October 16, 2013 - Miranda Moore departed the United States on Aug. 26, 2012 for a nearly year long journey to Saint Maixent L'école, a French military town in western France thousands of miles away from her hometown of Clarkston.
A new language and culture filled her 11 month journey.
In France she attended high school as a junior, made new friends, embraced a new culture and immersed herself in a foreign language.
"I also traveled a lot while I was there" she recalled. Lots of school work filled her days.
School is different than here in America.
School days are longer, but students get more breaks and a longer lunch. Classes are just as difficult, but rather than taking several tests throughout grade levels, the students take large tests at end of their school career.
She also noted many differences in the way the French live.
"When you think of France you think of big cities like Paris, but there really are a lot of farms there," she said. "People there are also really into agriculture, gardening and outdoor activities."
She stayed with three families during her trip-each offering a unique experience, so she got to experience life in different ways.
"The first and third house I stayed in were really old and in the country, and the second house was more modern and in the city," she said.
One constant remained-the importance the French place on family.
"My family is really important to me, and they really value their families too. They eat together and spend a lot of family time together," she said.
Every family she stayed with treated her just like one of their own.
"All my families were really nice, and treated me like I was their child," she said. "They also took me out to see many places including Germany, Austria, Republic Check, Switzerland, Italy, castles, museums and theatres."
And then there's the food. In Miranda's opinion, the food was top notch.
"In the school cafeteria the food was great everyday and they had they had things like steaks for lunch," she remembered.
A food she admits she enjoyed too much – all the yummy pastries so famous in the French culture.
All of Miranda's experiences were possible thanks to the Clarkston Rotary and Rotary International.
Miranda said she had been exploring opportunities to travel abroad, but many of the programs were expensive.
Darwin, recommended the Rotary exchange, a program which offers short-term or long term exchange programs.
Miranda met up with Rotarians, submitted her application for consideration and then wrote an essay on why she wanted to participate in the program.
Joel DeLong, president of the Clarkston Rotary said traveling abroad allows students to broaden their horizons. Students do not usually get to pick where they travel, and in return for sending a student another student comes to the US.
"If we send a student we must accept a student," he said. Over the past 15 years DeLong estimates seven or eight students have been exchanged through the club.
DeLong said while the student is away in a country, the Rotary club in that country provides the student a monthly stipend.
Students participating in the program are exposed to new cultures and customs in a powerful way to promote global understanding a peace.
After she was approved to go, she had to get a variety of health exams, fill out a lot of paperwork and obtain a visa and passport.
In order to prepare to go to France and study, she got a tutor and took a test to make sure she was proficient enough to complete school work while she was there.
She studied French for a few years in school, but using the language in real life is much harder, so she did encounter a language barrier for the first few months.
Friends she made helped her with studies and learning the language.
"After three months I could understand what was being said, after four months I could speak the language fluently," she confessed. "After six months I was thinking in French and dreaming in French."
Miranda's dad Darwin said he and his wife Cindy had some reservations about sending their daughter off to a foreign land, but overall they knew the journey would be exciting for their daughter.
"Really I was envious," he said. "I was happy and I encouraged her."
He and Cindy traveled to pick up their daughter at the end of her trip and met all her host families and counselors in France.
Since her return, Darwin said he has noticed how much Miranda has matured. "She can also speak French pretty fluently. I know the trip has helped her with relationship skills, helped her with people and she is more traveled," he said.
Now a senior at Clarkston High School, the 17-year-old is working at Tim Horton's until her next excursion.
Unsure of exactly what she wants to do after graduation, she is going to college and is contemplating a military career for the travel opportunities offered. One thing for certain, more traveling is definitely on the horizon. Maybe another trip to France or even Antarctica with the military to study penguins.
"I would love to go to a French university, but I will be applying to colleges here," she said. "I want to see the world. Going to France made me want to go everywhere."
She also learned something about every single person in the world.
"No matter where you go in the world people may look different, but everyone cares about the same things and we all have the same emotions and needs," she said. "You may think people are different because they are from a different country but deep down we're the same."