Vinicius from Brazil
At that day I was embarking to the U.S. with only one certainty: that was my opportunity to experience the world. I was exchanging a “planned future” to a high school exchange program in a country that I had never been to. Many people called it madness but I was too excited thinking about living abroad to care about the negative words. To all those people who said, “you are wasting your time there”, I dedicate this story. They were right. I really lost and consequently gained a lot in the U.S.
I have lost myself in the Colorado mountains. I have completely lost myself in the U.S. I have been to Denver, New York City, San Diego, Disneyland, Las Vegas, and Grand Canyon to see everything with my own eyes, and I want to go back.
I have lost fear. Fear to risk myself, fear to be who I am, and fear to grow up. I have experienced an entirely different culture, dealt with totally different people, and spoken a different language. Not easy, but thank God, because everything that is easy is boring as well.
I have been lost in the months, days, and hours. Since I have no control over it, this loss scares me the most. It just does not scare me any more because the seasons are willing to remind me that everything changes, including me.People may think: You have lost time with your family and friends. That is right, but I have gained another (host) family, new friends, and an amazing local coordinator, to not call her mom too, that support me all time. I will take a little of each of them with me for the rest of my life.
I have lost virginities. Yeah. My host mom and I make jokes about it all time because I have experienced so many things for the first time: airplanes, snow, hockey, American football, Halloween, different foods, Taco Bell, skiing, and a lot more. I am not that virgin that I used to be months ago anymore.
Finally, but not less important, I have lost negativity. In other words, I no longer see everything as a loss and have begun to look at it through its positive side. In the end, each loss has its gain, and in thinking of the entire experience, those people from the beginning may have been right. I have lost a lot of things but the ones that I needed to lose.
Lea and Kanan’s Video
Zhenzi(Lee) is a 17-year-old from a small town outside Beijing, China.
He expected America to be “like in the movies.” His first impression confirmed that it did look somewhat like the movies, but was surprised by the difference in the school systems. Lee enjoys the American lifestyle. Single-family homes and more convenience are things that he believes offer “lots of advantages” to living in the US.Lee learned about American culture before he came here by reading about and following American celebrities. He says he has “made a ton of friends in America” by meeting them through social media and school activities. He finds Americans to be friendly and extremely intrigued by China.His main obstacle has been language and pronunciation, and he was initially concerned he would not be understood. To overcome his apprehension, he confided in his new friends and host family and eventually grew to be comfortable communicating.He felt a bit homesick but adapted within the first month of his stay. He has learned about our culture by being open to new things and activities, and also being proactive in engaging people. Lee says he loves America, specifically the food (meatballs) and the people.
Kei from Japan 2013/2014
To write about my experience as an exchange student is kind of hard, because there are too many things that I want to write. Because I experienced a lot of things, with a lot of new and good friends, with my lovely host family, and these experiences were always brand new things and so fun. Especially for me, as Asian, I didn’t even really have friends who came from a country that is not in Asia. Then after I came to the U.S there are almost no Asian people in my area. You know how crazy this is. Obviously I saw a lot of differences compared to living in Japan but it is just so fun. Sometimes what I should not do in Japan is what I should do here or with friends. You can imagine how fun and crazy this is, right!? Obviously there are hard times living in the USA as an exchange student, but it has grown me and given me so much confidence. Yes, I think having fun as an exchange student is not just fun, these experiences have changed my life a lot. Experience as an exchange student has helped me to find what is the actually important in my life.
Anyways, I would love to tell you guys about my best experience after I got to the USA. It is the ETC trip. I went to the LA and NY trip. Having fun with exchange students who are from all over the world, in one of most amazing city in the world, and with coolest tour guides. It was way more amazing than what I expected. From when I arrived the hotel where we all stayed and said hi to the new people, till when we hugged each other and said good bye on last night. Literally every time was extremely fun. I felt like some kind of family for another exchange student because we have the same kind of fun and hardship in USA. That’s why I could be myself more in that trip. I felt like we were already friends from long time ago or something like that. I think this kind of friendship between each exchange students is one of biggest benefits to being exchange student.
And through having fun with friends from all over the world including the USA, I feel that we all are just human. So of course we can be good friends no matter where are we from, which religion we believe, and even if these country hate each other. My conviction that we can make the world way better and more peaceful is confirmed. If more people would have fun with people from around the world more often. Just have fun and understand the difference between us. Like what we did in the ETC program. If we know more about each other, we can understand difference easier, and we can have more respect for each. That is the important thing and it is so fun.
But of all things what I wrote has happened just when we try to make new friends, try to speak good English and you will succeed. Obviously we had nobody when we arrived in USA and having to make brand new friends is not that easy. But you have to try hard even though you are not good at making new friends. I’m sure if you always try you will succeed someday and you can have a good time in USA. I think choosing to always spend time with just exchange students from your same country is not good choice. You can make your time as an exchange student so fun and successful, or not. Over the bunch of hardship, there is always big fun. And I’m sure there are always people who give us big love. For me, fortunately, always many people gave me big love. Such as all of my friends, my coordinator, some teachers who are nice to me, my lovely host families, and my actual family in Japan. I can’t show you guys how much I have thankful for them in just word. Thank you so much guys.
Pierre from France
Ana Martinez Fremont from Mexico
Being an exchange student is not only leaving all that you know back in your country, being an exchange student is about trust, trust that you are going to be okay at your new school, trusting your host family, trusting your friends back, home trusting yourself. Being an exchange student is being independent: you make your own decisions, the only one that will tell you to study is yourself, manage your money, etc.
I got to the United States from Mexico on July the 13th. I was really excited to meet my host family and to start living my new life. I came here early so I could have the chance to learn my state, Colorado, I went to Vista Ridge High School and the first two months were the hardest months in my life because I tried to join to the cross country team but they were so close to each other that it was really hard to fit in with them. It took me more than 4 months. During those three months I met this guy that became one of my closest friends at Vista. When I had problems with my host family he would always be there and so was his mom and dad. Cross country was really hard because of the altitude, it was really hard to breathe here but I got better with time. Cross country also saved my life. All the girls took care of me and became my best friends. The best part is that every day I become more independent, that I am the bravest person in this world, that I have the best host brother ever, and that my friends are waiting for me.
The funniest thing that happened to me here was when I discovered my favorite English word “popsicle”. I was in a cross country practice and after our work-out a friend told me that her mom brought us popsicles, at the time I didn’t know what a popsicle was… so I followed her faking that I knew what that word was and then I saw them and I shouted in Spanish, “PALETA DE NIEVE”, and they all made fun of me (in a good way).
For all the kids that want to be an exchange student don’t waste your time, don’t even think about it, DO IT NOW! It will be the best year of your life and you will get to know yourself and what you are capable of. And it is so cool to prove everyone wrong; I do it all the time and it feels great.
I count the days to go back home, but also I don’t want to leave my host family because I realize they are my home too and I love them so much. But I know that I am coming back to visit every single person that helped me through the worst and best year of my life. 1 year sounds like a really long time but it can pass by in the blink of an eye… you get to know yourself better than anyone, you learn that in a way you are on your own, you have to win what you are reaching for, but we always do, we are exchange students, the strongest teenagers in this world that literally left home, family, friends, and parties. WE SURVIVED, WE DID IT.