Becoming a Foreign Exchange Student | The Ultimate Guide

Just the thought of becoming a foreign exchange student can send your mind flying in a myriad of directions, all exciting, all promising of new knowledge and adventures. You may start envisioning yourself in exotic lands, visiting unique places, learning foreign words or even mastering a new language, understanding different cultures, and lifestyles or trying new delicacies to excite your palate.

Where Would You Like To Go? For How Long?

There needs to be a degree of compatibility between who you are and the place where you want to spend your stint abroad. Take the time to do some introspection and truly admit to yourself what kind of experience you are looking to live. Is your current home in a big city and are you looking to experience life in a quieter, more bucolic, less hectic location? Or do you want to experience life in a huge metropolis and maintain a hectic pace? Are you willing to move to a city or town where you do not speak or barely understand the language? You have to face how easy it is for you to learn a foreign language and whether you are willing to feel frustrated every time you try to buy something to eat for lunch.

Consider as well the time you want to spend abroad. Although the easy answer may be just one semester, think about the time and effort involved in getting there and what you will feel when you have to turn around and fly back home just a couple of months later. Would a full year abroad result in a more enriching experience? When will you have this kind of opportunity to be abroad in the future? Probably not too soon, particularly once you graduate and start your professional life.

Keep in mind, some of the above questions may not be easy to answer right now. If that is your case, give yourself credit for having an adventurous spirit and be willing to take a risk and allow yourself the joy of experiencing something that is not familiar to you at all.

You may be tempted to ask someone for references on a program, and that is always a good thing to do. However, when analyzing the replies, don’t forget to take into account who the person is giving you this rating is. Do they focus on the same things you would? Are they truly a good reference point considering the differences in your personalities? Can you conclude anything about the location or the program based on what this person is telling you? Do your viewpoints on other subjects generally coincide or is this some friend-of-a-friend you barely know? Don’t let some stranger’s opinion cloud what could truly be an outstanding experience for you.

What Are The Benefits Of Being A Foreign Exchange Student?

Besides acquiring new knowledge and immersing yourself in a foreign culture, there are additional and considerable benefits to studying away from your home country.

Improve Your Language Skills

The best way to really learn a second (or third) language is full immersion. And the best way to achieve that is by living in a country where everyone around you speaks the language you are trying to learn. Which forces you to use that language in order to effectively communicate with everyone around you. You also end up learning the language in a more natural way, incorporating idioms and expressions that the locals use.

Enjoy A New Cultural Experience

Studying and living in a foreign place will most likely take you out of your comfort zone at the beginning. You will learn to try out a new way of life which includes new customs, new traditions, and celebrations, new ways to eat and new flavors. At the end of your time abroad you may feel you have been transformed into somebody new, with a broader view of the world.

Up Your Chances Of Getting Hired Faster Once You Graduate

Finally, going abroad may end up implying benefits towards your professional future. Depending on your area of study, employers today are definitely stressing the importance of international cooperation and understanding. Therefore, students who have foreign experience, know another culture and can speak in more than language, have a decisive advantage.

Foreign Exchange Student: Educational Options

When are you looking to go abroad? You may think about going abroad during:

  • High School
  • Gap year
  • College
  • Graduate school

Let’s take a look at the programs available to you:

Academic Year Or Semester

Full academic years or semesters are the longest study-abroad options. These types of programs are best suited for those students that are looking to have a truly immersive global experience. The length of time implies additional costs so that these programs may not be accessible to everyone unless scholarship or other financial alternatives are available.

Intersession Program

These are definitely much shorter than other study abroad options. They last from one to eight weeks and may happen at any time during the year. They are mostly introductory courses that can help any student intent on gaining international experience but cannot afford a lengthier program.

Summer Program

These programs encompass three or four months and may be more suitable for those students who have a smaller budget or are more hesitant to commit to going abroad for a longer period of time.

Internships

Internships are an interesting option because they offer students the possibility of combining study and work. As a result, they give students a more complete panorama of their professional path. Also, gaining global work experience helps these students become better candidates when it comes to facing the job market. Yet, these types of opportunities tend to be more intense and time-consuming than other educational programs.

Volunteer Opportunities

These types of programs are geared towards community service projects as they incorporate them into a study abroad experience. If this catches your fancy, know that you will most likely end up working with local people which will reward you by offering you a better understanding of native life, culture, and customs. The length of these program varies, depending on location and what the project is about.

Teach Abroad

Teaching others not only gives you the pleasure of helping them but also translates into the development of interpersonal skills and leadership qualities that will help you become a better educator. In general terms, these programs involve teaching English to foreign students of different ages. They range from six months up to two years in length.

Where Will You Live While You Are A Foreign Exchange Student?

There are several options available to you as a foreign exchange student. Let’s see the good and bad of each of them to help you make a more informed decision:

Living With A Host Family

Undoubtedly this course of action will give you many rewards. As a foreign exchange student, you will have the opportunity of living with a local family, thus enhancing your language skills and getting to know and understand their culture better and in a more authentic way. These relationships will probably endure for years to come. In some cases, food and other basic needs are provided by the host family.

On the other hand, you have to take into account that you are living in someone else’s home where other rules and curfews may exist. Depending on the space you are giving within that home you may feel you don’t enjoy as much privacy as you do at home or that the standards of living are not what you are used to.

Living In A Dorm

If you are going abroad after living in a dorm at your own college or university, selecting to live in a college dorm abroad will not result in a terribly different experience for you. Most likely, our location will be convenient when trying to reach your new classrooms and other school facilities. The Resident Advisors will be there to provide additional support in both academic and social matters.

On the other hand, you have to remember, dorms are not quiet places and living in close quarters with so many of your friends may result in you not being able to concentrate when it comes to your studies. Your bedroom may not be very spacious, and you may have to look into the available meal plans offered, if any, besides paying the housing fees.

Renting A House Or Apartment

This may be the most expensive option, and you will be handling all responsibilities relating to meals, bills, laundry, and cleaning. Transportation to school (which may be far away) will add to the expenses.

On the other hand, this option gives you the freedom of choosing where and with whom to live. It also offers you the opportunity of renting with a group of friends or going it alone.

How Much Will A Foreign Exchange Student Have To Pay While Abroad?

Location

Besides the obvious expenses of tuition and housing, one of the main considerations when planning your budget is the place where you want to go. In general terms, cities and towns in Australia and New Zealand, East Asia and Western Europe will result in higher expenses, while if you plan on going to a location in Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe or Central and South America, you will spend less.

Airfare

The distance between your hometown and your home abroad also plays a role in how much to budget for. Considerations such as whether you plan to travel home for year-end vacations, for Thanksgiving or for a variety of family obligations, also add up.

Local Transportation

Learning to take the bus or subway, ride a bicycle or use a scooter can result in savings when you think of more expensive transportation methods such as renting a car or riding taxis. Learn to do what the locals do and save some money in the process.

Weekend Travel

You will definitely want to get to know your host country, and even neighboring ones, when you have a long weekend or other time-off periods. Look for accommodations in youth hostels rather than opting for a hotel. Take advantage of slower seasons and travel during less expensive times.

Socializing

As a foreign exchange student, you want to have a great time and socialize with both the friends who are abroad with you and the new acquaintances you make there. Still, it is a good idea to stick to a fixed meal budget. If you are planning on taking a credit card with you, first find out the card’s policies regarding foreign transaction fees which can quickly add up. Paying with cash may work better for you and help keep you on budget. Look for free functions and other activities where locals gather, instead of falling for the usual bar scene that can really drain a budget.

Before You Go

You have filled out your application to become a foreign exchange student and been accepted to the program of your choice. Before leaving home make sure you are prepared with:

Passports And Visas

Make sure you have a valid passport before setting off. If yours is about to expire or you need a brand new one, give yourself enough time to get your passport mailed to you with plenty of time. And speaking of time, find out what type of visa will be required depending on the length of your stay and the type of program you will be attending. Some visas require several months to be processed.

Airline Tickets

Get your flight booked as soon as you know your departure date. This way you can really shop around and get the best price for your ticket. Find out how many bags your airline will allow you to carry and if there are any additional costs for extra bags.

Communication

Have you found out from your cell phone provider whether calls from a foreign country are included in your plan? If they are not, prepare a plan before leaving. Otherwise, those long-distance calls will add up and may completely unbalance even the tightest budget.
And remember, this is a unique experience that may come around only once in your life, get ready to enjoy it and make the most of every day you are there.

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Where Should You Travel to Become a Foreign Exchange Student?

Shanghai or Beijing

Shanghai and Beijing are proving to be attractive destinations for the adventurous foreign exchange student. Both are international cities with established expat communities and numerous international schools that offer various courses along a wide range of disciplines. Taking up a course in either of these cities is also a proven way to brush up and even master your Mandarin!

Beijing, which is the political capital and Shanghai, the financial capital, both offer amazing opportunities for education if you are looking to take up undergraduate or further studies. Both cities also offer a unique and in-depth look at Chinese culture as you immerse yourself in daily living in school and in your communities.

Choosing Between Beijing or Shanghai

Climate and Location

Beijing is known for its dry and frigid winters and hot summers. Shanghai enjoys more humid summers, mild weather in spring and fall and very hot summers. Students who are picky about local climates, especially those dealing with allergies and seasonal health issues should look at the different climates in both cities to see which climates are more suitable, and easier to adapt to.

Attractions and Things to Do

Being the cultural and political capital of China, Beijing is home to numerous historical and cultural attractions that draw visitors from all over the world. 

These include the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Traditions and values are widely kept among the majority of Beijingers which is seen in their local attractions. Famous attractions include the Peking Opera and the Wanfujing Street Market.

Shanghai has a thriving expat population so you see numerous international attractions in the city such as Disneyland, malls, hotels and resorts. Sightseeing is also one of the main activities in Shanghai. 

People flock to The Bund, which is where you can see the world-famous Shanghai skyline. It is also home to the French Concession which is dubbed the Paris of the East due to its French colonial history. With a large expat population, Shanghai is definitely a great option for those looking for an international feel even while living in a Chinese city.

Universities

There are schools located in Beijing that do not have campuses in Shanghai and vice versa. Your course will often determine which city you eventually live in so it is important to look at universities and what courses they offer before making your decision. Both cities have national and municipal universities and private schools that accept international students. 

Courses are varied ranging from political science to finance courses, social studies and the arts to medicine and law. There are many universities such as Tsinghua University in Beijing that offer graduate level courses in English. Beijing is also home to other notable universities such as Peking University and BLCU. Shanghai, on the other hand, is home to Fudan University and Jiaotong University.

Cost of Living

Shanghai is more expensive than Beijing, especially when it comes to food and accommodations. For example, a meal in McDonald’s may set you back more in Shanghai than in Beijing. Apartments also cost more, with units 500-1000 kuai more expensive in Shanghai than in Beijing. 

University tuition prices are not exempted, since they cost more in Shanghai as well. However, there are many student-friendly accommodation and meal options in communities surrounding most universities and your host family, if you decide to stay with one, can help you make wise buying decisions so you can learn to stretch your kuai in areas that matter.

Beijing and Shanghai both offer rich academic experiences and opportunities for the global student. However, you can choose which city is the best fit for you by looking carefully at what each city has to offer and what your preferences are. With the right choice you can enjoy your life as an international student as you study and get to know local Chinese culture even more.

New Zealand

Congratulations – you have made the life-changing decision to study abroad as a foreign exchange student and stay with a host family in New Zealand.  While Asia and Europe are understandably at the top of the list for many students, you may also want to consider New Zealand, a country well known for its stunning scenery and laid-back lifestyle.

People and Culture

Like its neighbor Australia, New Zealand is well known for its casual and relaxed lifestyle, where spending time relaxing outdoors or at a cookout is just as important as working or studying. And like Australia, New Zealand has always been something of a melting pot, attracting people from all over the world looking for a better quality of life, although the country’s native Maori culture still thrives. The diverse population is reflected in the diversity of the food, and the culinary emphasis is very much on fresh, healthy and organic fare. If you visit here as a foreign exchange student, sooner or later you will probably be invited to a barbecue or cookout. When that happens, you can expect to be served fresh and tasty meats, fish and a choice of vegetables, instead of the usual burgers and hot dogs.

The Scenery

New Zealand arguably has some of the most beautiful and spectacular scenery anywhere in the world. Even if you have never visited the country before, if you have seen any of the popular Lord Of the Rings movie trilogy, you have already had a tantalizing glimpse of what to expect.

Snow capped mountains, fjords, lakes and rivers, and miles of unspoiled forests await you when you have some free time as a foreign exchange student in New Zealand. The country’s most famous and visited tourist attraction, Milford Sound, is a World Heritage site and has been described as the 8th wonder of the world.

Away from the sparsely populated countryside, the major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch offer everything you would expect in the way of shopping, nightlife and dining out, arts and culture and sporting events. Wellington is the most southerly capital city in the world, while Auckland was recently voted one of the world’s most livable large cities. And Christchurch may make you think that you are in England rather than in the southern hemisphere.

Extreme Sports and Outdoor Adventures

If you love exploring the great outdoors, there is no better destination than New Zealand. The residents of this small country like nothing better than skateboarding, mountaineering, skiing, white water rafting and bungee jumping; in fact, the sport had its origins in the country, and some of the highest jumps anywhere can be found here.

Queenstown has become known as the extreme sports capital of the world, although wherever you go, there are always plenty of sporting options available. Of course, you don’t have to be into extreme sports to appreciate the country’s glorious scenery, and there are plenty of tours available, allowing you to enjoy the best scenery New Zealand has to offer at a more sedate pace.

The Universities

There are only 8 universities in New Zealand, although they all have a positive reputation, and the make up of the students reflects the country’s diversity. The University of Auckland is considered one of the most innovative universities in Asia and the South

Pacific, and over a dozen of its subjects are ranked in the top 50 in the world. Like the other colleges, the University of Auckland prides itself on making overseas students and staff feel welcome and some of the subjects on offer at the country’s universities sound intriguing. Some of the courses offered include wine studies, anthropology and Maori/Pacific studies.

If your goal as a foreign exchange student is to travel, New Zealand makes an obvious choice. In fact, you can’t travel much further than that – the country is literally on the other side of the world. It’s different enough to feel exotic and exciting and make you realize you are in a foreign country, but at the same time has many of the familiar trappings of home.

And of course, they speak English in New Zealand. The high-quality food, welcoming and easy-to-get-along-with people, wonderful scenery, and opportunities for adventure sports and enjoying the great outdoors, make New Zealand a choice destination for travel.

Rural or Urban?

When it comes to a study abroad program, there are a lot of factors to decide on. Not only do you need to determine what country you want to travel to, you need to decide if you want to stay in a rural area or in the city. You may think that this will be something easy to decide on, but once you start researching, you may find that it becomes harder.

With that said, there are a variety of factors you will want to consider for both locations when you are trying to decide on a foreign exchange student program.

Urban Program

When considering a study abroad program, the first things most people consider is going to a large international city due to all the opportunities there. They have seen pictures in magazines, the Internet and in movies and want to experience it for themselves. There is also reliable internet, television and public transportation to get around. Depending on the age of the foreign exchange student, there are a lot of other elements such as clubs and dancing.

Cities also tend to have a lot of cultural areas such as buildings, museums, public sights and attractions to keep you busy. While you are visiting these places, you will probably be exposed to a lot of different people and a variety of languages which can enhance your experience.

One benefit to a large city is that you will be able to find things that are familiar when you are having a bit of homesickness. There will be a variety of shops that you can buy food you know and may even be restaurants that also reflect your home’s culture. It may be easier to find other foreign exchange student to talk to and learn what you should and should not do while you are there.

But, as with everything else, the above come with a price. In a big city, the cost of living is much higher. The cost of living, food and entertainment can be significantly more than where the student is coming from and can cause both financial distress and culture shock. For someone who does not have a lot of money, it can be a huge when looking at the various study abroad programs.

Not only can a person experience shock when they travel elsewhere for school but they may also have a lot more distractions. If they come from a small community, and now have access to a large city, it may be difficult to settle down to school work when there are movies, museums and any other variety of temptation outside their doors.

Depending on a person’s personality, it may be more difficult to adapt and become comfortable, as traffic, population density, and many other factors can be overwhelming for new city-dwellers. It can be harder to function and get around which could result in some loneliness and isolation. If you are in a study abroad program where you stay with a family, they can help you to cope with the changes and get comfortable.

Country Program

If you choose to take a study abroad program in a rural setting, you will likely have a very different experience than others that choose an urban area. Rural areas tend to be more natural and have less of the amenities that you may find in a larger center.

Typically, a rural foreign exchange student will be in a small center which will be less polluted, with less crime, and lower living costs. You will likely stand out as someone who is not from there which can be a good thing. People will engage you in conversation and want to know about life back in your home country and why you are visiting their country. Depending on the languages involved, this can be a good way to enhance your language skills and for them to practice theirs.

It is hard to say what you may or may not have in a rural setting. You could be in an area that is only a few hundred people and has limited access to things like Internet and public transportation. You could be in an area that is close to a larger center and makes it easier for you to travel to a nearby city to explore.

There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to where you should be a foreign exchange student. But it is important to figure out what you want to get from your study abroad experience when you are making your decision.

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How to Become a Foreign Exchange Student and What to Expect

How to Become A Foreign Exchange Student

Ask anyone who has already done it, and they will probably tell you that studying and living overseas as a foreign exchange student can be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of your life. If living with a host family in another country appeals to you, there are some steps you need to take to make sure that you don’t miss out on this wonderful and unique opportunity.

Plan Ahead

It can take at least several months, and sometimes up to a year to plan your exchange student experience, so you should plan accordingly. You may need to talk to your school or college, and if you are under 18, you will need your parent’s written permission for you to leave the country for that length of time.

You will need a passport, which can take at least several weeks to receive once you have applied, and depending on which country you are going to, you may need to apply for a visa too. If you aren’t sure which country you want to go to, do some research and find out what interests you; it may be the art of France, the cuisine of Italy, or the history and culture of Greece.

If there is one country that you have always wanted to visit, going there as a foreign exchange student can be an affordable, practical and fun way of experiencing it. Ask yourself how far out of your comfort zone you are prepared to be; it is a lot less challenging spending a year in France than a year in Japan or China.

And of course, you will want to make sure that you find the perfect host family. Depending on how quickly you are matched with the family that sounds ideal, that process can also take several weeks or longer. Planning ahead will also make it easier to save money. Not only will you save money on the airfare, but you will also be able to plan out your spending for after you get there.

Learn the Language

Planning your foreign exchange adventure ahead of time also means that you have plenty of time to learn the language spoken in the country you are visiting. True, as a native English speaker, you have an advantage, as English is spoken just about everywhere, including most European countries.

However, you will have a better experience as a foreign exchange student, and your host family will appreciate it, if you at least make some effort to speak the language. And being able to communicate in the language of your chosen country will play a big part in making you feel more settled, more at home and less of an outsider or someone who is just visiting.

The Internet has made it easy to learn to speak a foreign language.  You most likely won’t become fluent in time for your trip, but if you can order a meal in a local restaurant, or be able to decipher even the most basic communication, it can make your experience a lot easier, and give you a head start on learning the language once you arrive.

Embrace the Experience

Planning to go overseas to stay with a host family can be fun, as can anticipating the trip for months ahead of time. However, it isn’t unusual for many foreign exchange students to have second thoughts about leaving home. It’s important to understand that these feelings are natural, and will almost certainly pass after a few weeks.

You can fight those feelings of being homesick by immersing yourself in the experience and getting as much out of it as you can, while at the same time keeping in touch with your friends and family back home. Video chatting with your loved ones in the US every week is easy to do and doesn’t cost anything. It can make a huge difference if you are homesick and just need to see a friendly face.

It’s also worth remembering that almost all matches between host families and exchange students are successful; in fact, many students and families become lifelong friends and keep in touch after the hosting.

If you still have doubts about becoming a foreign exchange student, talk to your family and friends, as well as other students who have had this experience already. Staying with a host family is a once in a lifetime experience for most people, and you may well find that once you are with your host family, you are having such a great time that you just don’t want to come back home.

What’s Life Like as a Foreign Exchange Student?

As a foreign exchange student, you have a chance to experience life in a completely new and unique culture. If you immerse yourself in that culture, you can certainly learn a lot, even if you’re there for only 6 months. At the same time, studying abroad can be a challenge. By accepting the “bad” with the good, you can come away with tales to tell and lessons that will last you a lifetime. 

Things Will Be Different

No two countries are exactly alike when it comes to language, culture, and norms. If you choose to study abroad expect your life to be very different than it is back home. Complaining about the differences will get you nowhere. Embracing the differences will make your stay as a foreign exchange student more enjoyable. It’ll also help you make progress in your studies.

Learning the language, accepting the culture and following your host country’s norms are all a part of embracing the differences. You may have to change the way you talk, dress, or act slightly in the attempt to fit in in your new country and comply with the new culture. 

When it comes to your studies, you’ll need to be open to new teachers and teaching methods if you hope to make progress. Take into account that you’ll be the new kid on the block and will be starting from scratch when it comes to making friends and taking classes. As a foreign exchange student, adaptability will be one of your greatest assets because it puts you in a position to learn and grow.

Host Family

If this is your first time away from home, the thought of living with a strange family can be scary at best. It can also be a tremendous learning experience. To make it work, however, you’ll have to do your part. Your host family will undoubtedly have house rules they expect you to follow. 

Being considerate of their rules and customs opens the door to a good working and living relationship. Your family may also expect you to help around the house. If not, you should volunteer from time to time to show you’re willing to pitch in.

You may have to forgo certain habits, such as smoking, eating at all hours or staying out late on weekends, if that doesn’t sit well with your host family. Some of your habits may be offensive to your host family or raise questions in the area where they live. By being willing to give and take, you can likely to a come to a compromise that suits you both.

If conflicts arise with your host family, try to find common ground. Look for ways to make your situation work rather than bale out. While it’s true that some foreign exchange students change families during the course of their studies due to unresolved differences, many do not. The lessons you learn in adapting to your new situation will serve you well later on in life.

Culture Shock

It’s not unusual for foreign exchange students to suffer from culture shock due to all the differences between their host country and home. It may take you weeks or months to get adjusted to your host family, school and life abroad. Some people adjust right away while others feel “lost” for quite some time. Culture shock can put you on an emotional roller coaster as some days you may feel confused and fearful while other days you’re happy and excited to be where you are. For the most part, culture shock is normal, and your emotions will level out over time.

If you’re having a hard time adjusting, reach out to your host family. They can provide valuable help, counsel, and support when you need it most. Your host “parents” can help keep you on track, so you don’t lose sight of your goals. It helps to be on good terms with your host family as they can keep you “grounded” when your emotions run wild. You’ll also find it more enjoyable living with “strangers” if you take time to turn them into friends. The closer you become to your host family, the easier it is for them to make you feel at home.

Fear of the unknown and fear of failure can put a damper on your experience as a foreign exchange student. These are normal feelings, so take them in stride and try not to let them overwhelm you. Once you overcome language barriers and embrace cultural differences, you’ll begin to make friends and enjoy your life abroad. In addition to being educational, studying abroad should be a venture you never forget.

What If They Don’t Like Me?

Meeting your host family for the first time is a little like going on a date, meeting your classmates or arriving at work on the first day of a new job – it’s natural to ask yourself what if they don’t like me? Most foreign exchange students have those thoughts, and you would be unusual if you didn’t feel that way.

You Aren’t Alone

Everybody gets nervous when meeting someone else for the first time, and being anxious, nervous or even having second thoughts about the entire venture are certainly not unusual. As well as meeting your host family for the first time, you are probably also nervous about spending several months in a foreign country.

As soon as you get the chance, it’s okay to talk to your host family and tell them how you feel. They may be just as nervous and as uncertain as you are – most families are. And if they are quite used to having a foreign exchange student in their hose, they can sit down with you and reassure you, and explain what they expect from you.

Host Families Can Get Nervous Too

Although it may not have occurred to you, the family you are about to meet is perhaps just as anxious as you are at meeting their foreign exchange student for the first time. Excellent communication and telling each other just how you feel are essential, even though you have only just met each other.

Remember that your host family wants you to have a positive and enjoyable experience, despite the fact that you are there primarily for school. Talk to them and let them know how you feel. Being homesick often goes hand in hand with being apprehensive or anxious, and if you have never been so far from home before and are missing family and friends, talk to your host family. Skype is an excellent tool to keep you in touch with your family and friends.

Other Concerns

Many foreign exchange students are nervous or upset because they find that the family they are staying with are not quite what they pictured. Just about all of us form a mental picture of the person we are going to meet if we have talked to them, seen their photograph or read their biography.

Often the reality is a little bit different from the anticipation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just takes some getting used to. You may have submitted your application to be a foreign exchange student a year ago, and during that year you have probably changed a little bit yourself.

Don’t let that preconceived idea of what your host family will be like make you anxious and spoil the experience. Keep in mind that to truly get to know each other can take weeks or months, although it’s never too soon to start.

Not What You Expected

The environment in which you will be spending the next few months can also add to your nervousness or homesickness. Perhaps you aren’t used to living in the big city, and your host family lives in an apartment on a busy street in a large city.

Or perhaps you thrive on the sounds of traffic and your chosen family lives on a farm, or in what might be politely described as the middle of nowhere. Those preconceived ideas of what to expect can be just as upsetting.

Remember, one of the reasons you wanted to be a foreign exchange student in the first place was to experience something different and to see how people live in a different country and environment. Embrace the changes – what seems odd and overwhelming at first won’t always be that way.

Remember, it is reasonable for both the exchange student and the host family to become anxious about the experience, and perhaps even have second thoughts about the whole thing. If you are away from home for a year, that can be a long time, especially if it’s your first time away from home.

And there may be challenges. Being a foreign exchange student can be hard work, and the study time can often seem a lot longer than the free time. A new and different environment does come with its challenges, whether it’s how to operate the television or shower, cope with a barking dog or small children, or simply try to overcome the language barrier.

Many host families become firm and lifelong friends with their overseas exchange student, and by embracing the experience, you can have that positive relationship too.

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