An exchange year is a significant time of growth, and many students continue to unpack its full weight and meaning even years after it ends! We asked three students to reflect upon the best year of their life, and their advice is priceless!
Whether we work with internationals, brush shoulders with teens, or simply want to live each moment to the fullest, these voices from the past have the power to inspire and encourage us all!
Diego from Spain
What’s one tip would you give someone studying abroad?
I would tell them that they’re having an awesome opportunity and don’t waste it. Try to speak English the whole time! I would tell them to get involved in the American culture, even if they don’t like it at the beginning, I’m sure they will love it in a few months. Be strong!
Charlotte from Germany
What did you appreciate about your host family?
I would think, “Just the ability to be here is a gift.” A family to accept me for a year – that’s not common!
What do you most appreciate about your American experience?
I think there are misunderstandings about Americans in Europe and other parts of the world. You can close that gap for people and help bring understanding.
What can current students do to have a great year?
Try to take every opportunity you can. Be willing to come out of your shell and talk to people.
Take in every experience! Every experience has a benefit if you will look for it. “Do” the whole thing!
Do you think you changed during your time in the U.S.?
It definitely matures you and broadens your horizon. After being in another culture, you’ll never be the same. Now you are forever part of that other culture in a way too. No one can ever take that away.
Laura from Vermont
Exchange student to Argentina 2004/05
What challenges did you face, and what did you do?
Finding how to fit in with my host family when they were different from me was a challenge. I realized I couldn’t change the things that were different from me, so I tried to just fit in and adapt instead. I became proud of ‘fitting in’ and not acting like an outsider.
What did you gain from your study abroad experience?
There are things I learned while on exchange that I could never have learned any other way. My exchange changed my goals and passions, extended my comfort zone, and gave me a sense that life is meant to be lived fully. When I came back, it was also easy to realize that the small problems in life were so tiny, compared to the huge experience I had been through.
What advice would you give other exchange students?
Say “yes”! Everything I said yes to, whether it was a family birthday, getting up early to go hiking, or just meeting in a cafe with friends, helped me feel more connected.