6 reasons why you should be an exchange student in high school

Written by Maria Aardal

August 8, 2019

If you are considering being an exchange student in high school, you know that it can be a difficult and scary choice to make. You have to leave your home, friends, and family probably for the first time. You have to live with strangers and start a whole new life. It is a hard choice to make at 16, but while it can be, and will be, scary, there are so many reasons to chose it, and you will LOVE IT!

Graduation of an exchange year in high school in USA.

Get to know a new culture and a new country

This is one of the most obvious points, yet it is so easy to underestimate. When you study abroad you get to experience a new culture, for the good and the bad. Living in a country for so long you experience the culture in a completely different way then you do through shorter travels. Living in a new culture will be challenging, but it will also be so much better than you can imagine.

This new country will feel like your second home. It might take a while before you feel it, maybe you will not even feel it until you are back in your home country. There is of course also a flip side to this. Not a day goes by that I do not miss my second home. While I love to have two places that feel like home, I also feel split at all times.

Getting to know a new country and a new culture is like getting to know a new person. Through every conversation, you learn something new, and it is so exciting. You will learn things that you never even thought about.

Experience american culture while on exchange in high school

New people

This is the one that really sticks with you. I went on exchange during my second year of high school (my 12th year of school), and I still talk to some of the people I met there every single day. My best friend in the whole world is someone I met there, and I still regularly go visit my host family.

It will be hard. There will be times where you will feel lonely and like you will never make friends. Maybe you will struggle with your host family. Maybe you will struggle to make friends. Trust me, I did both. But I got through it, and I am so glad I did. Eventually, I made amazing friends, both locals and other exchange students. I also changed my host family, and I met the most amazing, welcoming and caring family.

Try out a new everyday life

When I look back at my time in the US I barely even remember the bigger events. What I think about, what I miss, is the everyday routines. I miss driving to school with my friends, I miss the classes, the lunch, hanging out at my best friend’s house and going to bed in my room. I miss my bathroom, my neighborhood and eating dinner with my host family.

These are the things that seem unimportant as they happen, but extraordinary when you look back. You get a whole new routine and it is so weird and exciting. Just going to school is so new and wonderful, and scary of course. My school was so completely different from my school back home and now I even miss school days.

Study at an american high school

Get to know your own country

This one is maybe a bit unexpected, but you will learn a lot of new things about your home country and culture. There were two different ways that I learned things about Norway while being an exchange student in high school in the US. The first is because I very often found myself explaining things about Norway to people. I got questions that I had never thought about before. When people find out that you are an exchange student they get curious and ask a lot. I loved it, I loved to be able to explain about Norway, even when I got questions like “do you have spoons there” and “that is in Africa, right?”.

The other way I learned a lot about Norway was through comparing. When I experienced new things, I automatically compared it to Norway. A good example of this is school. The school in Texas was so different than my school back in Norway. Different in ways that I never thought about. Like the fact that we do not have a dress code or have to have IDs visible at all times. I really started to appreciate the Norwegian nature, our fjords, mountain, and all the green.

Norwegian nature

Challenge yourself and get to know yourself

I was sixteen when I walked through airport security away from my mom. Leaving for almost a year. To this day that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. While on exchange you will meet challenges, especially as an exchange student in high school. You are still so young, and suddenly you are on your own in the big world. You will face challenges you never even thought about, but you will get through it. This year will show you just how strong you are. You will be so proud. You will get to know yourself, no matter how cliche it sounds, you will learn so much about yourself. Who you are, how strong you are and who you want to be.

Speak another language fluently

This one varies a lot depending on where you go and where you come from. For me, the language was something that just came naturally. I am from Norway and went to the US. We learn English from elementary school and already felt comfortable both talking and understanding English. However, I definitely improved. I got way more fluent, but it happened very gradually and naturally.

If you go somewhere where they speak a language you know little or nothing about this point will be harder, but also more fun. The language barrier will create more problems and you might feel even more alone at the beginning. Yet when you start to feel like you understand more it will feel so powerful and great. You can learn a whole new language fluently.

Learn a new language fluently during your exchange year in high school

Would you consider, or have you been, an exchange student in high school?

If you are considering being an exchange student in high school check out this list of some of the organizations you can choose from.

Welcome!

I am Maria, a 20 year old student. I am here to show you that traveling is possible for everyone, including you. I belive that traveling can be done in a lot of different ways and that you never have to limit.

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