Being on an exchange is awesome and that is one of the reasons exchange students like to talk about it. However, being an exchange student can also pretty hard for a couple of reasons, one of them being the ignorance they have to deal with. I would encourage everybody to make contact with exchange students, ask them about their (host) countries, since they are some of the most awesome people on this planet, still there is an end to an exchange student´s tolerance.
Here is a list of things NOT to ask or say to an exchange student and the thought they will probably have when someone does.
In the home country
1. ¨But why are you throwing away a year instead of going to college like everybody else¨
Because I think a year abroad can actually teach me much more than sitting in class with 200 other students?
People seem to be to hung up on what you are supposed to do that at times they forget what the actual purpose of those things, such as education is. Don´t get me wrong, education is very important, but that doesn´t mean you can´t learn anything outside of school. Besides, it´s called `studying abroad` for a reason (although I think many exchange students can agree with me that this is not always the main activity)
And again, it is NOT throwing away a year. If you aren´t convinced by the 6 reasons why you should do a high school exchange, maybe the statistics of it all will help you clear your mind. For example, you are twice as likely to find a job within 12 months after you graduate. As if that isn´t enough, with that job you will on average also make 25% more than people who didn´t study abroad.
These numbers are not because making more money is a natural consequence of doing an exchange year, it just shows the people that go abroad in general might be better candidates for certain jobs. Some people are just not up for new experiences but that doesn´t mean we should be held back by that.
2. ¨Oh I am so jealous! I would love to have vacation for an entire year!¨
Yeah I would love that too! Unfortunately I already signed up for this thing called an exchange year, so I can´t be doing that anymore since I´ll be too busy learning a new language, trying to fit in with my new family, going to school, adapting to the culture and eating (don´t even try to deny it).
3 ¨I would love to go abroad but I love my parents/friends too much, I could never leave them for one year¨
Too bad for you then, but for us heartless people it´s much easier to do awesome stuff like this. Leaving everything we know just feels natural to us. We also won´t get attached to our new country which we then have to leave for an indefinite amount of time so we don´t really suffer any emotional trauma or anything.*
*Please note this was sarcasm. I actually believe your heart grows within your exchange year to fit in all the amazing people you meet. I don´t have the science to back this up but take it as a fact and trust me, 10 years from now studies will prove this theory to be true.
4. ¨But why would you go there?¨
So you think I shouldn´t go to this country based on some type prejudice? You don´t really get the point of an exchange year, do you?
In the host country
5. ¨Oh so in your country they *insert random stereotype or crazy *¨
Please tell me you didn´t just say that.
When you get asked an ignorant question you can do two things.
1. Explain the truth
¨No, not all people in Brazil own monkeys. I wish though¨
¨Trust me, I wouldn´t have been here talking to you if I had taken drugs from the Netherlands in my luggage¨
2. Exploit their ignorance
¨Yes as a matter of fact we do kill all ugly people to make sure the country of Europe only has beautiful people¨
¨Crying with blue eyes? No, of course not! Crying is for weak people¨
6. ¨Oh I heard about your country! That’s the country where *insert crazy fact or well known serial killer from your country or even worse, from a neighbouring country*. Now let me tell you exactly what your country is like because you don´t already know that¨
I am fairly certain every exchange student will meet at least one person that will tell them about your host country as if they know much better. They tell you Denmark is really an African country, they speak Chinese in Thailand or your country is very dangerous because they heard about some crazy incident that actually happened in a neighboring country.
If you tell them this isn´t true they will most likely not even listen to you. Some people just can´t handle the truth.
7. ¨Why are you doing it that way?! That´s so weird!¨
I am weird. Deal with it.
I grew up in a different culture, doing things differently and it would be much more helpful if you guided me through the process of adjusting and adapting to this new culture instead of calling me weird.
8. ¨Haha you have an accent¨
Do I really? I had no idea.
Or even worse, when people go around and imitate your accent but in a really wrong and offensive way. First of all, if you are going to try and do accents you better get it right because otherwise (and even if you get it right) you will probably only offend people. Second of all, why don´t you learn another language before you start making fun of me.
9. ¨Oh you gained so much weight since the beginning of the year!´
Unfortunately most of us will suffer from this, but the worst part about is when people keep reminding you about ¨how much skinnier you were¨ in the beginning of the year, or even if it´s the other way around. It´s painful, please don´t do it.
10. ¨Don´t you miss your family and friends though?¨
Of course I do. Some days more, some days less, but I won´t let a temporary feeling get in the way of doing something amazing, something that I really want.
Some people see it as a potential excuse not to go on an exchange but the truth is, we will all miss our family/friends/home country at some point, but that should get in the way of the bigger picture. It´s true when they say nothing valuable comes for free, and an exchange is not only a financial investment, it is also an emotional investment, but you will always get something out of it. Something that is called ´personal growth´, which can be at so many levels (speaking a new language, being more independent, being more tolerant etc.).
So yes, I do miss them, if that answers your questions. But I don´t mind because I know it is all for the greater good.