"Living away from home, on the other side of the world, has impacted me in ways that will stick with me for life. Since being in Denmark i have come out of my shell, so to say; i'm much less shy! I've become more independent, and confident in myself and the choices i make, and I've learned to take in everything as it comes, and not to judge things by their first impression, which i didn't necessarily do before my exchange. Being here and experiencing a different culture, a different lifestyle, and a different language has changed my perception of life. I am so much more aware of the world now, and when i get back, i can't wait to pass on all of my new knowledge. Being put outside of your comfort zone is a scary thing, but I've realized now that really it is just an opportunity to try new things."
Holly was in Denmark on a Semester Program.
"Completing this exchange has impacted on my future in following ways.
The first is new lifelong friendships. These have been formed not only with my wonderful host family but also with people from school, fellow exchange students and my coordinator. I now feel comfortable approaching strangers and find it easy to form new friendships. I am no loner as anxious or shy about meeting new people. The building of my interpersonal skills will help me greatly in the future as I feel like I can now communicate easily with anyone.
The second is my career goals. Having a year after graduating high school has allowed me to find myself and think deeply about what I hope to achieve in the future. This exchange has given me the time to decide exactly who and what I want to be. Travelling has given me a sense of wanderlust-I feel as if I need to be in a career that allows me to work anywhere in the world.
The third is personal growth. Having the opportunity to travel overseas has given me greater awareness of my own national identity. It has also allowed me to widen my perspective and become self-sufficient. I am now always thinking about things from a broader point of view. My world has been expanded significantly and with it I have expanded as a person. I am much more self aware and already feel more confident and independent than when I left Australia. "
Alesha was in Canada on a Semester Program.
"During the first school holidays I spent a week with the family visiting the châteaux of the Loire Valley. Some of these amazing buildings were built as early of the 11th century and are maddeningly huge. There were mazes of underground caves to be explored, magical fairy gardens to be played in, and majestic room after majestic room to be marvelled at. One of the châteaux we saw was the Château de Légende, on which Walt Disney based the setting of Sleeping Beauty."
Matilda was in France on a Semester Program.
"Everything is fabulous! 10 out of 10. I am really close to my host family and will be very sad to leave them. They are very supportive and accepted me into their lives straight away. My host sister is incredible and was so very helpful when I first arrived. I feel as if I belong in the family, not just a outsider."
Skye was in Italy on a Semester Program.
"My whole experience so far has been absolutely amazing! 10 out of 10. I could not have been more fortunate. The people I'm surrounded by at school, my friends, my host family and just in general the people of Turin are very inviting and warming.
Luckily the whole family speak english so I feel included when I don't understand what has been said in Italian and they explain to me in English. My host parents are doctors and so they have a very busy schedule however that does not affect our time together what so ever - they love the mountains so most weekends we go there."
Francessca was in Italy on a Semester Program.
"I'm on a 3 months exchange at the moment in France and i'd just like to tell everyone that it's the most amazing experience i've ever had! Even though it's really scary going into it because nothing can ever prepare you for what you're going into but you make so many great friends both at your school and the people you travel with.
In just 1 month my language has improved immensely =] And also Student Exchange Australia is a fantastic program and i've had a few oopsys and they've helped me through it greatly! =] So thank you SEA!"
Hannah was in France on a Summer Explorer Program.
"It's almost three weeks that I've been here and everything has been absolutely wonderful! School is great - the kids are really nice, and are fascinated in Australia. They love my accent! All the kids and the teachers are very friendly and welcoming.
I have started curling after school once a week. It's a sport on ice, which is actually much more difficult than it looks, but it is lots of fun and is very social so it's a great way to make friends. It's a lot of fun going to a school with no uniforms too!”
Lidia went to Canada on a Summer Explorer Program.
“The first few days were a combination of fantastically exciting and just plain terrifying. It's really the little things that surprised me the most, the things you don't think about just before you leave. For example, I didn't know what time I should wake up in the morning, what my family had planned for the day, how often could I watch TV, etc. Just little things that managed to remind me just how far from home I really was. I think I could say that was one of the hardest times of my life. Now however, after 2 months in France those few terrifying weeks all seem worth it.”
Georgia went to France for a semester.
“Hello from Denmark where the cold and almost unpredictable weather does not dampen the fantastic and fun loving nature of the Danes. That basically sums up what I think of Denmark as a whole, unpredictably awesome!
Though I am quite used to living away from my parents I still experienced a bit of home sickness and a bit of a culture shock, especially with my background – one of the first things I looked for were Asian grocers (don’t get me wrong, Danish food is great, especially desserts!).”
JayJay went to Denmark for a year.
“My language is slowly (but surely) progressing. My school friends call it 'franglais'. I think even if you have been learning French for years before arriving here, it is still a shock to start off with. Everyone speaks very quickly and French has things like ‘verbe pronominaux’, which is non-existent in English. While it may seem impossible at the start, when you get to the point that I am at now, going from nothing to being able to understand and respond, the struggle is definitely worth it!”
Emily went to France on a semester exchange.
“I know that when I began to think of a student exchange as a real possibility I spent many hours reading the SEA updates page entertaining the idea that one day I might have something to add. I have been in Finland for six weeks now and already feel that I have gained a lifetime of experience and stories. I hope that the rest of my year will be just as wonderful and that this inspires other potential exchange students to see what I mean for themselves.”
Kathryn went to Finland for a year program.
"I am having a wonderful time and have a great host family!
I have been in Spain for two months now and it is the best thing I have ever done in my life. Leaving my family, home, friends and everything familiar to me was something that I didn't really think a lot about before I left. Since leaving there have been times when I have felt a bit homesick, but now that I am settled in Spain I have been able to move on from that.
My host family is the best! I have a new home in a wonderful little town called El Escorial! I have lots of new friends, whom I cannot understand all of the time but they are still great! And it feels like I could have lived here for a life-time, everyone is so nice and welcoming!”
Elizabeth went to Spain for a year program.
“So, I’ve been in Germany for a couple of months now, and time is absolutely flying by. I’m getting used to life as a local here in Ensdorf, Saarland, but I’m still discovering new things every day. I know that it’s going to be very hard to leave and go back to normal life in Australia. I’m wishing I’d chosen the year program!
Everything here is so exciting, just because it’s all new and different. My host family thought it was hilarious the first time I saw falling snow, and ran around trying to catch the snowflakes. The whole environment is so different from Australia, the plants and trees, the animals, the houses, the streets. I was wondering why all the gardens had little heaps of dirt on the lawns, turned out they’re molehills!
Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m so far away from home, and I have to remind myself that I’m really here. This exchange is nothing like what I imagined it would be like, but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had. There have been a couple of hard days, when I felt so far away from my friends and family and everything I know. But the good times far far far outweigh the bad times!"
Laura went to Germany on a semester exchange.
“Weeks flew by without me actually realising, I ended up having to remind my host parents how many weeks it had been now. They never seized to be amazed at how fast time flew by either.
Overall, this experience has taught me to be grateful, independent, open-minded and my French has improved much more than what I had expected before going into this program. I should stop here, because otherwise, this story would just continue on and on!!!! Thanks so much to everyone who made it possible!”
Katie went to France on a Summer Explorer program.
"The most challenging part of my year away was not missing my family and friends in Australia, it was actually learning Spanish. In saying this, it was hard at first; however it’s fun, interesting and exciting at the same time. One thing which I loved about Spain was that even though I didn’t speak Spanish when I arrived, everyone made such a big effort in helping me out. They would speak very slowly, use hand gestures, take me out on the weekends and involve me in their culture. After a few months of listening to Spanish and being very patient, I had noticed my Spanish had improved dramatically. I found that every month that passed, my experience would get better and better as my Spanish improved.
Overall, I really think student exchange to any country is what you put into it. It can be hard at times, but you also need to remember that it’s so easy to keep in contact with your family and friends, with Skype, facebook, email etc. I would truly recommend the year program, as you really need one year away to get to a good level of Spanish. Also with one year way, you are able to form strong relationships with your host family and friends. It really is a great year away, and it’s guaranteed to leave you with life long experiences”
Ella went to Spain for a year.
“Germany was lovely! I really had the time of my life there and I'm sure I made quite a few friends-for-life over there! I was very happy with my experience in Germany. I learned so much and can now speak German to boot.
I've also come back to Melbourne wiser, with a brand new frame of mind, and with broader horizons! Stepping out of my little square in Melbourne was a great decision and I thank you (SEA) for facilitating that!”
Sudili went to Germany on a Summer Explorer Program.
“So I have nearly been in Italy for a month now and well there is so much to say. My family, school and lifestyle is completely different from the one I had lived in Australia. My classmates are awesome. They are very understanding and are always asking what I am learning and if I need help with anything. I have also started to make my own friends away from my host sister which I think is a positive sign.”
Rebecca went to Italy for a year.
"Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; the exchange is all about learning. Don’t dwell too much on missing family and friends because they will be there when you get back. You only have limited time to enjoy the new culture. Be yourself, and don’t forget your sense of humour and a smile!"
Ben went to Italy for a Semester.
"There have been times when I just felt so confused, so angry and just so fed up that I would just feel like I was going crazy. But when you stand on top of the Rialto Bridge in Venice at sunset, enter St Mark's Cathedral, or when you climb to the top of the highest tower that you and one of your best friends can find and you look out over Florence you just simply gasp for breath. I can’t explain it in words, mainly because I can't work it out myself, but the experiences you go through on something like this, the challenges you face and the memories that you just know will never leave, make you feel something that I truly believe is not possible from home."
Jessica went to Italy for a Semester.
"I've gained so much experience, independence and life-long knowledge from this exchange so far and it has helped me gain a new found confidence in my self and my own personality. I honestly can't think of a better way to have spent these last 44 days."
Amelia went to France on a Summer Explorer Program.
"I have been in Italy for almost 9 months and it has been such an adventure! I won’t deny that the first few months were difficult, as I came over here with no knowledge of the Italian language (understanding was difficult enough not to mention trying to speak!) However as time has gone by this experience gets better every day."
Jessica went to Italy on a Year Program.
"Throughout my exchange I have learnt more about myself and the world around me than I ever could have in a classroom and I have no regrets whatsoever in regards to my decision to go on exchange. I would recommend time abroad to absolutely everybody, as you gain precious memories, friendships and knowledge to last a lifetime. The only thing I can say is don’t enjoy yourself so much that you forget to take photos!"
Georgia went to France on a Year program.
"Having learnt German at school for a few years, I expected that communication wouldn’t be a problem, and that I would be fluent within a month or so. How naive I was. Learning and speaking a language at school in Australia, is very different to integrating in a foreign country with it. That was when I realized I had to drop all expectations and just take each day as it comes."
Laura went to Germany for a Year.
"I can't believe I've only got a bit over 5 weeks left! It's gone so fast, and it feels like 5 minutes ago that I was going to the Student Exchange Australia information night! I say to anyone thinking about doing an exchange, DO IT! I know at least for me it's been one of (if not THE) best experiences of my life."
Jacqueline went to France for a Semester.
"I had waited and waited to go. I had been looking forward to it for so long, and finally the moment came when I was stepping out of the plane and in to Frankfurt airport… After the first week I started making new friends. After the first month my German was understandable. Second month it had gotten better. By the third I didn’t want to leave, my German was improving and I had made heaps of new friends.
All in all, my time in Germany was a great experience and has made me keen on going back there next year to live and work for a few years ."
Craig went to Germany on a Summer Explorer Program.
"I can't believe I've been here two months! Things are going really well here ... I've performed in a choir concert, a track meet, and gone and watched a Holocaust survivor talk. I also joined the journalism club. In other words, I've been quite busy. My host family are great, they're very down to earth and my host siblings are a lot of fun. I've made some good friends at school too; the kids there are all very friendly. I'm having a really good time; I haven't even really been homesick. I'm actually going to Anaheim on a choir trip; we leave tomorrow morning. I get to spend a day at Disneyland (!!) and go to Santa Monica pier, along with a couple of other places. Thank you for everything!"
Fiona went on a Year Exchange Program to the USA.
"I'm having a great time here. I love Chartres, especially the centre with all the old stone buildings with shutters, the narrow paved streets, and the beautiful Cathedral. I was all prepared for the 'culture shock' stuff we were told about, but I haven't had any problems adapting. I can't believe how quickly 4 months have gone - I'm only here for another month now. I miss my friends and family in Australia and it'll be great to see them again, but it'll also be sad to leave everyone here behind. I'll definitely have to come back to visit!"
Karen wrote this just prior to her return home from ourr semester program to France.
"...my trip is coming to and end ... my time here has passed ridiculously quickly. But I'm so glad I came, I've learnt so much and had so many amazing experiences that I'll be ever grateful."
Maja participated on our Summer Explorer program to France.
"I found the first couple of weeks really difficult with homesickness, but once that passed, I really haven't had that much since - which is a very very good thing, because it is better to think about getting into your overseas life than dwelling on the one back home, which will always be there anyway!
I really love the Italian culture - just the lifestyle is great, the way the days run - go out in the morning to school and work, come home for lunch, go back to work after a sleep, and if it is Saturday, go out and enjoy!
I've met so many great people, and this is definitely one of the best experiences of my life!"
Pia won a Language Scholarship toward her semester in Italy.
"... As we were sitting here in Australia constantly wondering how she was, Phoebe was in France not really reciprocating the “wondering”. In fact, now we have discussed this with her since she has returned, she is somewhat amazed that we spent so much time missing her – she just got on with the exchange!
All up, from our parental perspective, the exchange has been a huge success. Our hope before the exchange was that Phoebe would return with lots of great memories, have an even more glowing view of France than she had before she left, have made many (potentially lifelong) friends, and be reasonably fluent in the language. All these have been realised, and more!
... Looking back, everything that Student Exchange Australia said about the exchange experience was true. There would be the occasional rough patches, but these would be immeasurably outweighed by all the good times; parents will probably worry more than they should; the supports are in place through both the domestic and foreign exchange organisations; and you get out of the exchange what you put into it.
While we do admit that the ten months seemed to go for eternity (especially the first five months), we nonetheless would wholeheartedly recommend that students (and their parents) strongly consider going on an exchange. It may well not be for everyone, but for many it will be an experience that will have lifelong benefits.
In closing, we would like to thank Student Exchange Australia (particularly the ever helpful and positive Melissa Moore) for making it all possible."
Mark and Debra - parents of Phoebe - who spent a year in France.
"An exchange to France- a few pointless words but to some, but to others, it can be a life-changing phrase. If there is one thing that I will never doubt in my life, it is that I made the right decision to go on an exchange to France. France is like the stereotypes- a country of love and passion. From the beginning it has been a fairytale, although a fairytale of an average person, experiencing amazing things.
By learning a new language, not only have I discovered the culture in France, but I also have met some really interesting people. For me, learning French means that I have 65 million more people I can talk to and share my life with (and that is just French population alone!) Learning a foreign language is so much fun. It’s a great chance to get to know ourselves better.
For me, this year would definitely be the greatest year of my life. OF COURSE it has been hard sometimes, not just on me but it has also been hard on my natural family. Life isn’t always perfect! “An exchange will be the best and hardest year of your life”. I heard this expression a million times before I went on my exchange. This is so true except, the hard parts last for minutes and the best parts last for months. An exchange is truly the best opportunity of a lifetime. Make the most of it."
Phoebe went to France after winning one of our Language Scholarships.
"My exchange is going very well. My host family is amazing. I loved Paris because I met sooo many other kids from around the world.
My exchange is going very well although it's difficult at times because they speak so fast but I'm loving France."
Tom went to France on our our Semester Program.
"Marco is having the time of his life, and it is all due to the wonderful organisation that is Student Exchange Australia....
From the very beginning I was impressed with the structure and support networks in place; and also with the patient and empathetic handling of parents’ and students’ questions and concerns. This support, information, and communication have been ongoing throughout the whole process, starting from initial interest shown by Marco.
Student Exchange Australia covered all bases; they have obviously been doing this work for a long time, and have ironed out all the many issues that can arise. I was further impressed by the honesty and candour shown by all staff members. The reciprocal organisation in Germany appears to be similarly well-structured and supportive. The support networks in place both in Germany and Australia for Marco and myself were explained very clearly and carefully to us. From my point of view, this was very important; because as a Mum I needed to know Marco would be safe and cared for.
I would also like to congratulate SEA for the methods they employ for student/family matching. In Marco’s case the match could not have been better. He is very lucky to be with a fantastic family, who are loving, caring and very giving. I truly appreciate this, as it is a huge thing to volunteer to open your home and hearts to a stranger, simply on trust and faith.
... As you can probably tell, I am very proud of my son. He is soaking up all the experiences and has even developed a previously non-existent interest in history and architecture!
This has all been possible because of the wonderful SEA people and their vision and work in co-ordination and co-operation with other like-minded countries. Thank you all very much."
Gillian son, Marco went to Germany with Student Exchange Australia New Zealand.
"Everything here is going really great. My host family is lovely and they have made me feel very at home in their family. During the last 5 months we have made many holidays together, which have all been fun. This weekend we will drive to Brussels and so I am excited to have a look around Belguim...
School has been a interesting experience. I am in a class with 24 girls and 2 boys, which was strange at first but I have made lots of friends. Everyone is eager to learn about Australia and teach me about Germany. Often the lessons are too difficult for me to follow and so I have really concentrated on learning German in this time....and hope I am improving!
I have really enjoyed my exchange here in Germany and hope I can keep these experiences with me for life."
Melanie particpated on our semester program in Germany.
"I have been in Spain now for almost 3 months and am loving the experience. I have learnt so much from it. The family I am staying with is extremely nice and have made me feel a part of the family. We do a lot of things together which is very good ... School is going well. I have made some great friends and am enjoying all my subjects and even attempting a couple of tests writing in Spanish which is a little difficult but is fun. So, I am really enjoying this exchange and looking forward to my 3 months summer holidays!"
Jaydene went on our Long Program to Spain.
"It has been extremely difficult, challenging, eye-opening, entertaining and I will never regret anything I have done. What an amazing experience, and what a fantastic opportunity to live with a fantastic family in an incredible culture!"
Caitlin went on our semester program in France.
"It's now been six weeks that I've been here and I am really enjoying it - I mean I miss you all terribly but not enough to not enjoy myself which is good, I think. Six weeks seems like a hell of a long time and I do feel like I've been here my whole life but at the same time it feels like only yesterday that I was saying goodbye to everyone and boarding the plane. I can't yet decide which one so I will just agree that it's been both a short and extremely long time that I've been here!"
Elizabeth went to France on our Semester Program. This is an excerpt from her last email.
"...time has just flown! One week of school holidays has just finished and it is nice to be back at school (I never thought I would say that) and to see all my new friends... (At one art gallery) I went in by myself and saw an Andy Warhol exhibition and this other guy who I liked better. Also I just walked around the building because it was pretty amazing itself. A few times when I was just walking around, I had to stop and say to myself 'Jees Jerem, you are in Vienna! Vienna Austria! Wow!'
I had a German dream the other night where I was doing usual sort of stuff - chatting to people in the street, ordering coffee, doing the grocery shopping (what a lame dream) - and I was completely fluent in German!"
Jeremy wrote to us from Austria.
"During the past 4 months I think I was only homesick for the first week, around Christmas and my birthday. I wasn't as homesick as I thought I would be coz I was having WAY too much fun.
My Spanish has improved more than I expected or hoped for, and I love speaking and understanding another language. I'm definitely coming back to Spain one day. Thanks for everything!"
Rhiannon went on our semester program to Spain. This is an exerpt from her last email from Spain.
"I will never forget my exchange to France. People keep asking me what was the highlight of my trip and I honestly don’t know. I have so many great memories to choose from, like going skiing for the first time, millions of funny conversations that resemble games of charades, going out with my friends or the day I got 18 out of 20 on my math test! All the wonderful places I visited like the Pyrenees, Paris, Versailles, Barcelona and Portugal, I made so many new friends from all over the world and my host families were fantastic. It was awesome and I am so glad I did it."
Jackie went on a year program to France. Jackie was one of our Language Scholarship winners.
"I am currently a host mum to a boy, Oliver, from Germany and wanted to share some experiences of hosting a student from another country.
I am a single mum. Yes, you read correctly - a single mum with four children. Well, five now (laughing out loud) because Oliver has joined the family. I don't work so you see student exchange isn't just for working people. It's for anyone willing to open there heart and home so a child can experience the beauty of our country...
If anyone is considering hosting just know that we highly recommend it. It has been one of the best experiences of our lives and we will do it again sometime in the near future. Learning about Oliver and his family and culture and his language has been really amazing. We can even speak a little German now!"
Susan and her children Jessica, Chloe, Karsha and Nathan, hosted Oliver from Germany.
"It's hard to believe I’m back... and now I’ve been back at school for a month and it's like I never left, although I’ll never forget the amazing things I did and the lovely people I met. I learnt so much about people, different cultures and myself while I was over there.
It really was the experience of a life time, I’m so glad I did it. So thanks so much for everything!"
Edwina spent a semester program in Spain.
"The most important advice I can give is that everything in another country is different: nothing is better or worse, but everything is different, and it’s important to be open to new ways of doing things. That, and to listen when your host mum tells you to wear a warm jacket and scarf – from experience, spending a week sick in bed because you didn’t is not a pleasant experience!
I thoroughly enjoyed my Exchange and learnt a lot from it – not just language skills, but people skills and also learnt a lot about myself and my life back home. It was an experience that will stay with me for life!"
Katie spent a summer in France on our Summer Language Explorer Program.
"Thanks so much to Student Exchange Australia for putting me with my family they've been really great (perhaps a little too good with the cooking! but if you're going to go on exchange don't bother trying to diet while here its impossible... especially here where the staple food is pasta pizza and gelato) and I'm having the best experience here. Not looking forward to the end of exchange but definitely looking forward to a summer in Europe."
Mathilda went to Italy on our semester program.
"I selected Brazil expecting to have a great time for the first couple of weeks and make some new friends and I then expected things to settle down into ordinary life, but that hasn't happened yet.
Every day I meet somebody new and they are always friendly. Lucky for me Brazilian people seem to really like Australians, and every weekend a friend at school is having a party for no reason other then to be social and have fun."
Keith chose Brazil for his11 month program.
"Can't believe that two months have gone and I haven't let you know how thrilled I am with the home stay you and your partners have provided for Oscar. He loves everything; his family, his friends, his school, his teachers (Italian teachers don't shout!), and he wakes up everyday still in awe of the beautiful surroundings he lives in. The house is full of people (the grandmother lives on one side and the uncle and his family are on the other), Oscar is experiencing wonderful Italian food (and home-fermented wine!... and coco pops for breakfast!) and the grandmother is trying to find a coffee that he likes (she is unable to understand how a boy could reach his age and not drink coffee).
Probably like a lot of parents, as the time grew closer I worried that it might not be the best thing for him to go, at least not for such a long time, but now I am experiencing (through long animated telephone conversations and joyful emails) just what a great educational and life embracing and absolutely positive opportunity this is"
Ailee's son Oscar participated on our academic year program to Italy.
"I've been living here in Paderborn (north-west Germany) for a month and a half now, and I'm absolutely loving my life here! My host family is fantastic - they have made me feel at home since my first day here and are always helpful and explaining things I don't understand.
My German is getting really good! I'm learning new words every day - there are so many things that they don't teach you at school! Speaking German is not a challenge any more, it comes so naturally to me now... sometimes I catch myself thinking in German too, which is always a good sign!"
Angela won one of our Language Scholarships and wrote to us from Germany.
"I had a fantastic experience. Although I went to England, I spent the majority of my time with Pakistanis and Indians. I learned a lot about numerous cultures and made the most of my opportunities. My first night in Bradford I went to an Asian wedding. It was new, loud, bright and colourful. That pretty much describes my whole experience in the UK. I loved every minute of it and don't regret anything I said or did while I was over there. I've made family for life and it was trully the experience of a lifetime. Thanks for helping me to make it happen."
Hannah - International Affairs Scholarship winner, Semester Program to England.
"I just love being so far out of my comfort zone. Anybody who does not do an exchange is so definitely missing out."
Alexandra, Semester Program to Italy.
"It is just magical! Italy and this whole experience has taught me so much and i feel like a much older person. It is really the best thing I have done and sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm here and that I actually did it! I really still can't believe that I'm living in Italy. Europe is just the best!"
Ruth, Year Program to Italy.
"Well Jack is home and settled in now; and I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to you and all the Student Exchange staff who helped along the way.
Jack rated his experience "ten out of ten", which is fantastic. He received great support whilst in Brazil and I certainly received the same here from you all.
Thank you so much for your help in giving Jack a life defining experience... If only every organisation I dealt with was as responsive! I'd recommend you to anyone considering using your services (and happy to be a referee at any time)."
Louise (parent of Jack – Semester Program to Brazil).
"My advice to you would be take every opportunity, embrace the culture and have a ball making new lifelong connections and improving your language skills, and remember, home is just a plane-trip away. My exchange was fantastic, there are no words, which could ever describe the time I had on exchange, however I'll attempt to capture the experience in just three- phenomenal, inspiring and old-fashioned-FUN!"
Arunima was a short program student to Germany.
"Just thought I'd update you on David's progress. He was on his summer vacation and has just had a week with his family by the sea on the north coast of Germany. He is really enjoying the summer, it is warm, but the sun is very gentle compared to the Australian sun. His host sister has also just returned to Germany after six months in New Zealand and he is really enjoying having someone closer to his age in his household. We also spent two weeks with his host sister here as I thought it was a great opportunity for her to visit Australia given that she was so close. We did lots of 'Australian' things and she (Wiebke) also met all David's extended family and he really appreciated that connection to home.
He is going OK at school (he wasn't that enamoured of school in Australia - and I think that's about the same there). He is very fluent in German and can comfortably watch television there. He will be exploring options of working in a German-speaking job when he goes to uni in Canberra next year.
I am also very conscious of giving him plenty of space to learn and grow from this experience without his mother interfering. He is learning and growing and enjoying the experience and that was our goal."
Excerpt from an e-mail to us from Catherine, mother of David Nuthall who went to Germany with us.
"As you know, the host family, Student Exchange Australia and the Danish organisation gave the OK for Anna's father, Bruce, to visit and they immediately invited him to stay with them on their farm. They collected him from Aarhus airport at lunchtime on Sunday and it was home for the big family lunch - pork and more pork and plenty of potatos, followed by Danish dessert and two lots of different cream!
Anna and Bruce were off then exploring her home territory for the afternoon. This included a visit to see the local city of Randers and a look at her school and a visit to the favourite student pub. Much to Anna's disappointment the next day, Monday, was yet another public holiday so there was no school and she wouldn't get to "show off" her Australian father. To tell the truth I think he was a little relieved. Bruce says Anna's Danish language abilities are quite amazing for someone who has only been 5 months in the country. She is very comfortable chatting away to her host family in Danish and was interpreting for him very competently, plus she has no problems with public transport and getting herself about. She is still attending language school at night as her goal is to be as fluent as possible when she leaves - she is already planning her return to somewhere in Scandinavia for part of her uni degree!
Bruce also got to meet quite a few of Anna's extended host family there - grandparents, etc., who speak no English. He feels Anna is really comfortable with all of them and that they have a lovely relationship. They are excited about meeting the rest of Anna's Australian family when we visit them again for New Year when they have again invited us to stay. At New Year there will be no farm workers employed there so we will stay in the converted barn which is apparently self-contained so it will be very exciting for us as well.
We took the opportunity for Bruce to take over Christmas and birthday presents for the family - he was very loaded up going over. We also sent some very "Aussie" gifts to say thank you to them which they seemed to enjoy. Bruce ended up having to stay an extra night there as he arrived at the airport on Monday afternoon to be told there was a snap baggage handlers strike and no planes were flying until next morning. Lucky for him that was to be his R&R day in London and he got to spend an extra night with his daughter.
Emails from the host family since, tell us Anna and they really enjoyed the visit and Anna has been fine with no apparent ill effect or homesickness. Mind you, she is so flat out and busy that there has been no time for that. She has spent some time in Copenhagen on exchange activities and has then stayed with a fellow exchange student before returning home for a huge family party this weekend. It seems the Danes are always partying!"
Excerpt from a newsy e-mail to us from Maureen, mother of Anna who went to Denmark with Student Exchange Australia New Zealand.
"Everything that was promised was followed through with. If a letter or fax or phone call was promised to be made, it was made. Phone calls came in, checking that we had received the latest package or piece of material. An interview was arranged, at our convenience (which is no small feat in a household with 2 working parents and 3 active children, considering schedules!) and was followed up with more phone calls. … I have spoken to many people since Amy has gone to the US, about her travelling, and often they express an interest in their own child/children experiencing an overseas exchange programme. I have no hesitation in recommending your organisation every time.
Excerpt from a 'thank you letter' to Student Exchange Australia from Sue English, mother of Amy who was in the USA with Student Exchange Australia.
Saul has recently returned from a wonderful experience in Japan. We were also lucky enough to have met his host father, in Australia, a few weeks ago. All Student Exchange Australia arrangements were reliable and efficient... Saul has learned a great deal from his time away. Language being only a small part of this. We would have no hesitation in recommending the program to others."
Excerpt from a 'thank you letter' from Dr Anthony Felber whose son, Saul, went to Japan on a short program.
Victoria & Tess
"I must write to you and thank you for all your assistance with Tess's trip.. she is now home.. and has had the most wonderful experience, with the terrific Weser family. At every stage, before, during and after the trip I have been refreshed and grateful with the manner that all your staff have employed. You have all been courteous, prompt, efficient and friendly. The result of all this has been a much smoother trip with help at every turn. In particular, when Tessa broke some bones and needed special assistance, you have been both very supportive and most professional. I am extremely glad we chose Student Exchange Australia for this significant journey in Tessa's life. I wish you all the best for 2004."
Excerpt from a 'thank you letter' to us from Victoria Mother of Tess, Semester program student to Germany.
"Living in France with a French family, going to school in France, going to the cinema with French friends, shopping and buying clothes all in French, visiting places you have only read about or seen in pictures or on television or heard your French teacher 'rave' on about, these are just some of the experiences an exchange student will have. The most obvious benefit to the student is the language acquisition. Back in the Australian classroom their competence in all facets of French study has improved remarkably. However they have also come back with a wealth of understanding of what it is to live in a different culture where people think differently and have different priorities. And they start to form an appreciation of what it is like for a foreigner to be living in Australia. They have returned a more mature person who can reason better and see two sides to every story and this has ramifications right across their school life as well as their personal life. In most cases they want to return, to relive the thrill of discovering new places, meeting new people, making new friends, learning new things and improving their French. It has whetted their appetite for travel, a bug that will linger with them for probably a few decades. But what is travel if not the greatest educator of all!"
Julia Trenchard-Smith Language Teacher, Mac Robertson Girls' High School, Victoria.
'I guess it's a reflection of how much I enjoyed my high school exchange to Japan in 2000 that I want to go on exchange again! This time will, of course, be different. I just wanted to let you know that my first exchange experience has encouraged me to take up the opportunity of going on exchange again.'
Julia went on a year program to Japan.
"This wonderful experience has broadened Will's entire perspective on life which shows in his quality of performance at work. It has developed Will into a mature, professional and open-minded employee who strives to constantly learn and undertake new challenges."
Graduate & Cadet Manager, OCTC - Australian Taxation Office, about William Randall who went to France on our year program.
Sue & Amy (NSW)
Sue and her daughter Amy have had a fantastic experience with their host daughter, Tiffany, from France:
What motivated you and your family to volunteer to host?
It was Amy's idea to become a host family ourselves and after some thought I agreed. Amy had been interested in knowing more about exchange programs and when an opportunity came up to become a coordinator nearly two years ago I jumped at the chance so that we could learn more first hand. We thought that 6 months would be quite long enough but now that the time for Tiffany to leave is getting closer we wish she could stay longer. Tiffany has become a member of our family, a second daughter and a sister, and we love having her with us.
Did you have any reservations?
Amy was very excited once we had made the decision to take on our student but I did have a few reservations. I was concerned about the reaction that a student and her family might have about having a single parent host family. Also, my working full time means that our day to day lives are very busy and I was concerned that it may be difficult to spend enough time with our new family member. Because Amy is an only child, I did wonder how I would cope if our student and Amy did not get on or had totally different interests. Silly me! None of my concerns have caused a major problem. Life is still busy, and I am still a single parent but our student has fitted right in and copes with our family life as if she has been with us for ever.
Any major challenges or difficulties?
There really haven't been many. I think my role as coordinator had provided me with a good understanding of what to expect. Ensuring that I had some support systems in place was important. Planning ahead was the key I believe. For Tiff, the biggest challenge has been getting used to school because the system is so different here.
What benefits have you gained from hosting? Tell us about the good stuff!
The benefits...where do I begin? I am sure every host family would talk about the benefits of exposure to another culture but we did not realise how much we would enjoy sharing our lives with an overseas student. The benefits have not just been for Amy and me, but for everyone around us. Amy is an only child so the obvious benefit for her has been that she has enjoyed having a sister at last and they have become very close. They talk about visiting one another in the future and Tiff has indicated that she wants to come back to Australia to live for a while. Tiff's father has even invited Amy to come and work with him in France for several months. It seems that our relationship with Tiff will not end when her stay with us is over and I look forward to meeting her parents at some time and visiting her home in France. I think she will always be part of our family now.
An Exchange Student at 17
It almost feels like as if it was just yesterday when I was on my own on a plane not really knowing what to expect but excited for what the future had for me. Now I'm back home with a ton of memories, e-mails to answer, and a lot of stories to share. I don't even know where to start now that I'm writing about my experience of being an exchange student in Appleton, Wisconsin for a whole school year.
Well, I've wanted to be an exchange student my whole high school life. I read about summer programs in a brochure from IFS, and I thought then that living somewhere else for a while and having friends from another country would be the coolest thing in the world. I would be on my own, have my own Indiana Jones adventure, and fulfill my dream of having something different. Pretty soon, at the end of my senior year, Mama and I were applying to IFS and we decided that a whole year would give me so much more immersion and would make the experience so much better. I had meetings in the weekends about rules, how to survive, homesickness, etc. Then I got an email. I had a host family! Next thing I knew, I had a flight booked.
I was so excited and happy and I was telling all my friends about it. I was researching about Wisconsin in books and in the Internet. Compared to what I saw on TV and what I experienced when I traveled to places like Los Angeles, California with my family, Wisconsin was different. It was more of farmland and countryside. I lived in Appleton and its population was around 70,000 and I thought it was a small town compared to our Manila. There was no traffic, they only had one major mall, and everything was in close proximity. I didn't even know what to think of the cold weather. I just brought cotton long-sleeved shirts with me. But when winter came, I needed to get a coat. During the winter, the sun would set at 4pm and it wouldn't go up until around 9. There were days when the temperature would go below freezing and I was wearing around 6 layers of clothing just to keep myself warm. I never even blow-dried my hair before. I had to do it every morning after I took a shower because if I didn't, my hair would FREEZE. The thing I liked best about the cold and the snow was being able to ski. People were so excited for me and telling me all their snow stories (since we don't have it in the Philippines). I have never skied in my life either, so I was excited and proud to learn.
I was placed with the greatest host family in the whole world. They treated me like their own and they are like real family in another part of the world. I had a host mom, a host dad, a brother and sister. Ben would always be sweet and give me hugs and kisses. I loved every minute of it because I never had a younger brother before. It was fun seeing Katie grow up since she started to be a teenager and we would always tell stories in the bathroom we shared. Through e-mails we established that I was going to call them Mom and Dad since I was never used to calling older people by their first names. I felt super loved. They made sure there was tuna in the pantry (since it was my favorite), hugged me when I needed to be hugged, let me stay out late at night with my friends, and even let me have parties in the basement.
I went to an American co-ed public high school and that was a big adjustment coming from an all-girl private Catholic school. The school was new, everyone was different and it was so diverse. I have never met so many kinds of people in just one place. I was scared during the first day of school. I didn't know anyone, I got lost since the school was huge, and people didn't think I knew how to speak in English every time my teachers would say, And here's Elaine she's a foreign exchange student. But pretty soon I started to get comfortable. It was funny how people always got surprised by how good I was at speaking in English. They're like, Wow, you even speak better English than me. I loved answering people's questions like, So, what do you do in the winter? or Where is the Philippines? Isn't that near South America somewhere? or What's it like to have a coconut tree outside your house do you have coconuts everyday? I had the chance to take fun classes like Spanish, photography, and art so I met people with similar interests as me and got to go to field trips. My favorite was going to Chicago to see my favorite painting Starry Night by Van Gogh. I was an honorary member of the International Club and there was even one time I was giving a talk about the Philippines for the school's Global Awareness Week and someone asked me to say something in Filipino. So I said, Magandang Umaga, ang pangalan ko ay Elaine. They thought it was so cool and people started clapping and giving me a standing ovation. Just for saying my name in Tagalog!!!
I made a lot of friends and met so many people. I joined a church youth group, volunteered for a group for teens with cognitive disabilities, an indoor soccer team during winter and the girls track team during spring. Friends took me out to movies, hockey games, restaurants, road trips, rock shows and concerts. Someone even took me to see the Incubus concert! I got to do my first American prank, which was writing on boys cars with lipstick. Everyone was warm, open, and never hesitant in giving hugs. I would say that as much as I missed my family and friends at home, I never really got homesick because I had friends who made sure I was okay. They were all always there for me and helping me with all the adjustments I had to make, like school, getting rides, hanging out, shopping, going to prom, learning slang terms, everything. I will forever remember all the fun times I had with them.
One of the things I had to get used to and eventually enjoyed was how people picked up on my difference. Girls would always tell me how lucky I was to have a year-round tan and ask if I went to tanning salons! I haven't even heard of tanning salons since I got there! Some boys would ask me how I got my hair to be so black. I was shy and surprised by how forward some guys were. Unlike here, guys do not court girls. It's more casual. Eventually, though I got used to it. I realized that guys all over the world are the same. I became excited to be actually hanging out with all these cute boys, getting calls, and going out. Hugging with someone from the opposite sex wasn't even a big deal, and it was something I enjoyed. Going out opened my eyes to more similarities and differences in the American culture. It was one of the times I was so proud of being Filipina. I was different, exotic, and new.
Every month, I met with other exchange students in our area. I made friends with people from Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, England, Hungary, etc. It was fun when we were together because we saw how language, skin color or height didn't matter. We were all the same. We even got to bond right away because we were all going through the same thing as exchange students so we talked about the differences at home, school, and out countries. I learned so many things about other cultures, and even got to share my own. I remember cooking the adobo for a Christmas party. I was stressed about it but everyone loved it!
Being away for 10 months and living alone in a completely different world has taught me a lot of things. I have grown and my perspective has changed in ways I never would have imagined. I now can say that I am independent, appreciate my family and friends here more, open to new ideas, aggressive, and more confident about myself. Having my own adventure has proven to me that anything is possible and that I can do anything. It was the best time of my life and I will always remember how choosing to go out and discover what the world has in store for me was life-changing and will be something I will always cherish.
Study Abroad Guide