Things I am glad I did during my exchange

Returning from the States, it doesn’t feel as though I have come home but instead it feels like I have traveled to another country. Going abroad has ripped my innocence apart whilst changing the way I view not only my own country but rather the people around me and myself as a person. At first I was really mad at myself for getting myself into a mess ! Living with a completely strange family whom I had only communicate through Facebook for a couple of weeks, going to a high school consisting of a thousand over students, eating bizarre foods daily and being so far away from my loved ones. But hey look at me now, I have come out of the storm and approached the rainbow being stronger and wiser than ever!

Looking back at the past five months of exchange that I had to the U.S., there are several things that I have learnt which I am grateful for but there are also certain things that I terribly wish that I have done like by more souvenirs and not spend as much money as I did on Starbucks.

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Things I’m glad I did

Take relaxing classes in high school

My exchange program required me to attend high school although technically I had come close to completing  high school in my home country. So, I decided to take some what I’d like to call ‘not very academic’ classes. Among the classes that I took include Global Cuisines, American Political Radicalism Thoughts, Cultural Studies and Yoga. I didn’t take any AP classes or so but however, if your results during your exchange year does contribute to your grades back home then you might have to take several compulsory subjects. Although I had to have a social studies, science and english credit each, I took the light subjects and lucky for me that I got a GPA of 4.0 at the end of my school year !

Making friends from all over the world

During my exchange year, majority of my other friends were also exchange students from different countries. This was because we met up frequently and even went on several excursions together. And the plus point is, who else can relate to an exchange student better than another exchange student ? Believe it or not, just by talking to them it feels like I’ve traveled to their countries and immersed myself in their culture. Because that’s what exchange students are ! When you go abroad, you are your country and when people know you, they know your country.

Not eat food from home

So this might sound weird but trust me, after not eating any Malaysian food for six long months, the moment I got to smell curry and fried noodles again when I got home felt incredibly heavenly ! There was one time in my Global Cuisines class when we were doing the international chapter, my class got the chance to cook several Malaysian dishes but then, well unfortunately, it tasted nothing like what it was supposed to ! But it was a really good opportunity for me to introduce part of my culture to my fellow American classmates as a big part of my country’s culture lies in the food that we eat.

Lots of traveling

While in the U.S. I managed to travel across about 8 states. While that’s only about one sixth of the 50 states but hey in a period of 6 months, that’s pretty good ! So whatever opportunity you have to travel across the country that you’re hosted in, go for it ! In the placement organisation I was hosted under, we had some funds sponsored for our trip so the cost that we had to pay were very low ! So you should find out about these kinda things while you’re abroad so that you could make full use of your stay abroad and finally visit some of your long-awaited dream places !

Spending time with host family

If I said that I spent most of my time with my host family, I would be lying because I actually spent most of it in high school. In my program, I was voluntarily hosted by a beautiful family in the city of Worthington in Ohio. Back home, I am a very family oriented person as well so that is how I was abroad as well. I spent most of my weekends at home with my family including the holidays as well as spring break. When school was out, I spent a plenty of time home with my siblings and I’m grateful that I did so because we did crazy things that I will never forget. While some exchange students will have close bonds with their host families, there are also some who will only have a moderate kind of relationship with their host family but instead will make friends that will last for life so it differs accordingly depending on the individual. You might even be able to have the best of both worlds !

To those of you who will soon be leaving your country to study abroad as an exchange student, keep the phrase YOLO in mind ! It is not always that you get to stay abroad and experience a day-in day-out life in a foreign country so make full use of it ! Do not be afraid to approach other people first and always try to mention that you are an exchange student to get people around you be more engaged in the conversation that you have because the chances are that they have never been to your country before and if they have, then wouldn’t it be lovely for you to reminisce about the enjoyable moments that you guys spent there ?

This is a guest post written by Seervina Virk, a Malaysian girl who spend her exchange year in the United States. Born in 1997 and turning 18 this Christmas, Seervina Kaur Virk is a Kennedy Lugar Youth Study & Exchange 2015 scholar from Malaysia who experienced the American dream. Currently pursuing Actuarial studies and hoping to change the world someday! Feel free to follow her blog my-purpose-thereafter.tumblr.com where she relates how her exchange has effected life day in and out.

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