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An Eye-Opening Exchange

Chloe Boxer, Op/Ed Editor

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A young woman is sitting in her home in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia reading a letter from another woman who lived halfway across the world in America. The young woman in Doncaster was about to leave and embark on a journey made possible by the Foreign Exchange Program for high school students from almost every country in the world. She had hoped to be sent somewhere in Europe and then she learned she was going to the country which had been her last choice – the United States. The 1986 Chernobyl Incident in the Soviet Union ensured no students would be going near Europe for the next year. Students from Asia, Europe and elsewhere all went to North and South America and among these individuals was the young woman from Doncaster – my mum.

Samantha Mayne had no idea where she was going to end up when she arrived in America until she received the letter. The letter was her first communication with America and it was from her future host sister who lived in Waco, Texas. My mum told me she “didn’t want to go to Wacko, Texas” and was beyond relieved when she found out she would actually be living in Torrance, a city to the south of Los Angeles.

My mum endured the excruciatingly long flight from Melbourne to LAX and arrived with severe jetlag but anxious excitement. She was almost struck by a car when she walked out of the airport because her instincts told her to look to the right to check for cars because Australians drive on the left side of the road. It was the middle of July in Los Angeles and my mum had come from winter in Australia and claims “the heat was difficult to deal with”. She was taken to UCLA after arriving at LAX and her “very first American experience was arriving at the campus dormitories” where she then spent a week acclimating to American society and culture.

Samantha Mayne spent a year in America and graduated from South High School in Torrance in 1987. She was astonished by the lack of respect students had for their teachers in America and today, acknowledges how it is still the same. It was completely strange for her to be in classes with boys because she had always been in private all-girl schools. My mum was most astonished by the freedoms American students had – open campuses, hair and makeup however they wanted, and no uniforms.

1989 was the year my mum moved to the United States and August will mark her 29th year of residing in the United States as both a legal immigrant and a citizen. She became a citizen of the United States in 2002 – a year after I was born. I doubt she could be happier with how her life as a young exchange student evolved into the one of a mother and a wife living in Southern California.

My mother fell in love with America and an American boy – yet she has never forgotten where she came from. She is a dual citizen of Australia and America and has gifted my sister and I with the same status. We are all American when the day ends and we are all Australians when the day begins. We are not one or the other. Both countries are massive parts of us all and every chance my sister and I have is because of the courage my mum had when she came to the United States over 30 years ago.

My mum is not simply living the “American Dream” – she is living every one of her dreams.

Australia. America. Two places. Two hemispheres. Two lives. Two families. Two dialects.

One woman: Samantha Mayne.

 

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An Eye-Opening Exchange