On this site, we collected all kinds of opinions and experiences about exchange years.
Craig - a student from Texas tells about his experiences with exchange
Raelene - an exchange student from Australia who is staying in
Switzerland right now.
Becky - a hostmom from Iowa.
Jill - another hostmom.
Patsy - an IEC (International Exchange Coordinator) from Texas.
Click here to read about our ownexperiences.
"Last year I got to know a few of the exchange
students at Leander High School. I would say that it was a fun experience and I think that the
exchange program is pretty fun for everyone. It is quite interesting from an American's point of
view to learn about the different countries that the exchange students come from. Something that
is fun about the experience is that it makes you think more about a lot of the things you take for
granted and makes you pay special attention to specific things which are different from America.
Another aspect of the exchange program which is interesting is how we, as Americans, see the
exchange students. I think that most people just envision people in other countries as weird
people who wander around and make clicking noises at each other to communicate, and are living in
some country where they live in fear of the government. However, after you get to know these
"strange foreigners" you begin to realize that their country is very similar to America in many
ways and that people your age in other countries usually have many of the same interests. So
overall I would say that I am very happy to have met the exchange students at my high school
and it was a lot of fun to interact with them while they were here."
"My adventure began three months ago, when I rushed through Sydney Airport to
board a plane that eventually headed for Switzerland. Saying "good-bye" was really
sad and difficult, as one could imagine, but for me it was too quick. I had literally ten
minutes to give everyone, my family, relatives and friends, big hugs. I was doing fine
until I came to my three year old niece. Knowing that I was going to miss one whole year of
her life, seeing her grow up, just started the waterworks. It was hard learning, but once I
was through the terminal, the excitement returned and I looked forward to having a great
Iíve been in Switzerland for three months now, and I absolutely love it here.
I would not change my mind about going on this exchange for anything. Iím a quarter of my way
through my stay and I canít believe I only have nine more months left! Time flies when youíre
having fun, and the last three months have flown.
Although each personís exchange is different and unique, there are certain
things which every exchange student experiences. Iíve only just begun my exchange, but I can
tell you a lot about my experiences over the last three months...
Initially, each exchange student experiences the "preparing" stage, in the
home country. When I found out I was coming to Switzerland, I was so exited and couldnít wait.
This adventure appeared a dream, something unbelievable and scary, but a life-time opportunity.
I was well prepared by my exchange organization, with two debriefing weekends and a farewell
concert. Packing was hard Ė with 20kg limit I had to be very careful in choosing what to bring,
- only the necessities, not the wants. It took about a week! And vacating my room Ė well, thatís
The truth is, it never really seemed reality to me until I was on the plane.
The "plane trip": A 24 hours flight with a three hour stop over in Singapore would have been
extremely boring and virtually impossible without the little televisions each person had.
Sleeping was the worst Ė plane seats are so uncomfortable! The food and service was great and
there was always time to talk to other exchange students going through exactly the same thing.
We became so excited as we landed in Zurich Airport because frosty-iciness formed on the outside
of the window. It actually snowed in Switzerland!
The next step is the "culture shock". Some exchange students donít experience this at all, but
for me, it was the opposite. I was so culture-shocked. EVERYTHING IS SO DIFFERENT! My first
impression was: "Itís cold!!!" Ė coming from 35įC summer heat in Australia, to Ė2įC
winter, itís a little understandable. Dogs in Cafés, driving on the right-hand side, so
many clocks, snow!!, lots of trains and trams, really old buildings, "Deutsch" (German), the
gorgeous Alps, farms, fashion, people and culture, tiny streets, S road roundabouts...
everything is so different. It took me about three weeks to get over the differences between
the cultures. They werenít better or worse, just different.
Once settled into a family, the "communication" barrier can be a real problem, particularly
for those who donít know how to speak the language. I did not know one single word of German
before I came here, but I was fortunate enough to live with a family who speaks fluent English.
Attending an intensive German course helped me so much to speak and communicate. I often make
mistakes although there were some classic moments when laughter was the only remedy. The
second day I was here I visited Lenk, and saw the absolutely beautiful Alps for the first time.
At a kiosk I bought a packet of chips and when the lady gave me the change I wanted to say
"Thank you very much" but instead "good-bye" came out. It was so embarrassing, but such
situations helped me to learn the language. It was, and still is, very difficult, especially
the Grammar, but I love communicating in another language and I can do that now.
"Adjusting" to the whole lifestyle, culture and family took me about two months. However,
going to cafťs, attending school, going out on Friday and Saturday nights, seeing concerts,
talking and meeting new people, dancing, schlitteln, Fasnacht!!(the best)... one can see that
it was not very hard to adjust to. Itís a very busy, exciting and lively lifestyle, in
comparison to my lazy and laid-back lifestyle in Australia Ė but...
I LOVE IT HERE! The buildings, mountains and surroundings are picturesque and beautiful,
sightseeing fantastic churches, the people are so nice and friendly and the lifestyle is great!
I have had a fun-packed fantastic three months and excitedly look forward to another great
nine months! Ė swimming in the Aare and touring around Europe! CANíT WAIT!"
"Our family was called about hosting a boy from Switzerland only a couple
weeks before he was due to arrive in the USA. We met Peter at the Des Moines airport on a
Friday night. We were neverous because we did not know for sure what he looked like. We held
up a sign welcoming him so he would at least know who we were.
We talked about a lot of things on the way back from the air port. We found out that Pete had
a birthday just a few weeks after the arrival so we gave him some American clothes. We were
very excited that Pete had a very good understanding of the English language since none of us
spoke German. Pete's only problem was that the americans seem to speak very fast. As his new
Mom I had to learn to slow down when I spoke and listen when he spoke so that we could
understand each other better. Pete also picked up on the american slang very quickly but having
two American brothers living in the same house probably helped.
Our first project for Pete was to enroll him in school. He could not believe that he actually
got to choose all the classes he would learn and only had to do 4 of them a day for nine weeks.
He then changed them for 4 more classes and did this 4 times during that year. He was a very
good student so learning was not hard for him. We learned that our kids do not have to work
as hard as the Swiss children do to go to school. But of course everyone goes for 13 years
here and it is not free to go to school. Pete decided to be in the dance team and to try cross
country running. We also tried to talk him into being in the band but he thought that we meant
a rock and roll band which is not what we have in school. After seeing his brothers perform
in the first football game half time he decided that he wanted to take part in the band also.
Pete also fit right into our family. He never acted like he was homesick or complained about
anything even though I'm sure there were many things that he did not always agree with. We
feel that we got the best foreign exchange student that we could have had. Pete was always
ready to try something new and if he didn't like it he would just not do it again. He also ate
everything we did, even meat, and we did not find out for at least a week that at home he
almost never ate meat. We told him his mother would die if she only knew all the things we
fed him but he said that he came to America to eat junk food. He did like it and our
favorite story of Pete is the way he ate the peanut brittle that Grandma made at Christmas
time. He liked it so much that he ate almost the whole bag by himself.
I think that he got some this year for Christmas from his grandparents in the USA. We are really
glad that we decided to have a foriegn exchange student in our home and hope to do it again
in the future. Our whole family received blessing from having Peter in our home. He even got
to experience us getting a new home and packing to move. We miss him and hope to someday come
to Switzerland to visit him and his country."
"I had a hostsister from Japan when I was in high school and we had a very
good year together. But the best part is that we have been keeping in touch during the years
after and sharing our lives as we went to college together. We have visited each other and
each contact has been very special. So as I have a family now we were talking about having a
student at our house. When the children were younger it seemed like not the right time. So
when our son went off to college our daughter decided she would like to have an exchange
student. We were nervous that we would get a student that we could get along with and even be
able to talk with okay. We chose from 3 girls from Japan, China and Sweden. My daughter
picked Fuyuna because she wanted to be involved in many things and she liked dogs - like our
family. When she came, we were nervous again because she was very quiet but after a few months
the language became very comfortable and we had a very good year. She did not seem to mind
the very smallness of our town and our area. She got to learn to drive which she was very
excited about. Fuyuna was involved in every sport and all the fine arts. We all discovered
that talking in a foreign language was very tiring! The year went very quickly and we miss
her now that she is back home. In one year she really became family. We still call it
Fuyuna's room. Exchange programs touch your lives forever and leave them so much richer."
"I have always enjoyed working with students from different cultures, because
they have many different out looks to our lifes and the way we live in the USA. But to me I
enjoy the life and cultures of many different countries. The exchange students bring light
into our lifes, and we in return hope to do the same. Each and every one of you students is
different even if you all are from the same country. Just as we are different. Some time we
do not see eye to eye but that's why we are able to get to talk things out. Some of the
differences that I have seen in the exchange students is that most of the exchange student
are more grown up than some of our own students. As I see it you all get to stay out later
than we do. And most of you all have to walk or ride the train or bus .But we (our student )
think that they have to have a car. I belive that the exchange student are more polite (good
social manners). I have always enjoyed working with EF as a program for exchange students
because they try to make sure that students are placed with the right family."