Yeah you, the ones who are so excited to fly away in just a few months or weeks. Take a deep breath, this is really exciting - I know! Here’s a few tips from a girl who is not ready to leave her host country, hopefully they are a bit different from the “don’t hide in your room” tips you always hear:
1. Take photos. Of everything. A good meal, your friends, a dog you see on the street. Do not be embarrassed to take selfies in front of random things. The locals won’t get it, but they don’t have to.
2. Eat the scary thing. It might be nasty, it might be amazing - either way you have a story.
3. Don’t take a single moment de granted. Because one day you won’t see that view of the town on your long, rainy walk home. You will miss it.
4. Exchange weight is whatever. Eat all the things. Eat Japanese sweets and Italian pasta with your friends until your stomach hurts from good food and laughing.
5. A good way to make friends is just tagging along. My best friends here, I made by pretty much following them around for weeks until I became a part of the friend-clique. It works!
6. Take a deep breath. Some days, everything will suck. Remember how lucky you are to explore the world.
7. Go to school. But also skip class. Be lagom, as the Swedes say. It doesn’t translate to English properly, but it means not too much, not too little - just right.
8. Remember that you go through 5 years worth of growth in exchange. That comes with five years of emotions in one year. Feel these intense feelings, and roll with them. Let them come. It will make you better.
Good luck, my little exchangers! You’ve got the world ahead of you - go take it all in!
Exchange is strange because you live two lives. Not just in the sense of where you came from and where you are now, but something more than that. You have the life you show on Facebook and the wicked pictures you post on Instagram and the fun, PG outings you write about in your blog, but what nobody knows until they get there is what’s beneath that surface. No one back home hears about when you sat in the bathroom and cried on the first day of school because your classmates just blankly stared at you when you walked into the classroom. Nobody knows about the times when your host mom washes your laundry and it takes a week to dry. No one hears about the times when you cry when you wake up and count the days until you’re back home. Nobody hears about the silent dinners with your host family when they aren’t up for talking. No one hears about the times you’re yelled at for things that you can’t even control. No one knows about the nights when your host dad texts you at 11:30, telling you it’s time to come home. See, people don’t hear about each and every strand of hair you have to remove from the drain every time you finish taking a shower, in an attempt to not annoy your host family. Nobody hears about the hours spent studying the language. Nobody hears about the shitty feeling you get when you realize that you were probably only invited to this party because you’re foreign and the boys want to get you drunk. Exchange is hard, and this is what nobody realizes. Exchange is dry skin, terrible breakouts, brittle nails and hair that falls out. Exchange is not always fitting in. Exchange is inevitably feeling pathetic sometimes.
But that’s where the magic lies. This is the reason why we grow. If we weren’t pushed to our emotional limits, we wouldn’t become completely different people. Exchange makes you sympathetic, tolerant, adaptable, more chilled out. The bad things make the good things that much sweeter. Exchange life is life to the utmost extreme, and once you’ve lived it, you’ll never be the same again.
Exchange is change. Rapid, brutal, beautiful, hurtful, colourful, amazing,
unexpected, overwhelming and most of all constant change. Change in
lifestyle, country, language, friends, parents, houses, school, simply
everything. Exchange is realizing that everything they told you beforehand is wrong, but also right in a way.
Exchange is going from thinking you know who you are, to having no idea
who you are anymore to being someone new. But not entirely new. You are
still the person you were before but you jumped into that ice cold
lake. You know how it feels like to be on your own. Away from home, with
no one you really know. And you find out that you can actually do it.
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 girl is going to react when you see her
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. About how stupid this whole time-zone thing is. Not only because
of home, but also because the tv ads for shows keep confusing you.
Thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong. About how stupid or rude
you just were to someone without meaning to be. About the point of all
this. About the sense of life. About who you want to be, what you want
to do. And about when that English essay is due, even though you’re
marks don’t count. About whether you should go home after school, or
hang out at someone’s place until midnight. Someone you didn’t even know
a few months ago. And about what the hell that guy just said.
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 music. New music, weird music, cool music, music you will
remember all your life as the soundtrack of your exchange. Music that
will make you cry because all those lyrics express exactly how you feel,
so far away. Music that will make you feel like you could take on the
whole world. And it is music you make. With the most amazing musicians
you’ve ever met. And it is site reading a thousand pages just to be part
of the school band. Exchange is uncomfortable. It’s feeling out of
place, like a fifth wheel. It’s talking to people you don’t like. It’s
trying to be nice all the time. It’s bugs.. and bears. It’s cold,
freezing cold. It’s homesickness, it’s awkward silence and its feeling
guilty because you didn’t talk to someone at home. Or feeling guilty
because you missed something because you were talking on Skype.
Exchange is great. It’s feeling the connection between you and your host
parents grow. It’s knowing in which cupboard the peanut butter is. It’s
meeting people from all over the world. It’s having a place to stay in
almost every country of the world. It’s cooking food from your home country and not messing up. It’s seeing beautiful landscapes that you never knew existed.
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 absolute best friends even though you
only see most of them 3 or 4 times during your year. The people, who
take almost an hour to say their final goodbyes to each other. Those
people with the jackets full of pins. All over the world. Exchange is falling in love with this amazing, wild, beautiful country. And with your home country.
Exchange is frustrating. Things you can’t do, things you don’t
understand. Things you say, that mean the exact opposite of what you
meant to say. Or even worse… Exchange is understanding. Exchange is unbelievable. Exchange is not a year in your life. It’s a life in one year. Exchange is nothing like you expected it to be, and everything you wanted it to be. Exchange is the best year of your life so far. Without a doubt. And it’s also the worst. Without a doubt.
Exchange is something you will never forget, something that will always
be a part 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 dancing
in the rain for no reason, crying without a reason, laughing at the
same time. It’s a turmoil of every emotion possible. Exchange is everything. And exchange is something you can’t understand unless you’ve been through it !
Going on exchange is actually kind of crazy if you think about it. Like bye mom and dad, I’m gonna go live in a foreign country where I don’t understand anything and live with people I’ve never met. See you in a year.
On Thursday night, I got back from having spent a week in Northern Germany on exchange. I stayed with a host family, and there were 8 other people from England who travelled with me.
Before I went, I was absolutely terrified (as you might have seen). I knew I was capable of speaking German, but whether I’d actually manage it or not was a completely different matter. I remember being at the airport in England and not wanting to speak a word of German to the other people with me so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself.
We landed in Germany in the evening, and met our exchange partners in the airport. My exchange partner was absolutely lovely. When I met her, we started talking in German and didn’t stop for a while. It took me a couple of minutes to properly communicate, mostly because I was so scared, but then I was fine. We were having such an in-depth conversation, that before my German teacher actually heard me speak, she assumed we were talking in English.
I can’t tell you how encouraging people were about us speaking German. This is going to sound really arrogant here, but I was complimented on my German a lot. After the first day, constantly speaking German felt completely natural. Before, speaking German was a massive deal to me, and whenever anyone spoke to me in German, it was really obvious that I was really really trying. But then I could speak it casually, without feeling scared. Now I can speak faster than I can think, which doesn’t really help when I get myself in to a mess with my word order. My accent also improved slightly, which was weird when I realised, because I noticed that when I spoke German, I didn’t sound like me anymore.
Part of the exchange involved us going in to the German school and experiencing their lessons. Sometimes I had to actually participate in the lessons, other times I was just left to do what I wanted. The school was in a really nice city next to a load of shops, so when the German exchange partners had exams, we went in to the city and went shopping.
We also did a lot of tours. A lot of what we did was focused on history, which not a lot of people found interesting. Some of the tours were in English, which I found a bit pointless because I wasn’t there to practise English (obviously).
Everyone there was so nice. I made some new friends, which I usually find really hard to do. The group from Germany and the group from England, half of which I didn’t actually know before the trip because we’re not all in the same class, were all so lovely and we all got on really well. The German parents were also really nice to us when they met us and always said something nice about our German.
I realised that I can understand what someone has said to me in German, but I forget it straight away. This was only really a problem when I was in lessons, because I would forget what I was doing and constantly have to ask. I also found that I had to use vocab that I hadn’t expected to ever use in Germany. On the way to my exchange partner’s house from the airport, I used the word ‘Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’. In a Geography lesson, I had to talk about nuclear power plants. It just goes to show that learning as much vocab as you can is really important when learning a language, because you never know when you’ll have to use it.
Food wasn’t really a problem for me. Of course there was a lot of bread, meat, and cheese, but that was fine. I brought loads of food back with me. I couldn’t manage more than 24 hours on sparkling water though, and had to ask for some still water.
Overall, I had such a good time. I took loads of pictures and made some really good friends. I’m really looking forward to the Germans coming to England in a couple of months, and I really want them to have a good experience here like I did there.
My friend showed me this week the most adorable cafe ever! It’s called Ver’s Day and it’s located in Yeonnam-dong in Hongdae. It’s really small and it was full when we came but luckily we still managed to get a table!
But, can we talk about the main point of the cafe aka FLOWERS AND PLANTS EVERYWHERE. I’m a huge plant lover and I just adored the place. First when I saw the cafe I seriously thought it was a flower shop or something, but it turned out to be even better!
I just loved the athmosphere and the decor, no wonder it’s such a popular place~