Greta Whyte, Belgium (2006)
So, wow, it’s been 15 years since my exchange! Gosh, lots has happened. I think I reference WEP in almost any article that’s written up (either at work, uni or school when they profile the alumni!)
I do honestly think the confidence I’ve developed today in living abroad stems entirely from my WEP exchange. I’ve actually just turned 30 and am living in the Middle East, based in Jordan, Amman. I’m working in humanitarian response, coordinating information updates from our operations to institutions like the UN.
Josephine Gardner-Marlin, Italy (2010)
When I was 16, going on exchange was a scary but exciting thought. Without having previously studied Italian at school, I knew it was going to be a challenge to learn another language while also trying to fit into a new way of life. It turned out to be such an influential time of my life, where I was blessed with a beautiful Italian family, an opportunity to really experience another culture and no shortage of delicious food.
One of my favourite memories was experiencing an Italian Christmas, spent quite differently to how I would back home – A Christmas eve feast and celebration with the extended family, followed by present sharing at midnight. Christmas day was a day for sleep-ins and leftovers 😊
What I enjoyed most about the whole experience was building relationships with my host family, who were incredibly supportive (and always finding creative ways to act out words that I did not know). I have been lucky enough to be back to visit them since, and I think this lifelong connection is one of the most amazing things I got out of the experience. Learning another language by being immersed in it is also an incredible opportunity and one that I am so grateful for.
My exchange had such a positive impact on my life that I have now dedicated my career towards supporting international students in the higher education sector in Melbourne.
I am forever grateful to WEP for the ongoing support they provided me and my family during my exchange and for helping me to get the most out of such an incredible experience. Here’s to many more years of WEP student exchange!
A word from Eloise's parents, Kathy and Mark
When Eloise sought approval to complete an overseas student exchange at age 16, we were very hesitant due to her age and the uncertainty of her living with another family for such a long period. We spoke with WEP staff who offered strong re-assurances and together we decided that completing an exchange in Belgium would be an incredible experience for her.
Yes, the exchange had many challenges, both for us and for Eloise but there is no doubt that the experience was a resounding success. Not only did she grasp a language that was completely foreign to her but she gained adult resilience skills well beyond her years.
Thank you to WEP for facilitating this life changing experience for Eloise and for providing unwavering support from the moment of our first enquiry.
I had not considered studying a language at university, however on my return to Australia, I couldn’t imagine not learning and speaking French. I graduated with a double major in French and Psychology, as well as Psychology Honours, and was able to continue my love of both subjects through completion of Master of Teaching in School Counselling and French.
Since my exchange, I’ve returned to spend a fabulous French mountain Christmas with my host family, skiing for the first time and enjoying wild boar and home-made foie gras for Christmas lunch; my plans to visit again were unfortunately put on hold last year due to Covid. During that trip, I also visited Edinburgh to see my Austrian friend Bella, who I met at Lycée Métiers du Dauphiné.
I loved showing my friend Jordan some of my favourite east coast spots on his holiday to Australia, and am hoping that my recently 18-year-old host sister Ambre will be able to visit me sometime soon.
Life transitions, like starting university, and more recently, moving 3 hours away from family and friends to take up my first school counselling role in a rural area, were made easier by reminding myself of the challenges 17-year-old me had successfully faced in France. I knew I could establish myself in a new community and make friends because I had done it before; I felt confident to the take the risk, because I knew I could do it again.
Stephanie Kelly, France (2006)
About fifteen years ago I went on a 5-month exchange to a small provincial town in the south of France, and had the time of my life. More than 10 years later, looking back at the experience, it’s amazing to reflect on how much the experience has shaped me.
As I came home fluent in French, I thoroughly enjoyed and excelled in VCE French – being my best subject overall. With a love of learning languages, experiencing other cultures and trying new things, I took up a range of opportunities during my university years – including studying Spanish, spending six months volunteering in Cambodia and traveling to South Africa and Rwanda to learn about post-war reconciliation.
Beyond the love of languages and travel that stemmed from my exchange, it’s difficult to put into words the impact my exchange has had on my attitude and perspective. It helped me develop a greater sense of self-confidence, a resilience to face whatever life throws at me, and a stronger ability to think and understand other perspectives. All of these have served me well in my chosen profession as a management consultant, and in life in general.
Jarrod Barke, USA (2014)
My day to day was pretty exciting. I had the best host parents EVER! I’d wake up on a school morning to some crazy and wacky American breakfast cooked by my host dad such as a mountain of bacon or pancakes covered in syrup. I’d head to school and it literally felt like I’d meet a new person every morning when I walked through the door because there was always someone who wanted to chat to “that boy from down under”.
Every school day was lauded out in the same order of classes, which made the schedule easy to understand but each day was still different. I’d walk into chorus class and learn some new harmony to a song, head off to American history and learn about three former presidents of the USA before heading to PE and playing classic American sports that us Aussies only see in movies such as kickball or that other strange sport they call “football”. Once the school day was over, I’d generally go to basketball practice, musical rehearsal or just relaxing and always attending to my homework of course.
Weekends were always filled with adventure, whether it was heading to St Louis for a baseball game or speaking to community groups which I loved. It was always a pleasure sharing about my beautiful country and the awesome opportunities offered to me.
Today I’m a Lead Vocalist at Universal Studios Beijing. I also toured as a Hi-5 cast member, worked on Disney Cruise Line and performed in a Christmas show in Indonesia.
Georgia Oakley, Italy (2015)
My student exchange to Italy has been the best thing I’ve ever done! In 2015 I went on a journey of a life time and spent 5 months living in a little picturesque town called Malnate, in Northern Italy. I lived with the most beautiful host family who I still talk to regularly and absolutely adore. I attended an Italian scientific school where I made incredible friendships that I cherish to this day. I fell in love with the culture, the kind people, the beautiful landscapes and the delicious food!
Going on Student Exchange to Italy was the most amazing experience that quite literally changed my life. Luckily, not long after my own exchange, my Australian family decided to host an Italian girl named Sara. The minute we picked her up from the airport she was instantly my sister for life. We did absolutely everything together and we still talk all the time! I truly believe it was just as rewarding to host a student as it was to go on exchange. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to go back and visit my host family & Sara’s family multiple times, including bringing my own family over to meet everyone & explore the beautiful country of Italy!
My exchange helped me gain confidence, independence & individuality which pushed me to follow my dream of travelling all around the world and working overseas.
Nowadays you will find me working as the Guest Experience Manager in the ski fields of Falls Creek, where I save all my money for my next trip to Italy!
I am so thankful to WEP for igniting a passion for travel within me & giving me the opportunity to explore the world and meet incredible people every step of the way. Going on student exchange enriched my life beyond words & shaped me to be the person I am today.
Georgia Gardner-Marlin, Italy (2013)
I was on exchange in Northern Italy for 10 months, and I was so lucky to get the family I did. My host family consisted of my host parents and their five cats. They treated me like family, a daughter and a friend and worked so hard for me to become integrated in their community and to feel at home!
My host parents gave me so many opportunities to explore the beautiful country and I was so lucky – however I have to say my best memories were the ones made at home, learning to cook new meals with my host parents or friend from school, making patterns and sewing with a (host) family friend down the road, and having big family dinners with the nonni.
Josie Rees, USA (2017)
So I graduated high school as part of the class of 2020, and recently was offered a spot in the University of Melbourne’s Bachelor of Arts, which has been my dream course since Year 7! I’m hoping to major in politics and international relations, though I don’t know exactly what field I want to work in after I graduate. I hope to do another exchange in the future and potentially even live overseas.
I’m planning to return to see my host family in the States for Thanksgiving or to go and stay with Celina, who my family hosted in 2018/19, in Norway for Christmas.
I still keep in very close contact with them both and I am also still really close friends with students from my New York orientation. I have caught up with a few within Australia since returning and was planning on staying with some from Spain and Belgium when I can visit Europe again!
As I’ve been making some friends at uni, I’ve met a few who have come from international schools and it’s been great to be able to sort of share out different experiences living overseas and going to different types of school compared to Australian high school.
Overall, exchange has helped me open many doors and make so many new friends and I don’t know who or where I’d be today without those people or experiences. I recommend exchange to anyone and everyone, and even when they point out that I had not the most enjoyable experience for the first bit, I remind them that it’s all part of the journey and of the amazing support I got from WEP.