Roman, a high school exchange student from Germany, provides the following detailed story about his experiences to let people know the value of international exchange from his firsthand perspective.
An Exchange Year in the USA is a Worthwhile Experience
My name is Roman and I am a German foreign exchange student who is staying in the USA for this school year. The exchange program has been an important change in my life so far and has brought many new aspects and advantages for my life with it. But the general question I have always been asked is what it really gives you besides fun and if it is really worth it. I noticed that many people in the USA are really interested in exchange students and support them, but some people also doubt it and do not see a reason to waste a year and to live with people that are strangers.
Probably the most important thing you gain during an exchange year is experience that you can only get if you really live it and gain it by yourself. Julius Caesar once said, “Experience is the teacher of all things,” which can basically be applied to every ability a human can have.
Whenever we do something new we get new impressions and our own individual experience. During an exchange year, a student does new things all the time like meeting new kinds of people and being a stranger to everyone. But all these experiences contribute to the ability of being independent and getting along with new things without the help of any people or things known before. This independence is the major ability a foreign exchange student can only experience and learn by himself, and that is literally impossible to teach anyone.
Another aspect of the program is the cultural exchange which is of high interest for both the foreigner and the host country. The exchange program is often referred to as a friendship between two countries who trust each other and represents a cultural exchange. Especially when two countries are very far away from each other like the USA and Germany, the knowledge of the other culture is mostly based on stereotypes so people from both countries get to know many new things about the other country through the exchange.
Last but not least, there is also a big academic progress and advantage for students visiting a foreign country. The first aspect is the great improvement of the foreign language which is English in the case of visiting the USA. Learning English in a classroom with 30 other students is a huge difference to being in an English speaking environment for one year without any other option than adopting the language, which helps a lot.
In the end, an exchange year in a foreign country is a great opportunity that opens many windows and offers advantages. It gives you one more year for pondering your possibilities for after graduation, gives you many impressions and experiences and so much more. You get to know many different and interesting people, improve your résumé and last but not least you have a lot of fun. An exchange year literally changes your life, personality and perspective on things. It’s a great and worthwhile experience, highly recommended… for EVERYONE!
Thanks, Roman, for this beautiful essay about the value of your experience as an AYA student. It’s fantastic that you found so much meaning and opportunity through international student exchange! We hope your words will encourage many students to consider high school exchange opportunities—and inspire many Americans to open their homes to host great students like you—long into the future!