JHS student makes the world his classroom


Sydney Hembrough, Staff writer

Someone once said, “The world is your classroom.” Aaron Blue, a fellow member of the class of 2018, is experiencing this first hand. Influenced by a past JHS student Lydia Beard and his siblings who also studied abroad in high school, Aaron packed his bags and headed off the to the Netherlands in August of this year.  

Aaron explained that he made his decision to join the Rotary Youth Exchange Program after hearing the stories from his siblings and his friend Lydia and hosting a total of ten exchange students prior to leaving for his exchange. Having so many cultures that have gone through his household encouraged him to go out and experience cultural diversity himself.

His journey to get there wasn’t easy. He had to take as many academic classes as possible and wake up for early bird beginning his freshman year to ensure that going on exchange his senior year was possible. After months of paperwork, background checks and lists of potential destinations, Aaron finally received notice in January that he would be spending his year abroad in the Netherlands. This was a huge step in the planning process of his exchange. Then, in April of 2017, Aaron was contacted during his English class revealing the first host family he would be staying with. 

After saying his goodbyes, Aaron stepped on the plane to go on what he would say is the “best experience anyone can take part in.” When he arrived in the Netherlands, he met his family that consisted of a dad, mom and a 12-year-old son. He describes his town as a very nice, newer town. Founded in 1967, Aaron finds the age of the town, 50 years old, to be very strange, considering most cities there are at least 500 years old!

Aaron reports that this experience has been amazing so far. He has made friends very quickly and surprisingly, has picked up the language very well with the help of his new friends at school. He predicts that the friends this exchange has given him will be people that he will be close with for the rest of his life. The highlight of his first two months has been meeting the other exchange students and learning the language. In fact, at a Dutch orientation course, he got the opportunity to meet all of the other exchange students including a girl from Iowa and a boy from Brazil whom he is now very close friends with. His home life has developed into a close relationship. He has enjoyed getting to know his host family and their welcoming personalities. They like to do things as a family, such as cooking and cleaning together. He has found little things about them that makes this foreign place feel more like home.  For example, his host mom is infatuated with science just like Aaron, which has helped him to connect to her.

Although Aaron’s presence is dearly missed in the halls of Jacksonville High School, his friends could not be more proud of him. There is something to say about someone who goes out of his comfort zone to do something that he has always desired to do. Aaron reiterates that this experience has been fantastic so far, and he cannot wait to see where the rest of the year takes him. When asked what he has learned from this adventure, he commented, “It brings you closer to yourself and new people and forces you to be pushed out of your comfort zone.” This new place has become something so much more than a pinpoint on the map for Aaron. He admits that he never thought he would be able to call another place his home, but the Netherlands now has a piece of his heart that will continue to grow over the next nine months.