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Exchange Student Problems, Study Abroad 101

How To Beat Homesickness

Homesickness. It is probably something everyone has to deal with at some point in their life, and it´s awful. However, despite what it might feel like, homesickness might not necessarily be about you missing ‘home´ but more about you missing ´a home´, in the sense that you might miss the feeling of a more stable, reliable and familiar situation. The lack of a familiar situation can make you nostalgic for the things you had before, even if you never even liked them at the time (in the academic world, this is called the Nutella Syndrom). This can result in you trying to hold on to the past, which will make the homesick, ending up in a vicious cycle. However, you can break this cycle by following these two steps.

Step 1: Make Peace With Your Old Home

It´s very normal to feel homesick from time to time, but it´s a horrible feeling that ultimately will make all parts of your life much harder. After all, your home what you have known for a big part of your life. The challenge is to find a balance in cherishing the memories, without this interfering with your new life.

Now, in order to get rid of your homesickness you have to make peace with the fact that the place you are longing for is not a reality at the moment, and that doesn´t have to be a bad thing. Things change all the time, and so you have to change. Try not to think in the past but in the future.

A very important part of not trying to live in the past is to make sure the way you are keeping contact with your friends and family back home isn´t taking over your life. If you want to know what the best way to keep contact with home is, click here to read the article ‘How To Keep Contact With Your Friends And Family While Being Abroad´.

One thing that can help is to write yourself a letter about all the things you didn´t like about home. You can write this letter beforehand, in a moment you are angry or upset, but if you are suffering from homesickness right now it might be a better idea to write a list of things you didn´t like. This can be anything from the weather to family arguments or a bad valuta. This is not necessarily to demonize your old home, but for you to find a balance. When feeling homesick people often romanticize and idealize their old home, and ´ ideal´ places could never live up to reality.

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Step 2: Create A New Home

This might seem like an obvious one, but getting a new home will most likely take care of the nostalgic feelings you are having about your old home. The best way to do this is to create a routine that you follow. Decorate your place in a way that makes it feel like home. Of course, this is easier said that done, but here are a few things you can think of.

Create A Routine

Try to do certain things at the same time. That means waking up at the same time, taking a morning walk around the same park, getting coffee at the same place, giving a dollar to the same homeless man in front of the supermarket. Creating a new routine will help you find your place when everything is new and will help create a more stable environment.

Part of this might be to decorate your house, and make it into a home! Hang pictures on the wall (preferably pictures that aren´t of your friends and family back home). Try to make it a nice environment that will make you feel comfortable and more at ease.

Learn The Language

When you move to a different place and don´t know the language, it´s hard to expect to feel at home. Learning the language might be hard, but putting in all the effort in the first months will definitely pay off on the long run!

In order to make more contacts, you could also join a Language Exchange group, or ask people around you to help. You would be surprised how many people are willing to help you learn! But don´t forget, you are the outsider, which means you will have to take most of the initiative. Local people already have a social circle and even if they really did enjoy meeting you, for them there is just not the same amount of pressure to make a new friendship or to make an effort to meet you.

Create New Traditions

One of the things we usually miss about our old homes are the traditions. Therefore, an easy solution to missing the old traditions is to make new ones. Have a dinner night at your place every Friday night. Have a certain spot where you and your friends always meet. Try to incorporate some of the local traditions into your daily life. Even if you don´t get them, or they are not the same as they were at home, new traditions will quickly make you feel more at home and before you know it, you´ll be in some other place feeling homesick for the new memories you have created. 

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Make Friends

Obviously having a group of friends around you is very beneficial to your well-being, and I don´t think I have to spend any more words explaining why. If you are not sure how to go about making new friends, don´t panic. In the post ‘How To Make Local Friends Abroad´ I explain how you can find yourself some local friends.a

Again, don´t forget, you are the outsider, which means you will have to take most of the initiative. Local people already have a social circle and even if they really did enjoy meeting you, for them there is just not the same amount of pressure to make a new friendship or to make an effort to meet you, which is why it is sometimes hard to make friends abroad. Don´t worry though, realizing why people sometimes don´t  seem to care as much as you do is half of the work. Don´t feel afraid to ask someone again if they couldn´t make it the first time.

If you´d rather have international friends, you might want to consider joining an Expat or Exchange student network. Facebook offers a great amount of Facebook group these days, so just try and search for ‘Expats [ insert city or province name ]´ and see what comes up!

Or maybe you could even join a dating site or use an app like Tinder to go on romantic dates. Having some love in your life could make all the pain go away in a second!

Talk about it

It´s okay to let people know you are struggling with this. Maybe not everyone will understand to the same extent what it feels like to miss home, but the majority of people are more than understanding to the subject, and the fact that they know you are going through this can make them more open and helping towards you.

One of the most comforting things in hard times is knowing that you are not alone. Therefore, it might even be more comforting to speak to other foreigners, as they are probably going through the same process. Even if other people don´t seem to show it, you will probably be surprised how many people are feeling just as miserable as you at times (and are really good at hiding it!). Feel no shame, you are not alone!

Keep a journal

I would recommend everyone to do this. Keeping a diary can help you reflect on your emotions. It´s good to read back things you have written years, months or even days before. It can help you remember the things you maybe didn´t like when you were back home, or how much you longed to go abroad. It can also keep track of your progress in the process of feeling at home in your new place. Reading back the first impressions you had, how lost you felt in the first days will make you realize how far you´ve come already.

 

In the end, time might be the best remedy. Don´t beat yourself up about, because feeling homesick is natural. Just don´t think that going back home will solve that problem.

If you ever feel the need to talk, you can always reach me through the Nationality Unknown Facebook page

 

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Exchange, Exchange Example Stories

The Exchange Roller Coaster

Being an exchange student is just like riding a roller coaster. Let me explain why.

First of all, you find out about exchange programs in different ways. In my case, I saw a documentary on TV about a French Rotary Exchange Student going to the USA for a year. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and I was not 13 yet. I immediately knew this kind of program was made for me ! But, you know, I was too young… Just like when you go to the amusement park, you really want to try this new ride, but you have to be 5 feet tall, and you’re only 4’8”… So you’re parents tell you that in a couple years you will maybe be able to ride it, but the silently hope for you to forget about this crazy idea.

As soon as I knew such exchange programs existed, I started making research about it, reading blogs, talking on forums etc. And then, And in the beginning of 9th grade, I was officially able to apply, I would have been 15 during my exchange. I was finally 5 feet tall ! But from your parents point of view, you are still too little to ride this roller coaster, too young to go away…

So I just waited another year. And at the end of freshmen year, I applied to what was about to change my life. My parents let me get into the line for this amazing ride !


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A very long line, though… That is where it all starts. You fill in paperwork, just like when you show your amusement park pass. You wait in line, you like when you wait for a host country.

You get excited when people in front of you move, just like when you receive that “Host Family” email. You see the ride running, and the riders being so happy from far away, just like you read exchange students adventures on their blogs. But most of it, you wait, and burn of impatience.

And then, comes the moment you hop on the roller coaster. The moment you are actually going, actually leaving your family, your friends, your home, your bed etc. You have that bittersweet feeling, between excitement and nervousness… But you can’t back out (and you don’t want to anyways, you’ve been waiting for this moment for 3 whole years !).

And here it goes. The plane takes off, the wagon starts moving. It goes up, up, up, just like your emotions. You’re feeling so happy, everything is perfect in your host country ! And at some point, the ride goes down… You’re scared, homesick, angry etc. But pretty quickly, it stabilizes and you get used to the new language, the new food, you start making friends. As everybody knows, roller coasters have many ups and downs, and so have exchanges.

But in the end, you realize you have to hop off the ride, and walk away from it. You don’t want to, but on the other hand, you know your family, your friends, your home, your bed, are waiting for you on the other side of the ocean. So, this bittersweet feeling comes back. Way more bitter than sweet in my case…

Because I had to leave what had become my family, my friends, my home, my bed. This all went by way too fast…

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You get down from this roller coaster with the outside certainty that you will ride it again over and over and over, but the inside fear that maybe you will never get to experience such an amazing experience, that you will never be given such a huge opportunity again…

So you walk away from it, and start feeling nostalgic. Maybe, all of this was just a dream, after all ! This need to go back to this ride is here, and some of us will fulfill this need, and go back on the roller coaster to visit their families, friends, homes, beds, across the globe. Others will let this away for a little bit, and go on other adventures in the amusement park.

This was my definition of being an exchange student. Our year abroad itself is the accomplishment of a lot of work and determination. It is a very enriching and learning experience. But in the end, if you look at your life like you look at an amusement park, and your exchange being that one roller coaster, you realize that many more opportunities are awaiting for you!

This guest post was written by Agathe, a 17 year old French Rotary Exchange Student to the USA (2014-2015)

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Working Abroad

Is Being a Digital Nomad Something For You?

Being a digital nomad is a certain way of life. It usually means working remotely, avoiding attachments and changing your location every once in a while. Why is that? Because when it comes to specific jobs, you may not need a conventional office or a fixed schedule. Vibrant Bangkok, beautiful Bali, lively Berlin or charming Prague – if you work in the field of software development, design, marketing or writing, you can easily perform your job from anywhere. The choice is yours and it’s as simple as that.

Since we realized that our surroundings affect our work and we don’t necessarily need an actual office in order to be productive, the remote work trend started gaining momentum. More and more individuals decide to follow this tendency – including me. Although constantly switching from one place to another while still performing your job can be exciting, there’s a downside to it too.

But let me start from the beginning. I remember entering a coworking space for the very first time, when suddenly the amount of creativity just hit me. I was fascinated with each and every individual working there and I quickly realised that it wasn’t just a place where you could rent a desk and find a quiet corner to work. Getting to know its entire community made me want to pursue a remote job right away.

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However, it turned out that not all of us could benefit from such a work environment – even if you love the concept, you can find yourself being easily distracted. I believe that it really depends on your job and work habits though. I used to enjoy sitting in the centre of the space with my headphones on and I didn’t mind being interrupted – but nowadays, since I take on a bit more responsibility and some extra tasks, I prefer to lie low. After all, working remotely means just figuring out what’s best for you every now and then.

Nonetheless, you have to stay motivated and disciplined at all times. If nothing in a coworking space can distract you, something outside your workplace surely will. Be careful – you chose a path of a neverending learning process, thus there’s a high possibility that you will discover something new every day. Whether it’s a foreign word, an exceptional coffee shop or a captivating district of your town – your brain will be working at full capacity. Although it may seem like living the dream, it’s just not for everybody. For the right person, in the right place, it surely is – but just imagine constantly moving from one city to another, each time leaving something familiar behind. Sooner or later, you may have nothing left to hold on to.

Numerous articles point out the benefits of being a nomad, but not that many seem to mention that there is a sense of temporariness and loneliness attached to it. You’re constantly surrounded by people, yet sometimes you feel more alone than ever. Most of us want new relationships to last, but quite frequently our plans just don’t coincide. Take me as an example. Whenever I start feeling comfortable in one place, I immediately want to go somewhere else. It’s a kind of addiction.

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That’s why it’s important to realise that if you feel happy with where you are and what you possess – don’t change it. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that travelling is always a good idea. What I’ve discovered with time though, is that changing a place to call home can eventually get tiring. It’s important to find a right balance – even though many of us enjoy being out of their comfort zones, we all need some kind of a stability. I have no regrets, but sometimes I feel like a victim of unlimited opportunities. If there are no limits and you‘re pretty sure that you can do almost anything you want, you might eventually get lost. And this is where I am now.

This guest post was written by Berenika – an avid writer and a travel addict, currently working for Eurosender.

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Moving Abroad

They Told Me Not To Look Back … And I Didn´t

One of the reasons I wanted to live abroad for a year was because I thought it would help me to find myself and allow me discover what I want in life. It sounds cliche but that was definitely one of the outcomes I was hoping to achieve. It’s really daunting moving to a different country half way across the world with different cultures and a totally different way of life and I soon began to go through a ‘culture shock’. I’ve been going to America since I was 13 weeks old and having family over there I thought I knew America and Americans extremely well, but I was surprised. I also didn’t think I would experience a ‘culture shock’ because I’m a native English speaker and I thought surely America can’t be that different to England. But everything was different; the food, water, clothes, media, shops, customs etc. This took me some while to get used to and it really made me appreciate England, its people and the way of life back home.

Before I came to the U.S I made a to do list and thought that I’d definitely be able to tick the items off easily. And sure enough I did quite a lot of the N.Y.C and Long Island based ones easily (Highline walk, Coney Island, N.Y.E in Time Square) etc. However I seemed to have forgotten how big America was and due to my work commitments and the little amount I got paid, I didn’t have the opportunity thus time passes quickly like a flowing river.

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I also thought about how maybe because I was going to be living in America I would totally change my image, become more into fashion, get my hair and nails done all the time and be a totally different person because I was ready for a change. By christmas time this hadn’t happened, in fact I had almost reversed. I couldn’t be bothered to do my hair or make up and just wore sweat pants all the time because I was working with young children all day and it was easier (there isn’t anything wrong with any of those things)! But this new image was so unlike me and totally not what I wanted or thought would happen. I became almost depressed at how much I’d ‘let myself go’.
Another thing was that by christmas time the novelty of living on Long Island and in America had worn off because I was familiar with most things now, I was over the ‘culture shock’ and I had established a good routine and made some amazing friends. Not to mention the fact that the winter was extremely depressing and the snow felt like it would be here for eternity. With feeling all of this and dealing with homesickness and the stressfulness of my job, I was a mix of emotions and I felt like I was on a constant roller coaster with highs and lows, and I was still trying to figure myself out and questioned why I was even in America. I had the love and support of my new friends here because we all totally understood what each other was going through, but when I would tell friends at home that I was feeling low or upset, some would be really supportive and others would just say “awww, but you’re in N.Y” or “how can you be sad, you’re in America”. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear and didn’t help at all because I realised that no matter where you settle in life, there is good and bad everywhere, and it doesn’t matter whether you live in the most beautiful place on earth, we are only human and we can be upset and have down days no matter where we live.

After the winter had passed it felt like I was in limbo waiting for the summer to start where I could go to the beach and hang out in the sun all day!! It wasn’t until around April time after my mum had come to visit me when the penny dropped. I started enjoying work more and started appreciating why I was here and what I was doing here. Although I might not have done what I had set out to do for myself and ticked everything off my to do list, it became clear to me that coming here had allowed me to take a step back from my life in England and allowed me to view it as an outsider, kind of like someone observing earth from space. I was now able to see that coming here had made me realise what I didn’t want in life and how I didn’t want to be. And although I thought I’d come here and find what I did want, I understand now that it’s important to first find out what we don’t want in order to understand what we do want in life. So I’m grateful I came here and I can come home and know what I don’t want in life which will help me establish what I do what for the next years to come.

Things didn’t make sense at first but now some things do. Being away from home and living in another country for a year hasn’t answered all my questions but I’ve certainly learned a great deal. I’m not saying that everyones experience will be like mine because of course it won’t, everyone is different and everyone experiences things differently. I feel like now I have this knowledge I don’t want to keep to  myself. After all, the act of discovering who we are will force us to accept that we can go further than we think.

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This guest post was written by Jazzy Oduba. You can find more of her on her blog ´Life Is Spicy´.

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Exchange Example Stories, Post-Exchange Life

I Never Left The Plane

This August marks the 8th anniversary of the beginning of my exchange year, when I was only a 16 years old kid who was trying to survive high school like everybody. That day I left the comfort of my reality in Chile with this program called AFS (American Field Service) and went to this unknown country named Norway, only knowing the name of the capital, the name of my host family, and how to count from 1 to 8 in the local language. Like many former exchange students, I could go for hours about all the stories I have from that year, both good and bad: New Year’s Eve with a blizzard, that time I fell on the snow while walking downhill, the joy and the cultural shocks I had with my host family and school, the russetid, the conversation with a thai friend about the differences of the word «you» in both spanish and thai, etc. However, there is but one thing I always highlight of that period: it redefined my life, my behaviour and ideas. The person I am today was born during that year.

As time went by and I came back to Chile, volunteering with other exchange students was the only place where I felt I connected. At school I didn’t have many friends and having different priorities from my classmates eventually drove us apart. My mom hasn’t gone on exchange at any point of her life, but she somehow understood what I was going through, that my dreams and expectations were different from the people around me, and that the exchange students’ community was my place. When I finished high school and decided to move to the capital for university, she gave me this smile and told me «I knew you would leave and do your own thing, because you never really got off the plane».

I didn’t have any idea of what she meant at that point, but I had a new year ahead so I just went with it. New city, new people, new life. And of course, I kept being a volunteer with AFS. I eventually became the contact person to a Finnish student and the applicants I did the personal interview became returnees, and then volunteers themselves. I was in my zone, with all the stories of cultural shocks and learning how to deal with them, understanding our own national identity through the stories of internationals, meeting different cultures from all over the place, languages, other ways of thinking, and so and so on.

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One day, some people went to my Faculty to promote the Exchange Program between my home university and several institutions around the world. The University of Oslo was among the names, I checked the programs, some classes and I called my mom telling her that I wanted to go on exchange to Norway again, if she could help me out financially and such. Her answer was «What took you so long?». The application letter was rather easy because I clearly knew the reasons of why I wanted to go back to Norway: I was in love with the country and with being an exchange student, the decision of studying Environmental Engineering was heavily influenced by my year there. I got accepted and while I was doing all the visa procedures I wrote an email to AFS Norway telling them I was going back and wanted to be a volunteer there. «Drop by when you come to Oslo » was their answer.

So in August 2014, I arrived once again to the Oslo airport. Walking in front of me was this woman whose passport fell to the ground, I grabbed it and told her «Unnskyld, det er din» («Sorry, it’s yours»), to which she told me thanks in Norwegian. My first conversation in Norwegian in almost four years. It felt like home.

Sometimes, it was quite overwhelming to be a volunteer in Norway since many of the doubts the exchange students had were the same I personally had during my own exchange: how to interact with norwegians, how to speak to that person, how to behave with my host family. I was reviving my own exchange through the experiences of these kids. Besides AFS, I also joined the Erasmus community within the University (even though I wasn’t an Erasmus myself), and with my own itchy feet I filled my schedule with all sort of international-related activities. Damn, I even joined the norwegian student parlament representing the international students.


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In the AFS preorientation for the norwegian students who would go on exchange soon, I met this girl who was going to Chile, so we of course, ended up talking about this strange and thin piece of land. She began her exchange at the beginning of August 2015, almost at the same time I finished mine in Norway. It was yet another side on the exchange experience, as some of the cultural shocks and experiences she was going through in Chile, I lived them on reverse in the other hemisphere.

It seemed that the intercultural learning would follow me everywhere I went, and I think I now understand what my mom meant with the «you never got off the plane». I have been conciously and unconciously tied with internationaly-minded people since I first went on exchange, with the vast amount of humans that live here. I have taken a bunch of planes here and there, but the dream of making the world a better place through mutual understanding among different cultures remains the same regardless of what’s the closest airport I have at the given moment. Some say «Exchange is not a year in your life, but a life in a year», for me exchange has been a life within itself, this story of exchange is my story and the story of many other fellow people who have embraced the same life. The moral of this long post? Those of you have got inside the plane, don’t get off, the exchange will last as much as you want it. If that means forever, so be it!

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This guest post was written by Javier Æøå, originally from Chile and an AFS exchange student in Norway.

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Language

9 Annoying Things People Do When You Are Still Trying To Learn A Language

#1 When you don´t understand a word they will repeat it only louder

Yeah, that´s very helpful

#2 When people ask you to ´ Say something´

“Idk, just something”

#3 When people ask you how good you are

´ cause how do you measure something like that

#4 “Oh you speak so well” when you have only spoken 2 words

Because, yes, I do speak well, BUT YOU WOULDN´T KNOW CAUSE I HAVE ONLY SAID GOOD MORNING

#5 When you are trying to speak and in order to help, people try to speak for you

Just… okay?

#6 Or when people don´t realize you actually understand more than you speak, and they are talking about you

Seriously..

#7 When you say “What?” because a story surprised you they will explain it all over again

Come on!

#8 When you start talking and people are like “Aww that´s cute”

no rejection

#9 When you say something and they just respond in English

 

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Language

7 Best Language Apps To Prevent Being Lost In Translation

Whether you are actually trying to learn a new language, or you just need some instant traveling assistance, your phone is always your best buddy. These great apps can help you along the way to avoid being lost in translation.

TRANSLATION APPS

#1 Google Translate

We are all familiar with this one, and boy do we complain about all the funny outcomes when it doesn´t translate right. But are you aware of all the possibilities of the Google Translate app. For example, as of July 2016, Google Translate supports 103 languages at various levels[4] and serves over 200 million people daily.[1]

And because Google is such a so-called ´Big Fish´, in 2015 they purchased and incorporated another translation app called ‘Word Lens´ into Google Translate. According to Wikipedia

“Word Lens was an augmented reality translation application from Quest Visual. Word Lens used the built-in cameras on smartphones and similar devices to quickly scan and identify foreign text (such as that found in a sign or a menu), and then translate and display the words in another language on the device’s display. The words were displayed in the original context on the original background, and the translation was performed in real-time without connection to the internet. For example, using the viewfinder of a camera to show a shop sign on a smartphone’s display would result in a real-time image of the shop sign being displayed, but the words shown on the sign would be the translated words instead of the original foreign words.”

Welcome to the future y´all

#2 UnBabel

If you want something better than Google Translate, you will probably have to lay down a couple of bucks. For your day to day translation, it might not be necessary, but if you want to translate some more delicate information, this may be the thing for you.

Here is an example.

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The nice thing is that you can select the subject and the tone of the text. This way, you won´t send an oddly friendly text to your boss, or a formal letter to your lover.

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Your first order, up to 150 words, is for free. After that, you will have to pay. Depending on the situation, this might be worth it though.

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A couple of minutes later, you will get an email with your translation 🙂

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#3 Gengo

A similar application is Gengo, which again for a small price let´s you translate a text while also selecting a style or tone. Although it is a bit more pricy than the before mentioned ‘UnBabel´, this one will go to an actual human being, that knows the nuances of the languages and might give you a translation that is a little smoother.

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FUN WORD APPS

#4 Swearport

Because sometimes you just need to know the important stuff.

“Swearport lets you become a global swearing master. Simply choose the language you want, click on the swear of your choice, and Swearport will play a high-quality audio recording of a native speaker saying your chosen swear! You can also try your hand at the random function where you shake your Android device and Swearport will throw out a random swear.But wait, don’t think it stops there! Each swear has detailed information about its swear pronunciation, swear meaning, swear English equivalent, swear usage, and swear intensity rating out of five. Swearport dives deeper into the art of international swearing than any other swearing application with by far the largest library of swears and accompanying recordings.Here is a complete list of languages, each of which have recordings of a native speaker”

LANGUAGE LEARNING APPS

#5 Memrise

My personal favorite. Not only because of the way it works, but mostly because of the wide variety of small and unknown languages. It´s like a candy store for those who enjoy learning languages.

According to Wikipedia

“Memrise is an online learning tool with courses created by its community. Its courses are mainly used to teach languages, but are also used for other academic and nonacademic subjects (such as trivia, video game trivia, and pop cultural). Memrise uses flashcardsaugmented with mnemonics (known within the service as “mems”)—partly gathered through crowdsourcing—and the spacing effect to boost the speed and ease of learning.”

It basically makes you repeat the word until you know it, but it almost feels like a game. You can play this anywhere (I usually play it when I am on the train or in the bus).

#6 Babbel

Another famous app for language learning. It probably works among the same ideas as Memrise, only it has fewer languages, but has a better worked out program for these offered languages.

“Babbel is an online language learning software and e-learning platform available in various languages since January 2008. Fourteen languages are currently offered: Dutch, Danish, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese,Russian, Swedish, Spanish and Turkish. According to babbel.com, it has over 20,000,000 users from more than 190 countries.”

The nice thing about Babbel is that they have a website where they post things about language learning, like a post for Brazilians learning English on how to improve their pronunciation, or a post on why learning a language on a cell phone can actually make a difference. 

#7 Duolingo

Same story with Duolingo, and this one is already quite popular aswell.

Duolingo /ˌdjˈlɪŋɡ/ is a free language-learning platform that includes a language-learning website and app, as well as a digital language proficiency assessment exam. Duolingo offers all its language courses free of charge. As of April 2016, the language-learning website and app offer 59 different language courses across 23 languages; with 23 additional courses in development. The app is available on iOS, Android and Windows 8 and 10 platforms with over 120 million registered users across the world.

It only offers a select number of languages, but they are adding to the variety of origin language, so instead of going English -> French, you could now Italian -> French, or French -> German, or German -> Spanish.

It also gives you a progress report and tells you your fluency in a language in percentage (however accurate that it, it does feels great though).

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Global Citizenship, Living Abroad

When Home Just Isn´t Where You Need to Be

There is no place like home, they say. And it´s true. But that doesn´t mean that ´home´ is always the best place to be. In fact, I think in many cases it´s good to not be ´home´. Sometimes it´s good to look for the discomfort, to get yourself out there, experience new things. Sometimes, ´home´ is just not where you need to be.

I just got home from being abroad for 7 months. During those 7 months I have endured a great deal of problems and struggles, and at many times I thought about being home. How great it is to have people around you that speak the same language, that you´ve known for a long time. How comfortable it would be.

Not being ´home´ makes you appreciate home more than you did before. I would even argue that you can´t feel at home if you have never not felt at home. Something about no darkness without light, and vice versa. Going abroad can make you more patriotic than ever, and at the same time make you realize that patriotism is one of the most ridiculous concepts people have ever created.

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Above all, what is ´home´? Not being home means to be able to create a new one. To leave your heart in many places. Not being home is creating a different version of yourself. Different, but still you. A version that would never be able to exist in any other place.

Being ´home´ right now is wonderful, it´s comfortable. But because of this comfort, it´s not a challenge, and sometimes being challenged is exactly what you need. Living in your own country to me is like living with your parents. Yes it´s easy, and in a weird way we would all want to do that forever, but there comes a time when you need to grow up and learn to stand on your own feet. Right now, I don´t want to be home.

Not wanting to be home has nothing to do with being ungrateful. It doesn´t mean I don´t like it. Quite the opposite. But there is a time for everything, and now is not the time to be comfortable. Now, as a young woman trying to figure out her life, now is a time to be uncomfortable, to look for the limits and then cross them. To find out what I want and what I don´t want. What I like, and what I don´t like. Who I am, and who I am not. Then, and only then, will be the time to come ´home´,

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Exchange, Exchange Example Stories, Final months of exchange

Why I Wasn’t Afraid to Go on Exchange, but am Afraid to Go Home

When I first realized that I wanted to go on exchange, I immersed myself in research. First, I frantically read about all the countries I was interested in going to. At that point I had two requirements, I wanted to go to Europe and I wanted to learn a new language. After weeks of researching, I came to the conclusion that Austria was the right country for me. At the time, I didnt know much about Austria other than stereotypes, including a love for skiing, beer drinking and the Sound of Music. The next few months were spent convincing my parents about all the reasons why it would be beneficial for me to participate in an exchange year. I scoured the internet for blogs where they could read about how fast other exchange students learned the language, immersed themselves in the culture, and what the benefits of an exchange were for them later in life. I guess you could say that I was obsessed with reading about other peoples experiences.

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When it was time to fly to Austria I was buzzing with excitement. I couldnt wait to meet my new family and see my new home. Although I was excited, I wasnt nervous. I had read in other exchange students blogs how you should have no expectations about your host country or family. I tried really hard not to expect anything, or have any ideas or plans on how my exchange year should be. I was completely open to new experiences. This lack of expectation for my exchange year helped with my nerves, and I think really helped me fit into with my host family and Austria.

Now Im almost nine months into my exchange. Ive made myself a life in Austria with a new friend group, family, language, and culture. One of my biggest obstacles in my exchange year was the language. At the beginning, I was so frustrated with myself because I wanted to speak and understand German so badly, and I felt as if I wasnt learning it quickly enough. Eventually around December, I went to a Christmas party, drank little too much wine (which gave me a lot of confidence) and I just spoke without thinking too much about it. That night something just clicked in my brain. I was so happy! Now, I understand almost everything, and while I still have problems with grammar I can speak my mind. Overcoming the language barrier was the last obstacle for me in feeling at home in Austria.

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The last few months here have been amazing, Ive really settled into my life. Sadly, however, it´s all slowly coming to an end. In less than 2 months I fly back to Canada. And Im honestly so afraid. I feel like Ive forgotten how my life was in Canada, and what my friends and family are like. Ive forgotten how I act around my friends and family and feel like Ive changed so much since coming to Austria that people in Canada may not recognize me anymore. I have so many expectations for what life will be like again in Canada, how my friends will act, and how the food will taste, that even though Ive lived in Canada for my entire life I still am afraid for what awaits me at home.

This exchange year has been wonderful and I would gladly repeat the experience. It has taught me a lot about the power of expectations and how they can affect a persons life and ability to start from scratch all over again. Hopefully, everyone can learn about the power of expectations from my adventure in Austria!

This post was written by Sam Treacy

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Exchange, Exchange Example Stories, Exchange Student Problems

The Day I Became Mexican

I am from Brazil, a state of Mexico, the biggest country in Latin America, I am tan, and my native language is Portuguese, which is the same as Spanish. I have always lived in the forest because we do not have cities there. We have to plant our own food and hunt wild animals. However, hunting is a man’s job only, because women are not able to do such a complicated thing. We usually have to cook our mandatory spicy food and wash the clothes in the river, but we need to be very careful with poisonous snakes. The only things that are entertaining to us are soccer, samba and Carnival—an event that lasts the whole year.
These things may sound unlikely or even ridiculous for someone to say or assume, but they are all assumptions that people have asked me about since the first time I stepped on American soil when I moved to Oregon two years ago. Most people automatically assume that I am from Mexico, and it might be because of my tan skin, my dark hair, and my Latin accent when pronouncing some words in English. Or it could be they’re so accustomed to relying on the shorthand syllogism “People from Mexico are tan. Latin Americans are tan. Therefore, all Latin Americans are from Mexico.”

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I am from Brazil, the largest country out of the twenty nations in Latin America, which hosts Sao Paulo, the biggest city proper in the Americas, the place where I was born and raised. Brazil has a population of 200.4 million people, and it is the having five World Cup titles—the most in the world. However, the country is not only made of soccer. Brazil has won a total of 108 medals in all Olympics, and tourists visit from all over to experience our vibrant arts, music, and dance culture. Brazilian cuisine is diverse and delicious, and only a small percentage of it is spicy.

Stereotypes exist because of a lack of curiosity and generalizations in our beliefs. It is often an automatic reaction to relate something new and unfamiliar to something familiar—even if that “something familiar” is only what we’ve heard other people say. A lack of knowledge creates an association between two distinct things resulting in a mistaken assumption of fact. No, Brazil is not part of Mexico. No, Portuguese and Spanish are not the same thing. No, I do not live in the forest. No, not all our food is spicy.

No, not all Latin Americans are from Mexico. I understand it is easy to make assumptions, but it is also easy to ask, 5th biggest country in the world. It has 26 states in its territory, and it is part of the emerging national economies group BRICS. Brazil’s official language is Portuguese, one of the eight Romantic languages that evolved from Latin, and also the official language of nine other countries. Brazil is known for “Where are you from?” “Where is that at?” or “What language do you speak?” No one needs to know every single detail about every country, but common respect and curiosity about every race, will keep our eyes open to all the beauties that other cultures have to offer

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This post was written by Isadora Cardoso, a Brazilian exchange student in Oregon (United States)