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leaps of faith Archives - Tony Ward Studio

Aiya Butane: Lena

Portrait of french exchange student from Lyon, France attending Upenn

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Posted on March 15, 2015 by Aija Butane

Lena is a friend of mine. We entered an exchange program at the University of Pennsylvania together. We met in Lyon, France.  She showed me around and helped me with those daily little things that were so hard for me while I was struggling to live  alone for the first time in a new country.  Being shy and insecure about my French speaking skills, I was aiming to reach a point where I would feel  natural, at ease and eventually I ran daily errands without thinking and with such lightness of being as she did.  Lena was my support in a world that seemed cold and strange, but to which she belonged.She was my bridge to a new world.  Lena translated the manners, norms an what constituted appropriateness to me.  She was my eyes, my mouth and my ears to the French culture.

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Portrait of french exchange student from Lyon, France attending Upenn

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We decided to challenge our limits and go abroad. We arrived with our tangible valuables in  luggage together with fear of being misunderstood and stereotyped.  Lena and I took a leap of faith together and where we landed  found joy of building a new home and new self.  Arriving in the New World we shared the excitement of new beginnings and a similar feeling  of not knowing what shapes common knowledge and norms here in America.  Both of us found comfort and relief in each other when having the same problems.  Now we find ourselves rooted here and to each other.  This is a story of her and me and how we shaped each other and became what we are.  These are pictures of Lena and me, because we’re both there standing in the wind laughing at each other with loving eyes.  I feel the weight of her shadow when she’s down.  I’m glad to see her happy when the sun glimmers onto her face and I’m sorrowful to see her in clouds of despair.

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Portrait of french exchange student from Lyon, France attending Upenn

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Photography and Text by Aija Butane, Copyright 2015

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About the Author: Aija Butane is foreign exchange student originally from Latvia enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania.