Go For That Exchange
Exchange means everything for me. There are far too many reasons why you should do an exchange as well. Firstly, it will be the best experience of your life. Secondly, you will get to know a culture and a different lifestyle that is completely different from your own. Thirdly, it will give you a LOT of time to focus on yourself, you will slowly find yourself and develop into a better “you”. Fourthly, you will make the most incredible friends. Fifthly, you will learn a foreign language and be able to use it in the future (ex. I might want to join a startup in Prague at some point in my life)
The subject of my this weeks post for exchange students is not about whether or not you should go on an exchange year or not, because you should. Everyone should. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I have only been here a tenth of my full time. The real question, may rather be, when the right time is to do an exchange year. I am doing my exchange year, as an 11th grader. In the past, I have heard and read arguments against it. Too young, too naive, too dangerous. You will ‘lose’ a year. I firmly believe I couldn’t find a better time to do it than now. I am a student, with an omnipresent need to work hard and it was really burning me out last year. I just wasn’t understanding what I really wanted. I am so happy I took this year to think things such as that over and refine my future goals, refine what I want to fight for.
In case you have thought of doing an exchange year, here is a collection of reasons, that sure would have helped me, finalize my somewhat risky decision of leaving school for a year to go on my exchange year:
1. You are not losing a year!
Put it this way, you are never losing a year. This is in my opinion one of the biggest misconception there is about doing an exchange year. Sure, the year I am doing wont count for my school back home, resulting in the fact that I will do my Abitur a year later than my peers. But I haven´t regretted it for even a second. As cheesy as this is going to sound, that experience you get for living in another country is not comparable to anything else out there. You learn a new language. You learn to be independent. You learn to adapt. You learn to survive. Isn't the High School experience supposed to be about working on yourself and developing general knowledge about the world, is there a better way to learn about the world than to actually explore it?
2. You are still young!
Being 15/16/17 is a remarkable age, because while you have your own personality and you are quite aware of the things you are doing, your brain is not fully set on anything yet. Teenagers have a tendency to rebel, do everything in the extremes in order to create their own identity, and what better way to discover your identity than to go to a place where people do things in a completely different way? The things you'll learn at this age will probably decide the way you are for the rest of your life, and a foreign exchange where you learn to accept people from a different culture, and most of all: adapt to a different environment. This is definitely one of the main reasons to help you decide whether to do an exchange year while you are still young and your mind is still developing.
3. It will be easier to learn a new language!
I once read, the younger you are, the easier it is to learn a new language. So why wait until you are in college do go on an exchange year? Avoid English speaking countries, unless you are on a mission to learn English. I have chose Czech Republic, to complete my mission in learning one of the hardest Slavic Languages of the world. I went for a real challenge and I am ready to face the iceberg ahead of me. It is a gradual process learning Czech, having started as a very young child. How rewarding to get to be trilingual after exceeding the language iceberg.
4. You get to live with a host family!
And this is an opportunity you will probably never get again! Of course you will be couch surfing at friends house at some point of your life. But nothing like being part of a second family. To get to know a culture by actually living it, like you do with a host family, is a truly unique experience that can not be compared to anything else. Sure, it's not always easy, but it is without a doubt worth it! I see so many university exchange students here in Olomouc that merely use their host country as a playground for their lives, yet they don't actually try to get to know the local people or speak the language. Living with a host family you are forced to do all these things. You will encounter things that no other expat might ever encounter, for however long they even might live there.
5. It does actually show well on your curriculum!
Of course it does! First of all, you might speak another language, which is of course always a plus!! Secondly, it shows you are independent and not afraid to get outside of your comfort zone. If you ever need to write an essay about your life and struggles for an application (ex. college application)? Write it about your exchange and the things you have had to overcome to adapt to your new family/country!
6. You might not get the chance ever again!
"Maybe when I'm in the university I'll do an exchange" Yeah, maybe, but I know how that works. You already have so much other stuff to do, you have a job now. And once you finish your university degrees, you will not have the age or the ways to do an exchange in some kind of institution that does NOT involve work.
No excuses, just go for it! Yes, its a risk- but its an exciting one! Whenever you get the chance, grab it with both hands, then hold on to it TIGHTLY and do not let it go! Its as precious as a pearl, don't dare let go of it!
And lets ad 7. Doing exchange year is the best decision you will make in your life. Period.
Is there any way I can make this sound less cliché? Unfortunately not.
Its a year in learning to appreciate the way you function and your surroundings. You will make the best friends you have ever made. You get to know yourself in a level you couldn't possibly have imagined before. Being an exchange student you are automatically one of the most awesome people in the world. You will get amazing people skills. You will learn the most random, stupid things yet in some moment of your life you will use it again and you realize it somehow all had a purpose. Do I need to say more?
GO FOR IT!