A Letter To Future Exchange Students

Dear future exchange students,

Being an exchange student is hard. Yeah, it is also fun and you get so much out of it but I really wish someone would have told me how hard it was going to be. I have been here 7 months and I don’t think I have ever been this lonely, seriously.

You can often feel alone, like no one really understands what you’re going through. I mean you’re in a foreign country miles away from all the people you know and familiar places. Also making friends can be rather difficult (this all really depends on your country) you have to start completely fresh, and the problem is you’ll have expectations in your head that you’ll get friends like the ones you have at home but to actually establish a relationship with someone will take some time and you’ll have to be committed to trying your hardest.

You’ll also have to remember not everyone is going to want to be your friend, people will lose interest in the ‘new girl’ so make the most of those first crucial weeks to bag some friendship points, sounds magical I know. Be prepared for those days where you’ll feel lost, confused and invisible because trust me you’ll have quite a few of those especially in the beginning.

People will have expectations of you, they will make assumptions and sometimes not bother to ask if you can do things but rather just tell you to do them anyways. I met with my school support teacher and she reminded me that not everyone is going to understand what its like because not everyone has experienced what you will be going through. You will have to be patient and calm, if the work is stressing you out or you’re not ready to do something your friends (hopefully you’ll have some) expect you to do then don’t be afraid to say so. Take baby steps, do what you can and dont feel bad for not being able to live up to peoples expectations.

Most importantly remember this exchange is about YOU! Lately I have been putting myself in uncomfortable and emotionally draining situations because I was more concerned about catering to other people’s needs than making myself happy. You are having this experience so that you have a good time.

Before I left for my exchange I was reading a kiwi girls blog about being an exchange student in Denmark and she said that if you are not feeling included, supported or noticed in your class after a couple of months, change class. You need to feel like you fit in, if you feel out of place or that you are just too different then you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable for your whole exchange.

Be prepared for stereotypes and feeling misunderstood, most of the time you’ll meet people who have no idea about anything related to your country, I still get really hurt by this but just try to educate people on where you come from. I always find most of the time no one wants to learn about where you come from because you’re supposed to be immersing yourself into their culture but don’t forget your roots and your values along the way.

Lastly keep in mind most people won’t understand what you’re going through half the time, you’ll get remarks like “why are you so tired you do nothing in class” “you’re so lucky you don’t have to do much work” or such things like “you’re in my country and we don’t do things like that here”.

It’s hard to relate to someone on an exchange unless you’ve been on one yourself, they won’t understand how draining it is to just try and join in for 30 minutes, learning a new language is the most tiring thing I’ve ever tried to do and yes I have tried the gym but language beats that by far! Some days you won’t feel like going out and others you’ll just want to explore. Take your time and be kind to yourself.

I always used to think I wasn’t allowed to feel bad and sad about my exchange because I chose to come, I decided to do it but you’re allowed to have those days, in fact you need them to keep you sane I mean how can you move across the world and not get down about it every once and a while?

Exchanges are hard but they are so rewarding and you get to experience so much in such a unique way. You’re not a tourist you’re a local with friends and a life and you get to have this amazing year that will forever be yours.

You’re also going to get the most amazing friends you could ever imagine, it’s true that exchange students are the best kind of people, you’ll get life long friends from across the globe and nothing can compare to sharing something as life changing as this with people just like you, it’s kind of unreal and hard to explain until you’ve experienced it.

All the best of luck, you’ll have an amazing and unforgettable time I promise.

Love, Kezia

 

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This post was written by Kezia Doyle, an 18-year-old exchange student from New Zealand currently doing her exchange in Denmark. She has a blog called Keeping up with Kezia

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