This Christmas I got the best gift of my life from my host family. I went to my grandparents’ house in Florida for a week with my host mom. We planned a day-long trip to Kennedy Space center on Christmas day. I am a big space enthusiast and visiting NASA during my exchange year was one of my big dreams.

From Tampa to Cape Canaveral was a 2 hour long but comfortable drive and the day was slightly rainy but pleasant. We reached the destination before noon. I remember taking pictures of NASA’s famous launching sight miles away before arriving and the curious kid inside of me was restless to enter the space center complex. The smiles on all of our faces was precious because we were so excited for what was about to come. Those big rockets, and statues were amazing and obviously I took a lot of pictures! The wonderful display of space exploration history was striking and emotional all at the same.

We did some souvenir shopping and ate lunch together there. There were endless things to explore but we decided to begin with the 3D movies. Then we headed towards the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, which was probably the most heart touching for my grandparents as it took them back to the old memories. I remember my grandma saying, “It’s fascinating how we have taken the humanity beyond the visible sky”. I loved the moving documentary about how NASA tried, failed, tried and finally succeeded in creating a reusable orbiter.

Luckily, I also got to talk to a real astronaut who flew in the space shuttle Atlantis. We talked about Kalpana Chawala, the first Indian woman astronaut who went to space in the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997. Every moment was so memorable for me as my dream of visiting NASA was finally true. Through reflecting on past successes and failures and looking to future technologies, the experience was inspiring for all of us.

This exchange year has given me a lot, things and experiences that I could barely imagine, a big thanks to my host parents, for doing all this for me. These beautiful memories of togetherness are going to stay with me forever.

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