Leaving your normal life to travel halfway across the world is a feeling unlike any other.
Leaping into the unknown you will be challenged and learn so much not only about the
world but about yourself.
Boarding the plane late at night and all alone so many emotions hit me. Excitement for
the adventure ahead and nerves for what is to come but once I got there everything
I met my host family at the airport and we drove one hour back to their
hometown. It is a surreal feeling, one unlike any other. I certainly did not feel thousands
of miles from home, it did not hit me that I was in another country.
Settling in and going to school was the third hardest part of my exchange. Going to sleep at 5:30pm because of jetlag for the first week, my first month was a tired one. Meeting new people may be hard but the best way to go is to be yourself.
On the first day I was introduced to two people that would later on become two of my closest friends. Through the hard first weeks try to spend as much time as possible with your family. They are some of the most generous people you may ever know, be grateful everyday for everything they do
for you, no matter how big or small.
Especially in the first few weeks of your exchange, never say no to an adventure. I met
a girl named Hanna who was also an exchange student, she asked me to come to the
city with her and even though I was wary and not so sure I decided to go. It ended up
being an amazing night, meeting new people and experiencing everything my country
had to offer.
Once you begin to settle in homesickness will come, it is very normal but
not the greatest feeling. All of a sudden I knew I was thousands of miles from home, the
time difference did not help as I only had a few hours each day to talk to them. This was
the second hardest thing of my exchange.
My biggest tip for homesickness is to go off social media, the only form of social media you should be logged into is one so that your
family can talk to you. Facetiming your family can also help but be careful not to
facetime them too often because this will make you even more homesick. Even though
these two tactics are so helpful the best medicine for homesickness is to remember that
you will be home soon and soon you will miss your host country, you need to make the
most of every second here.
Find a place that lets you escape and just sit there and think. One of my favourite places on exchange was at the top of a hill, there was a firepit
and my whole family sat there and drank hot chocolate. We just talked, it was a time
where I could just bond and talk with my family, away from the rest of the world.
I strongly believe that spending time with your host family is so important, even the little things like sitting with them while they watch TV (even if you can’t fully understand the
language), locking yourself in your room can be very bad for you.
I also strongly believe spending time with your friends is so important. Again, just the
little things. My best memory with my friends is sitting at a restaurant for four hours, just
talking. The little things will become the big things in the end.
Take lots of pictures throughout, write in a journal or make a video. Your exchange is a massive part of your life and these are the things you will treasure when you return home. Returning home will be the hardest part of your exchange. Leaving what was your life for a few months and to not know the next time you will see these people who have now become your family.
My final words of advice are to go in with no expectations, treasure every moment, be
grateful, make friends, make memories and keep in contact with the people you meet.
Exchange is the experience of a lifetime, treasure it.
- Anna from Australia