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Embracing the Extraordinary: Your Exchange Year in the U.S. 

 July 1, 2024

By  Laura Kosloff

Dear Future Exchange Student,

Welcome to what promises to be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your life: your high school exchange year in the United States. As you embark on this journey, you are about to step into a world of new opportunities, challenges, and adventures. 

You may be wondering what makes this year so special. I’ll tell you! You will have the chance to immerse yourself in American culture, see how teens in this country live, improve your command of the English language, and experience the differences in the U.S. and your home country’s educational systems. You will also witness firsthand a pivotal moment in U.S. politics. The 2024 Presidential election is underway, and it's no ordinary election. It's a contest between two Presidents – current and former. You will be living in the middle of history, witnessing democracy in action. You will gain a firsthand understanding of the American political system.

Let’s not forget the countless other reasons why your exchange experience can be one of the best years of your life. First and most importantly -- you'll have the chance to broaden your horizons in ways you never imagined. From exploring a new culture and tasting new foods, to seeing places you’ve never been to before, and to the chance to make lifelong friendships with people from around the world, the opportunities for personal growth are tremendous.

While school may not be the primary reason you as a teenager are excited about coming to the U.S., it’s another key aspect of your experience. By immersing yourself in life at your U.S. high school, you will see a different educational system. Even if you take some of the same subjects you might take if you were home, it will be different. Moreover, you will discover new classes to take. Are you interested in ceramics, cooking, or marketing? You will participate in lively classroom discussions, which for many students is a new experience.

Along the way, you may find you have a talent you didn’t know you had, or a new passion. I think about one student who took a theater class to fill in a class period -- and then realized this was his passion. I think about a student who joined the school lacrosse team because it seemed like a nice Spring sport. Upon returning home, she went out of her way to continue lacrosse, traveling considerable distance to be part of a team. Eventually she joined her country’s national team, something that might not have been possible if she hadn’t discovered the sport during her exchange year.

It's not just about academics or sports; it's also about intangible experiences that are hard to describe in advance. You will navigate the highs and lows of living abroad -- there will be moments of homesickness and frustration, times when you miss your friends and family. These moments will be outweighed by the memories you will create and the friendships you will make. You'll develop empathy and cultural sensitivity as you interact with people from diverse backgrounds. And you'll cultivate independence and self-reliance as you navigate the challenges of everyday life in a foreign country.

As you prepare to embark on this amazing journey, I hope you will approach it with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Embrace the uncertainty and the challenges. Enjoy every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your exchange year will be a testament to the power of international education and the promise of study abroad and cultural exchange.

Welcome to your high school exchange year in the United States 2024-25! Get ready for an amazing adventure.

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