Three years ago, the first preparations began for a journey that was set to go a long way from home. And now, three years later I am sitting here in Double Oak, Texas, thankful for everyone who has given me courage and supported me throughout my amazing experience.
I am going to take you through my steps, my problems and my experiences. Becoming a Foreign Exchange Student is not the world’s easiest decision, but it will reward you for the rest of your life.
The first small baby steps I took to become an exchange student, was simply to look around on the internet, on my school and at the library. I was looking for fliers, offers and organizations. It is crucial that you find the right organization for you. The right impression, communication, program and not the least, the right price for the organization. If you are in any doubt, have them mail brochures to you, this is an easy way to get a good first hand impression of the organization.
When you finally find your organization and is accepted, there is tons of stuff that needs to be filled out and turned in, medical evaluation, school, references, immunization record, insurance, legal agreements and so on. But don’t worry it is all worth it and there is plenty help to find at your organization, doctor and school.
When you have taken care of all the above, the hunt for a host family has begun. The organization do everything in their power to get the best possible host family for you, but yes, there will always be some that don’t get the right family, and the problem will be fixed. When the happy news comes through the door, take contact to your new family as soon as possible, the quicker you learn to know them, the chances are that you will have a better relationship with them. Along with your new family’s contact information, your contact person’s information will also be available. Your contact person is going to be your safety net during your exchange year, so it is also important that you take contact to her early on.
Some organizations might offer a preparation camp; often in New York City, and my advice would definitely be to take advantage of the offers, because the camp I went to in New York was extremely funny but also very learning, it is a very good way to see the city but also establish connections to other exchange students. Meeting your family that you are going to spend the next ten months with can be scary but also very exciting. Use the first few days, to sit down with your new family and discuss everything from the programs rules, local rules, house rules and expectations. This will assure you that everybody knows what is expected of your host family and yourself.
Being away from family and friends for ten months can sometimes be very hard, but you learn how to stand on your own two feet and make independent decisions. But always remember, your host family will always be near you to support and help you. A good way to make new friends is join everything humanly possible. If you are a boy, join football, track, and soccer and if you are a girl, join drama, dance and choir. All this will help you make A LOT of friends but also keep you in shape, because all the things that is said about American food is true, you will gain pounds. Do whatever you can to keep being in shape.
Another thing that will help you during your stay is saying YES. If anybody asks you to go out to eat, bowl, catch a movie or anything say yes, of course clear it with the family first, but get out as much as possible, it is the way to experience the American way of doing things.
The most important thing though, !! ENJOY IT !! This is a experience for life that you will have forever, always remember that !
I hope that my little description helped you understand what it takes to be a foreign exchange student, if You have any questions about being a exchange student or just want to know more, feel free to contact the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen on email firstname.lastname@example.org. They will put you in contact with me.