Exchange

Is An Exchange Really Worth It?

A few days ago someone told me “My family would never accept you. I mean, you took a year off to go party in France, you’re 19, and just barely started college”.

Good thing it was over the phone cause I swear I would’ve slapped the heck out of this person without thinking it twice. My mind was clouded in anger, I felt insulted, as if this individual had said something about my mother.

When this happened, I did nothing, I just decided to ignore itand continue the conversation at pure ease, as if nothing ever happened. Days later, here I am, writing this essay or article or whatever I decide for it to be.

Trust me, it’s not the first time I ask myself this. Most of my friends graduated at 17, already have 2 years of college, half of their careers, or almost ready to graduate and continue on with their masters. Then there’s me.

I also graduated at 17, but I decided to do a year abroad in France, learn my third language, and start college at 18. I started college at 19, turns out life does not always end up as expected. Anyway, as I mentioned before, I have thought about this several times before.

Was it worth it? I’m 2 years behind, still not sure about life, and seeing how everyone around me is at least halfway through their career or one year away from graduating. Was it really worth it?

The answer is yes. Hell yes. Hell yeah. In any way you want to see it, the answer is yes. Am I graduating 2 years later than most of my friends? Yes. Does that mean I’m a failure? No. Going on exchange made me understand a lot of things.

Things that people are not able to learn inside a classroom. It taught me tolerance towards others. It taught me to be curious towards other cultures, and not only cultures, but towards every aspect of life. I learned how to investigate, ask, learn, comprehend. It taught me that being lost is not a bad thing. Sooner or later you will find yourself.

It taught me that family could extend to places you never thought it could. It taught me that the world is not as big as we think it is. And let me just ask you, could I learn that during the first two years of college?

Exchange is hard. Living abroad is hard. Not understanding a word is hard. Not knowing what is happening is hard. It’s a shit show, trust me, but it’s a shit show that is worth going through. It’s worth living it every second of every day.

So, to the person that said that to me, I do not care what your family or really what anyone thinks of me and the fact that I took a year off to “party”, Sure, I had a great time abroad, but it was full of obstacles I had to overcome. Obstacles that made me who I am today, and I could not be any happier with the person I became.

 

This guest post was submitted by Ana Vásquez

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6 Comments

  • Reply Marlyn August 8, 2017 at 18:38

    This is a wonderful article!

  • Reply Kat August 8, 2017 at 21:06

    I know how you feel. I’m in a similar situation. I spent about a year at uni in Poland, my home country, and then left to begin studies in the UK. I should be about to graduate now if I’d stayed in Poland and sometimes I feel as if i didnt belong to the student community in the UK because all the people I know/study with here just finished first year (just like me) but are 2 years younger. We’re on the same educational level but when it comes to maturity we’re totally different. Plus I also work part-time (with extension to full-time in the summer) so our experience is different as well. So I agree, living abroad is hard, but it teaches to fit culturally without losing yourself and is definitely worth it.
    You’re not alone. 🙂 there are more of us, and if somebody (intentionally or not)insults you, then always keep in mind they don’t know what it’s like to have to find yourself in a place where you lose most of means of expressing yourself (culture, language) and stil don’t go mad. and I think to be able to do that (not to go mad and succeed in the end) and that’s admirable.

  • Reply Martyna August 9, 2017 at 17:54

    After 6 months living abroad I feel like I have been there much longer;) I experienced more amazing things than in 2 years in my country 😛 So I totally agree, it’s worth it!

  • Reply Uwe Schmidt August 11, 2017 at 08:58

    Thank you, Ana, for your article sharing your thoughts and experience of living abroad as a foreign exchange student. Away from home and its security. Upon arrival not knowing what the people will be like you’ll be staying with. Great respect.
    I know exactly what you mean. This weekend my high school graduation class of ’67 is celebrating our 50th anniversary at OHS in Ogden, Utah, USA.
    I will not be able to attend but 4 weeks ago I had a special family reunion with the family I lived with for one year when my host brother Brent passed away last month. Is is this chance of building life long strings to people you would never have gotten to know if you hadn’t had the luck (and courage) to go abroad. In the long run this is more than this ignorant person you talked to on the phone will ever know.

  • Reply Jorge August 13, 2017 at 17:42

    After 6 months, after 4 youth exchanges/training course, after doing my internship in a team with 20 persons from other countries. I have just one thinking – I want to go abroad again. I want to feel the fear of “being lost”, I want to miss my friends and my home, I want to grow up more. The first days abroad are always hard, very hard, but a months later you will realize that hardest moments are the best thing, you will realize that you grow up more than the other who say at home. Being abroad is the best thing ever, being abroad is addicted.

  • Reply Sammie Theïsm August 15, 2017 at 12:36

    It is normal to be frustrated when someone says that to you. Next time you should laugh, searching and finding what you truly love and want in live will give you freedom and a possibility to live a meaningful life.
    Formal education will make you smarter and a perfect workbee in our society. Combine this with self-education and you will have the.power to make everything as we know it tremble and improve.
    Measure your success in life by how many people say stuff to you like that, they don’t mean to harm you, they feel sorry for themselves for being to afraid of risking there world and exposing themselves to life.
    Know who you are and talk again in 15 years 😉

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