By: Katharina Wicht
In the beginning of the year, I had no idea what this one year is going to bring. You have expectations of how the county you are visiting is, such as how the people are, what differences to your own country you will experience and what the live there is like. You also have fears and hopes regarding to making new friends, attending a new school, and living with a new family for a year.
There are up and down sides of being an exchange student. You are going to miss your family and friends for sure at one point or another. But the many advantages of a year abroad overweigh the few disadvantages, like getting homesick and having to adjust to another culture. In my opinion, the most important benefit of being an exchange student is meeting new people what will help you to get sight into another culture, lifestyle and seeing situations and things from a different view. Being in a new school for an entire school year will help you make a lot of new friends. Joining an after school activity like a sport or a club will help you to bond with other kids your age even more. Once you get to know a lot of new people, you will understand why people think in certain ways and your horizon will extend greatly.
Another really significant advantage of spending a year abroad is learning a second language fluently. It will take some time until you can understand everything that is said to you and in the beginning of the year you will have trouble to answer all the questions that people ask you. But after about two months it seems like the language is a part of you and you will start thinking in your new language. You will be happy when you realize you can dream in two different languages and you are able to communicate with so many more people. It can also help you later on in life such as for finding a job for which you have to communicate with foreign people, applying for colleges that require the knowledge of a second language, and traveling in general. Once I will be back in my country I am going to apply for being a tourist guide in my city for English speaking visitors.
Additionally, you will get more independent during your exchange year. Since you have to deal with problems and different, new situations yourself, you will be able to think of solutions and solve problems. For incident managing to do all your school stuff in another language, getting from place to place – like friends’ houses, the mall or the movies – and doing your chores in the house of your host family.
In a new community, you might as well learn new skills. You can join a new sport after school – since other countries do not have Lacrosse, Baseball/Softball or Wrestling -, learn how people cook in the country you visit, learn about the traditions and customs in that country such as Thanksgiving and Independence Day here in the U.S. I also learned that American teenagers go to the mall to hang out, halls with trampolines on which you can jump for hours, and of course, Netflix.
The downside of being an exchange has become clear as the end of the year approaches, and that is definitively having to say goodbye at the end of the year and not knowing for sure when or if you will come back. On the other hand, you will always have a family in another country you can visit and friends who you can reunite with later in life.