Exchange Student Stories: Born in Austria, But Lost My Heart in Ireland

We coordinators are always promoting the exchange experience, of course . . . but shouldn’t we sometimes hear from our students and families? So for today, we thought we would share a few examples of what students themselves say about their exchange in another country.

“Born in Austria, But I Lost My Heart in Ireland …”

Kassandra, an Austrian student, spent a semester on exchange in Ireland. She wanted to improve her English (and she seems to have gained a tinge of an Irish accent along the way), but learned that spending a semester abroad is so much more. In a few short minutes, she talks about how she realized that her exchange experience was about the things she couldn’t “capture in a photograph,” and the “little things.” The “little things” that you might not think ahead of time as being significant include walking home from school with a classmate, drinking tea with your host mom, or visiting your host grandparents. These are the elements of life that make your exchange memorable and the realization of how you can grow as a person.

“No Sky Is As Beautiful As The Sky In Oklahoma…”

We often get resistance from students assigned to rural areas in the middle of the U.S. Christiane (from Denmark) shows us how anywhere an exchange student goes can be the best place to have an exchange experience. Great country music accompanies Christiane’s video in which she showcases so much in just under four minutes. She learns that roping calves is a normal thing to do and watch, and throws herself into school spirit and gets to dance with the cheerleaders. She tries softball and archery for the first time ever. She learns about people she never knew about back home: the Amish, for example, and the Cherokee Nation. These are just examples of things she has experienced so far, and we’re not even halfway through the exchange year.

“We Might Seem A Bit Different and Weird, But That Is How It Is To Be An Idahoan…”

Alexander (from Norway) knows that what most people from his county know about Idaho (if they know anything) is that it’s big and it’s rural. I don’t know what he thought ahead of time, but I know he knows a lot more about his host state now. He tells us how he has learned that Idaho not only has cows and 4-H at the State Fair, but much, much more — white water rafting, fabulous camping locations, and surfing (surfing? Apparently so!). He’s enjoyed dressing like a cowboy for Spirit Week, going to homecoming, and celebrating Halloween. Did you know there is a blue football field in Idaho? Alexander tells us it’s the only one in the U.S.! He seems proud to be an Idahoan!

“It’s Only From Living In This Country That I Have Understood What It’s Like…”

Living in Rhode Island, Ida (from Sweden) has learned how to cook pancakes, bake traditional American pies for Thanksgiving, and watched as autumn has brought out the beauty of leaves changing colors. She eats her bagel for breakfast and takes the yellow school bus to school — all part of a normal exchange student’s day! She likes what she has learned about the differences in the school system as compared to back home and, apparently, donuts are pretty cool. She went to the polls on Election Day with her host family.

Ida talks about “my own home” in Rhode Island that she has created. She admits that life isn’t perfect: “Problems have cropped up…but when I solved them, I gained wisdom.” One comment stood out for me: “only by living here can you learn what it’s like to be an American.”

 

That’s exactly why the exchange programs are so important, whether you’re a high school student coming to the U.S. or anywhere else.

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