Becoming an exchange student means making quite a few choices and making up your mind. Some of the most important an most frequently forgotten questions are about the destination and the durations of the exchange program. But even more plays the language barrier, the motivation and the integration a dominant role when it comes to the success of your high school year abroad.
Becoming an exchange student means making quite a few choices and making up your mind. This is a very short guide on some important and frequently forgotten questions.
Taking full advantage of an exchange program you should stay at least half a year or even better a whole year in your host country. This is important, because it takes time to integrate into the communities, get to know people and learn enough about the culture. If it is too expensive for you to stay that long then you should rather consider going somewhere else instead - some other place where the expenses of living, of the program and all the fees are lower.
No matter which country you go to as an exchange student make sure that you can communicate with the people there. There is no need and nobody expects you to speak the language perfectly. Though it makes a tremendous difference whether you can talk with the normal people you will meet. As a first step it helps a lot to take a class for one or two semester or a crash course as soon as you arrive. The success of your orientation and integration depends on this fact. How could you ever understand the culture without the language? It is just not enough to rely on any of the frequently spoken languages like English!
Do you already pick a place where you like to go to? Why did you chose exactly this one destination? Have you ever thought about going to a country you would classify as “exotic”? Some place you hardly know anything about? You should think about the different options you have very carefully. Of course, the country of your choice depends on your preferences and goals. So, if you like to enjoy some very specific education for example – go for it! In case you would like to experience cultural differences in general, like to mature on the experiences you will make or something so new to you that you can't even think about it yet, then we may have some hints for you.
Experience and intercultural competence are things you can achieve everywhere on earth as long as it is not at home. This is everywhere where the environment you will live in is somewhat different to the one you are used to. It is all about taking a new perspective to the world to the people around you and to yourself.
Now it is time to reconsider the “exotic” countries like Uruguay, Namibia, Indonesia or Turkey instead if England or Australia.
To what extend are you willing to change your life and maybe even your mind? There are a lot of things you can learn at home. The things you can't learn at home require that you leave your home. Including the all the things you are used to, your family and friends. Sometimes you should even leave your expectations, attitudes and habits at home! This can be very difficult, because it means that you can't take all parts of yourself with you to some place that is very far away and pretty strange, too. You sort of question all this and yourself by doing that. However, this is how you are open for new perspectives, new thoughts and different ways of living. Only then you can experience what you came for. It is more than any tourist will ever experience. Because, after all, it is you that will be exchanged.
Your are motivated to leave your old paths for a while? To find and follow new ones you need to integrate into the foreign culture. This means that you have to meet and actually get to know the people in your host country. It doesn't help meeting other foreign exchange students, though it might be cool to know people from all over the world. The best way to get integrated is to live in a host family or some other tight group, one with motivated people who are interested in you. An other very important access point to the culture are the communities where you can join activities you are interested in and where you get to know the people of your host country. For example, this can be sports, religious or educational clubs. The key is to get to know the people on a personal level. Not only can you make friends (even for life) and have a lot of fun, you will also discover insights into the culture that stay hidden to most of the other visitors. In that sense - student exchange is your unique chance!