By Hanan Ghazzaoui (YES 2018 – 2019, Lebanon, hosted by CCI in Delavan, WI)
Dear future exchange students,
You are about to embark on a journey that will change your lives forever. Get ready, and fasten your seat belts as you are about to experience the broad spectrum of adventures, trials, challenges and achievements! When you arrive at your destination, you will understand that your efforts will pay off. You should be incredibly proud for being chosen as YES students, as it demonstrates your skills, talents and flexibility. As a former exchange student, I would like to share with you five pieces of advice that I learned from my personal experience. I hope my perspective inspires and helps you in one way or another.
1. Try not to have expectations:
It can be extremely challenging not to have any expectations for your exchange year, especially when you are thrilled to meet your host community and start living the life you’ve been dreaming of for so long. It’s important to keep in mind that having realistic expectations is much healthier, and will keep you motivated throughout the year to accomplish your goals. It will save you disappointments and help you adjust faster.
2. Be fully present:
Living in the moment is the key to making the best of your year. Let go of any worries that you have and learn to enjoy the small moments that you share with your friends and family, and the memories you make in your host country. When you return home, you will happily reflect on those times. Even in times of frustration, focus on having a positive mindset and realize that it is a part of the journey.
3. Find your balance:
Keeping up with your life back home and your life in your host community can be tricky to balance at times. In addition, it is significant to maintain good grades and be involved in your community by volunteering and participating in extracurricular activities. It is important to find balance between school time and family time, and practicing time management skills will make your experience much easier.
4. Be open and flexible:
Being flexible and open to new ideas is beneficial for a successful exchange year. These traits will teach you many lessons and will strengthen your conflict resolution skills and self-confidence. Express any concerns that you might have to trusted individuals like your host family or school representatives, and be willing to make some changes to adjust to your new life. Most importantly, always be yourself.
5. Step out of your comfort zone:
It has been said that a comfort zone is a beautiful place - but nothing ever grows there. This is especially true if you have big goals for your exchange year and if you want to try new things. Growth happens when we think outside the box and challenge ourselves, which is what exchange is all about!