Personal account of an exchange student

Everytime I thought about studying in America, I became filled with the excitement. I couldn´t  help smiling and sometimes people found me skipping through the park and singing random English songs.  

Two years ago, when I told everyone that I wanted to study in the USA, people laughed at me and told me that my dreams would stay just dreams. But I never lost a belief that dreams do come true and went to the agency for students who want to study abroad. I asked them about the possbility of studying in America. They gave me tons of papers to fill, tests to prove that I would be able to live abroad surrounded by people speaking in different language, but I have managed to do it and get here.I have become an exchange student.  

When I first saw skyscrapers touching the skies, people rushing who knows where, huge advertisements everywhere, I was so overwhelmed that I almost screamed. I was jumping , laughing and taking pictures with tourists from Asia. My reactions might have seemed a little too much for all the people around, but when you consider the fact that I left a village with two thousand inhabitants surrounded by mountains whose tops are covered with snow almost year round, and a village in which while walking to school you have to be very careful not because of the cars, but because of the cows wandering through the street, you begin to understand that it was a lot to take for me.  If we see five cars traveling down the street in a row, we usually say: “What crazy traffic today!”                     

On that day, I was sitting in the bus in New York City counting the cars as fast as I can ... impossibe.

Everything seems so different. In my opinion most exchange students are amazed by things that are totally normal for Americans. Like grocery shopping. A trip to the grocery store is like entering Willy Wonka´s chocolate factory. I was walking through aisles with my mouth wide open. The stores are enormous.

“My American high school is enormous too!” that´s what I had on my mind when I first saw Matoaca High School, where I´ve become an 11th grader.  My first intent was to become a senior so I could continue with studies at an American college, but that was not possible. In order to get a high school diploma, I have to finish my high school in Slovakia. I still hold on to my desire to come back to America though.

The toughest part about being an exchange student is to assimilate to the new culture, new people and be more responsible and independent. An exchange student has to learn a lot and sometimes it´s very hard for us. We have to deal with lot of things at the same time such as time difference, which causes us to fall asleep anytime and anywhere. Everything is different- the food, the language, the environment, the rules. Not only that, you start to behave more like an adult with all the responsibilities but you start to value your own country more as well, because you know that there, over the Atlantic Ocean, your family is supporting you, is excited with you and waiting for you to come back. That makes your home the most valuable place in the world, the place where the heart is.

America has a lot to offer, there´s always something to do, which is great because there´s not enough time for being homesick. Although thoughts about my family tug at my heartstrings, I am enjoying my time here and I am very excited for the two months left of my visit.

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Finding Myself Abroad

A personal account of studying abroad in Moosburg, Germay:

When I was a high school student, I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in Germany when I was 16 and 18. We had an arrangement with a German high school in the town of Moosburg where students in the 10th grade would travel to America for a month to live with host families, and then the Americans could live with the students they hosted. I was able to host three times, and it was wonderful becoming friends with Michael, Christian, Dominik, and everyone I got to meet.

The opportunity to study abroad didn’t initially strike me as something I expected to be life-changing, at least not at 16. I was excited to see a new country and culture, but I fully expected to return to my hometown in Ohio the same person I was when I left. It seemed cliché to expect myself to grow or change much in a few weeks. I underestimated what a profound affect a study abroad experience could have.

Like many 16 year olds, I worried a lot about what my peers thought of me. Or even worse, what I thought they thought about me. Especially when you’ve been in classes with the same people for a number of years, you can start to feel like you’re stuck being the person everyone expects you to be. I would try too hard to be accepted, which would often backfire. My concern about what other students thought about me would lead me to be more timid in my decisions, because I would second-guess myself based on how others might react.

I didn’t notice it right away, but something began to change in me while I was living in Germany. Part of it definitely could be attributed to spending a lot of time with the other students from my school that I didn’t normally hang out with. While we might have been parts of different social circles back home, here we were all friends on the same adventure. We bonded almost instantly, and the imaginary boundaries that seemed to separate us dissolved quickly.

The most profound impact came from interacting with the other German students. While I was still carrying around my sense of where I fit in to the social hierarchy back home, I began to realize that this wasn’t how anyone else saw me. To the people I was meeting I was just William, the new American exchange student they were excited to meet. Their impression of me wasn’t based on any preconceived notions, and they were interested in knowing about who I really was. I soon understood that the people I met in Germany didn’t care at all about what the popular kids back home thought about me.

When I look back, I can see how big of an impact this had on my self-confidence. I returned from my time abroad far less concerned about how other people perceived me or what misconceptions they might have. By stepping out of my comfort zone into the wider world, I gained a new appreciation for my ability to make friends and connect with people wherever my life might take me. I’m thankful for the memories of my time abroad, but the lessons I learned were truly invaluable. For opening your eyes to a wider perspective about yourself and the world around you, I don’t think there’s anything more transformative than studying abroad.

Go Eli!

I love you Eli, i'm so proud seeing you here! The exchange students and I will miss you when you go back home.

Awesome!

I like this article (: I am an exchange student tooooo & I'm happy to read your article Ellie! <3

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