with his friends, not with me or my husband. I’m terrified to just let him go, but I know what a great experience he could have.
I think back to my exchange program — living with a family for 3 months that I’d never met prior to my arrival, going to a completely different kind of school than the one I was used to, being “the foreigner” in my class. It was enlightening in so many ways. Such a life-changing, learning experience. And I never think of the beginning of summer (or winter) without remembering that very special one. Even now…nearly 30 years later.
So happy 1st day of summer — or winter — my friends! May it be a wonderful season for you all!! Do you have any special plans coming up in these next few months? Weddings? Graduations? Trips? I’d love to hear about them :).
p.s. Many of you might already know this, but my latest contemporary romance, Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, is on super-sale through this weekend for just $0.99! It’s available at this special price on both Kindle & Nook for my Reader Appreciation Celebration. Hope you enjoy!