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.

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.

From the personal point of view, it can be beneficial 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 these 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.


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)

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