Life As An Exchange Student struggles, joy, new experiences, fears and challenges

In the last couple of centuries people got more aware of cultural differences. The World Wars contributed to this awareness. The government invented the exchange system in order to learn the cultural differences and prevent wars over these differences. Exchange has gotten more and more popular these last years, in fact, based on a recent survey of DHS students, 48 students out of 97 want to go on exchange (30 are not sure yet while 19 people said they didn't have an interest). What keeps people from doing it? What are they afraid of?

“My biggest fear?” said Leah Vander Roest, a senior at DHS. ”Probably that I don’t speak the language and that I’d be away from like all of my friends and family for such a long time.”

The fear of the unfamiliar, the failure, and the unknown keeps people from doing it.

The minute the exchange students step on the plane, they have no control over anything except themselves. The only person they can rely on is themselves . It takes a lot of courage to do that.
" I think that they [exchange students] are brave," said DHS American government teacher Murphy Hansen.
The life changes and so does the student's personality. An exchange year has mostly positive effects on them. According to exchange students all over the world it made them stronger, more confident and at ease with themselves, new situations and changes. The whole thinking pattern and outlook of the exchange students have changed in a positive way and they started to appreciate "the little things" more.
" I'm more chilled than I was before," said Lucrezia Zumbo, an exchange student from Italy. "I think I can handle every kind of social situation right now and I can feel comfortable in other situations. Before I wasn't so comfortable with myself."

But like every other thing in this universe there also are some negative effects. Students often deal with homesickness and go through tough challenges. Finding friends is not always as easy as it seems.

"It took me some time to make friends," said Piero Ramos, an exchange student from Peru. "...I was shy."

However, Ramos did joke about some other negatives.

"On my exchange I gained twenty one pounds," joked Ramos. "I can't think of anything worse than that."

Exchange students often compare their experience with a roller coaster. In the first months they feel happy and content, but after a couple of months they start missing home. This is mostly during Christmas time. Later in the year they feel like they finally settled down, their new host country has become their home.

During an exchange the students get to experience so many new things, whether it's the first football game, first time at Target or the first school day and school dances, they all have a huge impact on the student's overall experience. Exchange is a lot of firsts and lasts at the same time and the students only get one chance to make the most out of it.

"You feel both like very small but very like something big has just happened" said Ms. Erin Palmer, a former exchange student and history teacher at DHS.
A recent survey said that most people go on exchange to see the world or to experience something different. Another important but underrated reason is sharing cultures. It's the whole purpose of an exchange and why it started. Sharing cultures with the host family is a very important part of someones exchange. It gives the student a better understanding of the people and the country.

There are so many countries,places and different cultures in the world to visit and do their exchange, but why do people choose the United States? "The United States is like a legend in Italy for all the movies and all the possibilities there," Zumbo said. "...Literally it's the State of freedom."

"We wanna host because we want to open up our home to other nations," said Gerry Ramirez, host dad." So they can get an opportunity to see what it is to live in an American home."

An exchange year is something special. Exchange students go through hard times but also through the best time of their lives. Most exchange students don't think twice when they get asked if they'd do it all over again. "Definitely!" Zumbo said. "I'm actually planning on finishing my last year of high school in Italy and then come back here for College."

Exchange students have come a long way. They built a second life in 10 months and found a second family and home that will be with them forever.
"Every American student that I have who is graduating I'm like do a study abroad year, " Palmer said . "Go somewhere. See something. Be inspired. Surround yourself with people you don't know. Hear languages that are not your own and I hope they take my advice."

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