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Post-Exchange Life

When Everything Is Possible After Your Exchange

I don’t know if all of you have the same feeling as me after going back home, but here is my story.

I haven’t been shy since I turned 12 and started to wear braces. I never had problems with my look, with having friends or traveling. I was kinda mature, independent and knew what I wanted to do in my life. So my exchange wasn’t exactly about that. But it changed my life the way I wasn’t expecting – all of us experienced this.

The changes started quick (earlier than magic three months). In my case firstly I started to see the change in my body – obviously I gained weight (again like most of us). Later I saw more interesting changes like having feelings different than happiness or sadness (yeah I was kinda heartless before exchange haha). Later I realized how much I have learned and grew up. How problems are not problems any more. How being sometimes lonely is not the end of the world. How forcing yourself to be a good exchange student by not staying all the time in your room, trying to talk with host families in a free time, helping them in the house, going for Rotary meetings, helping with Rotary programs, being thankful and even going to school every single day is not that bad and you actually like it. Changes  go on and on, because exchange is not only going to other country and someone is comings to yours – it’s also in my opinion (ex)changing yourself into a new person who is mostly better you, who will not be recognized by your family or friends, but it’s ok, it’s good, it’s really good! Remember this!

Going to the topic of this post. After all these changes happened I returned home. My parents already knew that I had changed, but my friends didn’t. About some things I hadn´t even though. My friends told me – for example I started to wear dresses, I stopped to friend zone boys and actually started to flirt with them. I didn’t care about what people thought about me any more. Then came first day of school and it began – all the things which seemed impossible for some people were pretty easy. I came to my school knowing only few names (because all my friends have graduated when I was on exchange). None of them were my friend and after less than a month I had friends who I could hang out with, in the first week I wasn’t sitting alone in the classes (and it wasn’t because someone had to sit next to me because of no more free spots) or staying alone on the hallway. After four months I started to have a boyfriend (another huge change at me for my friends who remember my ex from the beginning of high school and few random kisses, because as I mentioned earlier I opened my heart for feeling during the year abroad). I count it as a little success after exchange hahaha
Later I had a huge challenge with organizing Rotary meeting in my city for exchange students in Poland. That’s a thing which is organized by Rotaract club every year and as I’m a member and I didn’t know how hard it was I have decided to do it. I supposed to have a lot of help from others members, but like we all know everyone has their own lifes and not everybody can help you and of course I revived some help, but so mostly I had to do everything by myself – luckily one of the guys who was organizing this meeting two years earlier helped me by telling me what I have to do, giving me all the contacts and other stuff, but it was still crazy. It was all did in three weeks, one of the most difficult weeks in my life, trying to get everything done so all the Rotary people will be happy and what is more important make this three days amazing for almost 60 exchange students. After having a huge problem with booking a hotel, because there was also some other event in my city and all the hotels where booked, I had some other issues and finally few days before I was just praying. Finally it all went so good, awesome and exchange students were very satisfied. And from then on I knew that the only way I could have done it is because I “survived” a year on exchange.
During this year I also applied for new in my country Rotary exchange program (New Generation Exchange), which is a program for few weeks (6 weeks to three months) in the other country where You can have an internship. I would never say before my year in US that I will go on next vacation to South America – and I did, I’m here in Colombia. I stay here for a little bit longer than two month and I feel so good. I feel amazing being exchange student again, living in the other country, meeting new people, learning a language (which we all know is sometimes so hard), traveling and loving it so badly that I don’t wanna go home.


I could go on with things which became possible after coming back home, but I guess this already says enough. I just wanna add; everything is possible during and after your exchange. It’s your life, your new life! Take chances, don’t overthink it, make this year your year, makes your dream come true during rest of your life and when you come back home remember that you are exchange student and that you will always be, not all the people will understand you, for the closest one or just friends (for me it’s my boyfriend) it may be so hard to figure out why are you going abroad again, why do you keep in touch with people who you met few times and who are miles away from you. But I can tell you one thing – do in Your life whatever YOU want to do and not others wants you to do – be independent, be different, crazy, free and You will have a great time! And now go live your life, have fun and remember you can only reagent things that you haven’t done

This post was written by Magda. She is 20-year-old Polish girl who did her exchange in Colorado, USA.



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.


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. 


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


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 !


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…


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)

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.


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.


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!



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

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.


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.


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. You can read more of her on her blog Simply Wanderstruck

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.”


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



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

Post-Exchange Life

How To Stay After Your Exchange

I´m sure that 99% of the students going on exchange asked themselves at one point or another this question – what if I stay here?

I would be lying if I say I didn´t spend a lot of time thinking about this dilemma, although is an easy question, we think about this as a very utopian situation. We see ourselves as only guests for one year and the idea of staying longer seems simply not right.

My exchange was as simple and fun as yours was. I had a normal host family, attended school as usual and had a good mixed of exchange students and local friends. However, a question started ticking my head from the moment I arrived in Germany. What if I stay longer?


This question was something I wanted, but I simply wasn´t sure about if is right or not. I started asking my family at home what they think about, asked my host family if they heard about a situation like this before and asked other exchange students if this idea stops being just an “if”.

The situation at home wasn´t better. As many American countries, Colombia is in a situation where higher education is extremely expensive and if you are not able to pay for this, you will have to have some luck at one point or another to succeed. By the other side, Germany sounded like paradise: Education was free, the social security services in Europe are great and Germany´s life is not as expensive as in United States, Australia or United Kingdom. Germany was like a small paradise where I only had to take a risk.

While I was doing my exchange, I started collecting information about universities, scholarships, recognition of my foreign (Colombian) high school degree and although it wasn´t an easy task, it was something I could do after school, weekends or with the help of my host family.

NOTE: Requirements are different from country to country. The first question you need to ask is if your high school is recognize by the educational system of your host country and if not, what possibilities there are.

Once I knew what universities were expecting from me, and how good my chances are, I started making this idea come true. For a Colombian student, who wants to study in Germany I had to complete a certain level of German, apply into a German university and be redirected to a German Studienkolleg, (a German course for foreign students who want to study in Germany) and pass the admission exam for the Studienkolleg.

In other to complete these goals, I started taking extra German classes, attended extra seminars about integration in Germany and spend my summer holidays not traveling around Spain or Italy, but studying grammar and improving my language skills.

At the end of my exchange year, I had the required level of German to apply to a German university, got an invitation to an admission exam for a Studienkolleg and had an idea where I wanted to study.

All I had left to do was going back home for a couple of months, apply for a student visa and get back on a plane to Europe. Sounds easy, however, it´s a process that takes time and desire.

Steps to get into a foreign university directly after your exchange

Level of language

Learn about the educational system in your host country

You should do all these things during your EXCHANGE YEAR

NOTE: Your host family plays a very important role; they can help you contacting the universities and different organizations.


Check what universities offer the course you are interested in


Check the international office website of these universities and call about information (they know better than anyone what you have to do)


Take into account admission deadlines


Translation of all your documents about your past education (ask first what exactly they need)


Unfortunately you have to return home and with your admission letter apply for a student visa ( Process takes from 1 – 3 months)


Present the admission exam for a preparation course

In matriculate direct as an student


Something went wrong? – No worries. You can do 1-2 year(s) of language/preparation courses

Apply again


The international offices at the universities are very friendly and usually speak English. Call instead of mailing! A call takes only a couple of minutes, while an email can be misunderstood and takes a couple of days to response.

Start doing language courses to improve your written skills and grammar in advance.

This process takes time and dedication. You have to commit 100% and work to make it happen.

Ask for help to your host family.

Make a list of goals and set exact dates to complete these goals.


I have been being a counselor for many exchange students over the past years and in my opinion dedication and support is 99% of your success. A great support from your parents will keep you motivated; ask their opinion about your idea, explain why you think it´s a good idea and let them know how important is for you their support

You know yourself better than anyone does and a decision like this takes money and time. You have to be sure that this is what you want.


I went to Germany 7 years ago and now I still think is the best decision I´ve ever had. I met so many different people, learn so much about myself and experience so many adventures that I can´t imagine how my life would be if I didn´t persist with my goal

I invite you to take this risk too and live the life you always wanted.

“An exchange won´t last forever, but at least you can make it longer if you want”

12799304_10153949779091499_1891852730273482240_nJuan Martinez is a Colombian who left his home country in 2009 at the age of 17 years old. Since then, he has been living in places like Germany, India and Singapore; something that inspired him to travel as many countries as possible with the idea of budget traveling and motivating people to go out and travel more. You can follow him on or on Facebook/Instagram

Post-Exchange Life

To All Those People Telling Me To ‘Get Over´ My Exchange

There seems to be a large amount of people who don´t understand what an exchange is all about. People who have yet to discover there is a whole world out there to discover, and don´t understand why anyone would leave the comfort of their own home. Before you leave, they ask you why you would throw away a whole year to go on vacation. They ask you if you won´t miss your friends and family or why of all places you picked the country you picked. (Read; 10 things not to say to or ask exchange students). Then you go on exchange, and it changed your life, maybe even more than you expected. But these people stayed in their own little bubble, and as much they didn´t understand you going on exchange in the first place, they really don´t get you going on and on about it.

It´s okay. In many ways I understand how hard it is to see what an exchange does to you if you haven´t done it yourself. As much as I thought I understood what it was like (which was a reason for me to go), I was completely wrong about almost everything. It changed me in ways I couldn´t imagine, I learned things I never knew I never knew, so if you have never had an experience like it, I can understand why it might be hard for you to see how important this experience is and how, especially when you go as a teenager, this year has a huge influence on someone´s development.

But please, don´t ever ask me to ´get over´ my exchange. This is to everyone who has ever asked me why I was talking about my exchange. Again. To all the people wondering why it´s such a big deal. Why after all these years I am still talking about it, this is what I have to say.

One thing you have to understand is that an exchange is not a year in a life, it´s a life in a year. When you move abroad it´s not only a matter of getting to know new people and finding your way in a new city. It´s about finding a way in a city which street names are in a different language, sometimes in a different alphabet. It´s making new friends without even speaking the language. It´s trying to understand how things work around you, what is culturally appropriate and what not. Every conversation, every supermarket visit is a challenge. Being abroad is dealing with the feeling of being a complete outsider, feeling isolated and alone. It´s getting to know yourself by questioning everything you have ever learned. It´s learning that there is not just one ´right´ way to do things and, most importantly, it´s about learning there is a whole world to explore.

When we talk with our friends and family, we usually try to bring something new to the conversation. Something funny, something interesting. And my whole exchange was funny, and interesting. Don´t get me wrong, I have funny anecdotes from my life at home as well, but in no way do they compare to the craziness of what happens when you are a 16-year-old teenager trying to find their way in a foreign country (I haven´t figured out yet why nobody has copyrighted this idea for a sitcom).

My exchange taught me that people are different, and yet at the same time people are the same. In every country I have been to I have seen people like you. People that love their home, their family and the comfort that comes with it. People that don´t feel the need to explore, to go outside of their comfort zone, and that is fine, but until you have seen what the rest of the world has to offer (and with ´seen´ I don´t mean just to look at foreign things, I mean to actually understand, accept and learn from them) there is no way I could ever explain why I can´t just get over my exchange.

Exchange Student Problems, Homesickness, Mid-Exchange, Study Abroad, Study Abroad 101

Why Christmas Might Be The Hardest Time To Be Abroad

To be honest, I am not a big fan of Christmas. In my family it is not really a big deal, plus I hate cold weather. Two reasons why I thought I wouldn´t have a lot of problems being in a tropical paradise around this time of year. I was excited to experience such a big event in a different country/culture, and I was excited for not having to spend it in the actual winter. But in reality I thought the time around Christmas to be much harder and in all honesty, it might have been the only time I actually felt homesick. Here are some reasons why Christmas for many students might be the hardest time to be abroad

#1 It´s a family thing

Like I mentioned, yes, Christmas is usually celebrated with family, and although I did not actively missed my family during my exchange as I was just too busy with other things, not spending Christmas with them did feel a little weird. Suddenly I felt nostalgic over all the drama that usually comes with the last days of December.

You don´t even have to be a family person to miss your family during Christmas, which would make it all the harder for those who do actively miss their family. Being with a new family that probably still feels too new to really feel the same comfort with as at home, not having this ´tradition´ to look forward to, which can make it a hard time of year

#2 It doesn´t feel like ´ Christmas´

Yes, you know it´s going to be different, but you still have this expectations of a feeling you always get, so when it´s 30 degrees warmer outside or your family doesn´t have a Christmas tree, it might not ‘feel´ like that celebration you usually love to much, and it´s hard to get into something when you are not ´feeling it´.

#3 It comes at the worst time of your exchange

Depending on when you leave for your exchange, Christmas usually comes in the middle of an exchange. This means you have probably already gotten used to your host country. Everything feels normal, to the degree it starts getting boring. Your host family starts to feel like real family, to the degree that you are starting to feel little annoyances with them.

In the Cultural Adjustment Cycle, you would commonly find yourself in stage 4 now, where you have overcome the initial adjustment and are now getting to know the deeper issues of a culture.


For those who have not seen it during their orientation camps, culture is often compared to an iceberg. There are a lof of obvious things that everyone can see. The way people dress, eat, etc. These things are strange at first, and you have to get used to them, but they are also quite easy to accept.
But any iceberg, as we all know, is much larger underwater than above the water, which means there are many many more things that we don´t see. Those things are not only harder to see, they also go way deeper into someone´s way of thinking. Eating might be a fairly easy thing to change, but things such as hand gestures might be so unconscious they are way harder to address.

And to continue the iceberg metaphor, icebergs are more likely to clash ´underwater´.

Without making this post too preachy; it is normal to have a little dip during this Christmas period. It is in fact part of your cultural assimilation (and means that you are on track). Believe me, I had a period where I hated everything about my host country. I wasn´t necessarily feeling homesick, but I was also not understanding the local culture which was extremely frustrating. But in the end, it passed, and without trying to claim I now ‘fully understand´ my host culture, bit by bit you will start accepting, understanding and appreciating it more.

But for now, good luck in these hard times and I wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Note; These experiences are generalized and are not the same for everyone. If you are having a great time and are feeling none of these issues at all, I am really happy for you 🙂

Culture, Exchange, Exchange Example Stories

Going from East to West

Coming from the east to live in the west: you can imagine how much culture shock I suffered. From a 90% Muslims country to a 97% Catholics country, yep, it’s different too. And if you are a future exchange students that also going to do an exchange from east to west and going to have a 360 degrees of change, here are some tips for you on facing your cultural differences.

#1 It’s different, not wrong.

That is the number one thing you should remember. There is no right or wrong in this ‘culture shock’ thing: it’s just different. 

“Oh but it is forbidden in my religious beliefs! And there, it is considered wrong.”

Son, remind yourself that you are doing an exchange for a new experience, for a new life, and especially, for a new culture. And no, culture are not only the art, the dance or the song, culture is the way of life. And the first thing that you should remember when you’re having a culture shock is that: that is how the people here lives

#2 Explain

There is nothing wrong with explaining and talking through what you think. You came from a different world, different country and most important, different culture. Tell your host family or the people that caused you the culture shock what happened.

It happened to someone you don’t know and you choose not to bark in to a stranger? Well, tell your host family. After all, your host family probably act the same as the stranger that you met since you live in their country. 

In my family in Italy, dinner time is sacred: that is when I should tell everything that I need to know or everything I think they need to know. Every dinner we talk about our day, so I am I with my day. I’ll tell them what happened, and they will tell me how to face it.

Explaining can also prevent the shock to happen again. For example, you are a Muslim girl and you can not be touched by other men except your brothers and father, since it is not right for your religious belief. But your Italian host father wanted to hug you since it is the way of Italian to show love. Tell him. Talk through to him, explain everything that in your religious belief you can not be touched. It is better than later when the other person wanted to do something that is not right and you have to act defensive.


#3 Ask, ask, ask, ask!

Ask everything. Literally, everything. You might know how to use the toilet since it looks the same with the one in your house in your home country, but like I say, the people from the country you’re hosted might use it differently. 

Like explaining, there are nothing wrong with asking. Your family, friends and teachers know that you came from halfway around the world that makes you basically an alien. 

I, for one, always ask. Especially in the dinner table. The Italian eating style and Indonesian is really different. Indonesian eating style is very humble and traditional: sometimes we use our hands, even, without spoons or forks, and knife is barely used. But here in Italy: the opposite.

I always ask my family if I don’t know how to eat something. Like, “should I do this? Should I do that?” and my family will gladly show me how to do that. It might look like you’re stupid and like a pre-historic person, but well, you are there learning new cultures!

#4 Be a good observer

Although I don’t recommend this (I prefer you ask), be a good observer if you are too shy to ask. At the first time, you might be shocked with what people around you do, but, be a good observer. Find out why they do that. Do a background research. And, be a good observer and imitate. 

In Indonesia, I eat everything with a spoon, while here in Italy, I have to use the fork all the time. I don’t know how to do that at first, but also now I still find some discomfort eating with fork, but I look carefully at how my host family eat, and eventually, I imitated them. The shock will eventually gone, I am sure.

#5 Give up!

Confused? I’ll explain. Give up doesn’t mean that you go home to your home country and stop doing the exchange, but what I am implying here is: give up your old culture. You are learning a new culture, so, in order that new culture to get into your life, give up your old. And giving up doesn’t mean forgetting. It means that you have to accept the new culture.

At my first time using the bus to go home from school, I was really, truly, shocked by what happened. It was one of my biggest culture shock that I won’t forget. The Italian teenagers, after school, have no chill. They will fight for their seats on the bus to go home (because they are: a) tired  b) hungry  c) Italians don’t keep calm. Sums it up = chaos)

I struggled a bit at first. It was hard for me to get in the bus since there were a lot of people that wanted to have seat, that they will push you and give zero damn about you. I then remember that in Indonesia, they will get in one by one, or if they’re in a hurry, they will not push you away. One time, I was being an Indonesian and being calm, and I lost five buses that I had to walk 5 km to the city center to catch another bus.

I had a hard time: I wanted that calmness of Indonesian. But then, I give up. I accept the fact that that is how Italians live. And as I had written before, I imitated. (Also, I slowly became a) tired  b) hungry  c) have no calm after school) And guess what: right now I always get a seat in the bus.


#6 Never compare!

It’s actually what exchange student always do, and I myself still do that also: comparing to our home countries. “In Indonesia, they…”; “they don’t do ….. in China”; “We don’t have this in Argentina”

While at some point comparing is important, for example, to explain why you are shocked or why you don’t do some certain things, but  keep on comparing things means that you don’t accept what’s in front of you. 

I, for one, at first didn’t like the Italian school system (I still kinda do, though). The Italian school system can be summed into one, single, strong word: boring. The students are passive and forced to sit and listen to what the teacher mumbling about for five hours with not a lot of interaction between them, and the students are forced to accept everything that the teacher say.

While in Indonesia, the students are forced to be more active, do fun projects and we have a lot of connection between the teacher and the student, we have a two-way connection, and although sometimes it sucks, the system in Indonesia made the students and the teachers partners. We could discuss different way of doing things, while here, according to me, not so much.

I did a comparison here but I need to explain. But, if I keep on comparing the school system, that means I don’t give up my old culture, and I can’t accept the new one. But as the time goes by, you will adapt. But adapting will be so much faster if you stop comparing things

That is how you could face the cultural differences, according to me. I know I am not perfect, but, I hope that this could help the future exchange students that will go on an exchange year. Ciao!



This story was written by Aloysius Efraim, a student from Indonesia that is now doing  exchange year in Scorzè, Italy. If you want to know more about me, visit my blog or add him on Facebook.