Browsing Category

Guest Post

Exchange, Final months of exchange, Guest Post

Thoughts on exchange

This is a guest post written by Elma Pålsson

The same second you decide to do an exchange you decide to live with distance relationships. In the rest of your life, not only the year you actually live abroad.

You’ll have to be prepared to miss, because you will miss things. Silly things like the jam you put on your sandwich, the smell of your laundry detergent or maybe that sweater you couldn’t fit in your suitcase. Obviously you’ll miss your friends and family too… you will realize who actually means something for you, and how much they mean. How much you like them and care about them, and that’s something amazingly nice to realize. You’re happy that you left because you learn to value what (and those) you’re coming home to.

But then, once you’re back, the missing won’t end. Once you’re home you’ll start to miss all your new friends and families back home in the country that has become just that: home.

It’s like you’re giving and leaving a small piece of yourself to each person you get to know and who’ll mean something for you during your exchange. It’s like all your relationships (not least with other exchange students) mean so very much and are so very important. Maybe it’s not that weird when you think about it… you get there all alone and lost, maybe you don’t speak the language and don’t quite understand the culture… you’re so terrible exposed (even though you might not realize it in the moment) that each friend you get, each kindly minded classmate our host family-member, who helps you and takes you in like one of them, means everything in the beginning.

Or no… that’s not entirely true. They mean a lot, but not everything.

IMG_20150307_090914029

 

The truth is that the one who means the most is you. You and no one else have the greatest power over how your exchange will be. It’s (mostly) you who decides, your attitude and your will to adapt and seize the day. And you learn so much, not least about yourself; of how much you’re capable of, that you can handle the vulnerability in the beginning completely on you own. And that’s something you should be really proud of. Not every person dares to take that step and put itself in that situation, all alone in a (most likely) completely unknown context. But you did. You dared.

At least I am very proud of myself, and happy. Proud and happy I took the decision to actually leave. Proud and happy I got through those first, hard months when I barely understood a thing and (although the people around me) was completely alone in a strange country, full of strangers who spoke a strange language… because then all suddenly you stand there, in the end of your exchange, and in some way without you even noticing it the strange country has become a second home, the strangers have become family and the strange language has become the soundtrack to your dreams.

And that’s what makes you so happy that you took the step. That you actually dared, even if it might leave you half, longing and missing for the rest of your life

Because maybe that’s what the exchange is all about. To leave behind a piece of yourself and bring with you a piece of your host country. An exchange, as it were.

 

Elma Pålsson born 1996, from a small village in the south of Sweden, doing an exchange in a small town in the middle of the pampas in Argentina, named Coronel Suarez. (14-15) With Rotary.

 

Europe, Exchange, Guest Post, Study Abroad

Exchange is change

This is a guestblog written by Amparo Trucco

An exchange is a change. A change in your life. Nowadays many students participate in exchange programs and this seems to show growth in the world and a growing sense of tolerance between religions and cultures.


photo-1423753623104-718aaace6772

First of all an exchange it is an exciting way to add something else to your studies. Spending some months in a foreign country is an amazing opportunity to learn a new language, which is always a plus. Even if you already speak the local tongue, it helps you improve the accent and learn expressions as you are forced to speak it everyday. It not only gives you knowledge about a different country, but also lets you appreciate and know better your homeland. When abroad, people ask you questions about your country, which forces you to think about an answer, learn, read and get more interested in your culture.   And you will be frequently comparing both countries’ characteristics and this will help you see things about your country you might have not noticed before.  In this experience you do not only learn but you also teach. You have the wonderful chance of letting  others know about your origin. You have also the opportunity to get to know how the world see your nation. Apart from that, the fact that you are trying to fit in a new culture but at the same time trying to maintain your identity and helps you notice each country`s characteristics.

However, this is much more than doing an intensive language course. It is a way of expanding skills. A youth exchange opens a world of possibilities.  It is a way of expanding your social network: you make friends and keep contact with people from different nationalities. Exchange associations, usually organize meetings and activities where you will surely meet with the other exchange students that are all in the same situation than you.  Having contacts in all over the world may create opportunities in your future profession. Since you are forced to adjust yourself to new habits, customs, classmates, a different school, family and house, it gives you the ability to get adapt to all type of situations. You are obliged to break all type the integration barriers. Therefore, you will became a more flexible and sociable person.

Hosting an exchange student at home is a rich experience for families too. Sharing the daily life activities with him/her during his/her stay is also a way of discovering and being informed about another culture without  quitting yours. However it does not necessarily mean that in order to make an exchange you must accept someone at home. There is a great variety of associations which are in charge of finding volunteer host families. If you are not able to  receive a student at home, this is not a problem.

photo-1415302199888-384f752645d0

From the personal point of view, it can be benificial too. As the Rotary International Club president (Ron D. Burton) said, “It opens their eyes, it opens their minds, and it opens their hearts” Exchange students become  more open-minded. You learn to accept and understand other people’s points of view, ways of living, beliefs. Learning about other cultures  allows you to discover the world from another perspective. Encountering students from different countries can make you more tolerant and comprehensive towards other cultures. This experience also contributes to your maturity. Although you live with a host family, they cannot replace your real parent`s role. Consequently, at a young age you are in charge of your own life.  You must take care of your own affairs and find solutions on your own. You must learn to do things alone such as going to the bank, taking a train, paying the fee for your phone and manage your money. You must be independent. As well, you can discover yourself. You will frequently find yourself alone, which lets you reflect on your values or perspectives and analyze your life or your personality. In a foreign country you can consider your nation, your country`s customs and beliefs from an objective point of view. Despite sometimes you will feel homesickness and loneliness, you acquire strength. Being far away from home forces you to face this difficult situations alone. You learn to overcome melancholic  and hard situations, and as a result, you gain confidence in yourself.

A youth exchange is a growth. Is not only an amazing way of expanding skills, but also, changing perspectives, points of view and ideas. A way of discovering yourself and the world. If you are interested in changing your life, an exchange is for you.

Amparo2

This post was written by Amparo Trucco,
an Argentinean exchange student who
spent a year abroad in France with
Centre d’ Échange Internacionaux (C.E.I)

Enjoyed this post? Let Amparo know!