Going on an exchange means you’ll spend a certain period of time living in a foreign country and going to a local school/college. You can be an exchange student in high school or in college, for a year or a semester, living on campus or with a college family, etc. No matter what type of exchange it is, the reasons why you should become an exchange student remain the same.
The most obvious reason why you should become an exchange student is undoubtedly the opportunity to travel, visit a new city or country, a place that you would maybe never pay a visit to otherwise. First of all, you’ll be able to tour the city/town you’re placed in the RIGHT WAY. You know how you always feel like you need an extra day, two or a whole month to truly experience a city and find cool hidden parts of it that only locals know about? It’ll finally be possible to do that, to visit every little part of the city and to start feeling like a local and not like a tourist who is there to see only a few well known monuments. You will also have an opportunity to visit cities or countries close to your new home. If you live with a host family, there is a big chance that you will travel somewhere with your family. If you end up living alone or with roommates, you can plan trips by yourself, because every place nearby will be new for you which means a cheap way to visit a few new cities or countries.
2. New friends
When you go on an exchange, you’re all by yourself. This means no family and friends. This also means a perfect scenario for meeting new people who can become your friends. You’ll meet other exchange students as well as locals. This is a unique time when you’ll have an opportunity to meet people from all around the world and actually have time to become friends with them. When I was an exchange student in the US I became friends with people from the US, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, etc. I’ve made great memories with them during that year. And now I have friends all around the world. I’ve already visited a few of them and hosted some of them here in Serbia. Since I am still great friends with many of them, I consider those friendships one of the best things that happened to me during that year.
3. New Language
One thing you’ll definitely learn/improve while you’re an exchange student, whether you want it or not, is a foreign language or multiple foreign languages. You’ll have classes in English or some other foreign language and even your conversations outside of class will most likely be in a foreign language. A new language can be an obstacle if it is completely new to you or you believe your level of knowledge isn’t high enough. Still, you should always see this as an opportunity to learn or improve yourself. Over time, you’ll realize you’re becoming more and more fluent and you’ll learn so many new words. Even if you can’t speak the language or think you can’t, you’ll definitely see a big difference pretty soon, because you’ll have to use it every day.
4. New culture
Going through the culture shock when you are trying to adjust to a new culture can be tough. However, getting to know it is one of the most fascinating things you’ll get to experience while you’re an exchange student. Culture doesn’t only mean that people have different customs, behavior and thoughts. It also means new food, appearance, style and even some quirky little things that would never occur to you. Random things in the US that I thought were pretty weird at first are people wearing socks that don’t match (a black one and a white one) and the fact that American flags are EVERYWHERE, even on houses.
What I thought were the most interesting aspects of culture are holidays and an opportunity to see and experience how Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in America are celebrated, but more about that in another post.
5. Personal growth or new me
I know it’s a cliché, but it’s really true! You’ll realize how much you’ve changed during your exchange or after that year. First of all, you’ll become independent, because your parents, brother, sister or best friend won’t be there to help you with every little problem you encounter – you’ll have to solve it yourself. You’ll also have to learn how to budget and be responsible with your money. You’ll become more open-minded and tolerant, because your surroundings and people around you will be different than what you’re used to. Most importantly, you will meet yourself. When you’re away from everything that’s familiar to you, you gain a different perspective and you become much more mature in a short period of time. Also, you’ll start to realize what you’re actually interested in and what you want in life. I had always hated the subjects that have anything to do with numbers, because I’ve never been that good in math. Then, I went to the US and one of my subject was Economics. That’s when I realized how interesting I found it and that it’s not like math at all. Because of that experience, I’ve chosen my current major in college much more easily.
And the sixth reason that you get when you combine all the previous ones – your exchange year will be one of the most fun experiences in your life. There will be times that are hard, but you’ll get to do so many different things in just one year: visit a few new cities (or countries), meet diverse people, taste local food, go to different parties and events, experience celebrations of different holiday and make so many amazing memories. And every hard or sad moment will be something you learn a lot from.