Reasons to be an exchange student

Andrea Lefevre

Why leave every familiar thing you know? Why voluntarily go to a foreign country and a different culture? Why go to a place where they don’t speak your own language? Why leave your family and friends? Why go to another country entirely alone?

   Well, why not? Why not learn a new language fluently? Why not experience the world while you have the possibility of it? Why not make friends from all over the world? Why not experience a different culture in the best way – from the inside? While being an exchange student is initially scary, it is worth it.

  1. Discover more about yourself

   When was the last time you did something for the first time? For the past 4 months, I think I’ve pretty much done something for the first time every day. It is a different kind of life. Goodbye, comfort zone. But, experiencing something new helps a lot when it comes to self-knowledge. Sometimes, I feel like that’s the time and place where I’m learning everything. I have time to reflect on who I am. It wasn’t easy at first, looking at my face in the mirror and being able to live with myself, flaws included. But today, I know I got better at saying, ‘Okay. This is what I like. This is what I don’t. This is what I’m good at. This is where I could be better.’ It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses. It allows you to be a better person. I used to care a lot about what people thought of me and how I looked. This year have now matured me to the point where it occurred to me, that those things are just small irrelevant things. There is so much bigger problems in our world.

  1. Learn about different cultures

   I think it’s very important that before we start our own grown-up adult life, we learn about different cultures and different ways of living. It helps us understand life better, and it gives us another perspective. It makes us more accepting to different lifestyles, and different cultures, which is very important to be acceptable of. A child growing up and only learning that it’s native country does everything correctly, and never experience and compromise with other cultures, won’t be very open minded in the future. I have been very fortunate that my family have taken me out travelling to different continents at a very young age, so I have grown up with learning and seeing different cultures, but living in the US is so different from a 2 week vacation in Thailand. You really experience the true culture. I used to think America was the greatest country on earth. California, New York, Hollywood. Could it be anymore amazing? After 5 months here now, I can definitely claim that America is a country with pros and cons, just like any other country. And living an ordinary life in Holland, Michigan is not very different from my life back in Denmark.

  1. Grow as a person

   You grow extremely much as a person in just one year. Because you are so far out of your comfort zone, you have to deal with everything yourself. After 4 months in the US, I can already tell how much more mature and more open minded I have become. Now, I have some really good values that I will take with me for the rest of my life. This is also an important skill to have when I start college or start a new job for example. I have learned to appreciate everything much more. I thought my life back in Denmark was boring. I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, when in fact, my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.

  1. Meet new people from all over the world

   By being an exchange student, you will meet friends from all around the world. You will become friends with the people from the country you are placed in, but you will also meet other exchange students from all over the world through your organization. They usually arrange trips and events for you to go on together. I can almost guarantee that at the end of your exchange year, you will have friends from all over the world, which can help you later in life.

   “Being an exchange student is definitely a life changing deal. Exchange is not a year in your life. It is a life in a year. I have learned a lot of new things about myself and other people, that I never would have found out if I just continued school back in Italy. Sure, there is ups and downs, but that is also what makes you stronger. This year will forever be in my heart and memory.” – Silvia Restucci, exchange student from Italy.

   These are the biggest reasons to be an exchange student. Being an exchange student is not an easy thing. It’s an absolutely extraordinary experience that I wish every student would take. I have honestly had some of the hardest days of my life here. There are days where you just really want to be around your real family. There are days where you show interest in other students, but don’t get the same interest back. There are days where you just want stay in your room all day. There are nights where I go to bed and think “Why am I here?” But with that said, there are more nights that end with “I am very lucky and happy to be here.”