Exchange is change. Rapid, brutal, beautiful, hurtful, colorful, amazing, unexpected, overwhelming and most of all constant change. Change in lifestyle, country, language, friends, parents, houses, school, simply everything. Exchange is learning to trust. Trust people, who, at first, are only names on a piece of paper, trust that they want the best for you, that they care. Trust, that you have the strength to endure a year on your own, endure a year of being apart from everything that mattered to you before. Trust that you will have friends. Trust that everything’s going to be alright. And it is seeing this trust being justified. Exchange is thinking. All the time. About everything. Thinking about those strange costumes, the strange food, the strange language. About why you’re here and not back home. About how it’s going to be like once you come back home. How that boy is going to react when you see him again. About who’s hanging out where this weekend. At first who’s inviting you at all. And in the end where you’re supposed to go, when you’re invited to ten different things. About how everybody at home is doing. Exchange is people. Those incredibly strange people, who look at you like you’re an alien. Those people who are too afraid to talk to you. And those people who actually talk to you. Those people who know your name, even though you have never met them. Those people, who tell you who to stay away from. Those people who talk about you behind your back, those people who make fun of your country. All those people, who aren’t worth your giving a damn. Those people you ignore. And those people who invite you to their homes. Who keep you sane. Who become your friends. Exchange is great. It’s feeling the connection between you and your hostparents grow. It’s meeting people from all over the world. It’s cooking food from your home country and not messing up. Exchange is exchange students. The most amazing people in the whole wide world. Those people from everywhere who know exactly how you feel and those people who become your friends even though you don’t see them that often. Exchange is understanding. Exchange is unbelievable. Exchange is not a year in your life. It’s a life in one year. Exchange is something you will never forget, something that will always be apart of you. It is something no one back at home will ever truly understand. Exchange is growing up, realizing that everybody is the same, no matter where they’re from. That there is great people and douche bags everywhere. And that it only depends on you how good or bad your day is going to be. Or the whole year. And it is realizing that you can be on your own, that you are an independent person. Finally. And it’s trying to explain that to your parents. Exchange is everything. And exchange is something you can’t understand unless you’ve been through. Unless you are an EXCHANGE STUDENT
So You Think You're Home Again:
Some Thoughts for Exchange Students Returning "Home”
By Dennis White, Ph.D.
Initial Culture Shock
Remember what it was like those first few weeks and months going abroad? It was new, exciting, often confusing, and always changing. And while your whole year may have been exciting, it wasn't always pleasant. You probably became irritated with, and even hostile to, your host culture when the deeper differences between your culture and their culture became apparent. As you began to develop real language skills, and you better understood fundamentally different cultural values, you began the slow process of adapting. Eventually, maybe only at the end of your stay, you began to realize how you could really fit in adapting fairly well to your adopted culture, while maintaining your own native cultural identity. You became bicultural. And then, just when it was getting good, the year was over and you had to go "home".
Most people who live abroad for an extended time go through similar successive stages of culture shock. These...