No, you did not choose the wrong country

While you are in the middle of your exchange, you see all the amazing pictures of people enjoying themselves while you might actually be having some other feelings about your exchange, which is perfectly normal. Everyone will probably at least once in their year ask themselves why they wanted to leave everything behind to go to a country they don´t know, to live with a family they know even less.


And with all the doubts that come with an exchange, one of the most common ones is the choice of country. Not everyone might feel this way, but I certainly know I did. There were so many things I loved about my host country before I left, I made an entire list of it. It just seemed perfect in so many ways. My expectations were obviously unrealistic, but the reality of an exchange combined with the reality of my host country was quite confronting, making me doubt my decision. At times, not even just doubt. Just having that feeling of making the wrong decision.

When I was at my 6 month low I did what my exchange organisation told me I would do. I started hating the country, hating the culture. I was so sure I had made the wrong choice, while all my friends were having fun in places that were just ‘so much better´ than my host country. But without a doubt they were looking at my photos, seeing all the beaches and sun and imagining it was just ‘perfect´.


Maybe you are clashing with the culture. Maybe it´s just not what you had expected it to be. But you did not make the wrong choice, because there is simply no right choice. Most people base their choice for their host country upon stereotypes of different realities but the truth is; no country is perfect. For whatever reason you have for doubting your choice, there is another reason you would have had if you had you gone to a different country. Looking back I see how unrealistic my expectations were, of my exchange being perfect but most of all; of my host country being perfect.

I used to think all the time how easy it must have been for the people doing an exchange in my home country. I thought people must be so much more open-minded, more used to cultural differences, not so strict. And I heard all students around me say the same thing. All of us Europeans agreed; doing an exchange in Europe is PERFECT.

But when I came back and became a volunteer, I realized people in my home country were running in to the EXACT same problems I was running into. They got ignorant questions too, they struggled making real friends too, they also had strict host families that wouldn´t let them leave the house. They were saying to each other “an exchange in Latin America would be PERFECT”. It was weird for me because in my eyes that wasn´t the country I knew. In my eyes it was easy to make friends, my parents were super relaxed and let me leave all the time. But that was because I knew the culture, I knew how to make friends, and my parents had known me for so many years they knew me and trusted me, whereas a new student for which you carry responsibility who doesn´t know what to do in a country is a lot harder to let go out of the house alone.

So to all of you who are having doubt:

No, you didn´t choose the right country. You also didn´t choose the wrong country. Because there are no wrong or right countries. Some countries might be a bigger challenge, but from experience I know that those who struggle more, get the ´better´ experience in the sense that it changes them a lot, for the better. As long as you finish your exchange, there is no right or wrong choice. Looking back you will always think it was the right choice for some reason, whether you met your best friend, your partner, had a great host family, learned a new language or maybe even because you realized living abroad maybe isn´t the thing for you. When you think that you have chosen the ´wrong´ country, just know that in another country you would have ran into other problems, and no matter what you do in life there will always be ‘What if´s¨, there will always be this alternate scenario that turned out better than the situation you are in now, but that´s not how life works. You can´t make decisions with knowledge from the future. Don´t think about things being ´wrong´ or ´right´ for you, accept that thinking about how it could have been won´t change a thing about your situation right now and most of all; make the most of the opportunity you have right now even though it might not be the way you hoped it would be, because later you will be thankful.



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