Living as an Exchange Program Student

How many times in life you have wondered: should I do this? Or shouldn’t I? We need to make choices and the hardest part is the fact that by choosing one, we are abdicating of all the others possibilities. This question came to my life as suddenly as it came true. Would you like to do an exchange? In the beginning, it appears to be really far from our reality, but our dreams are just as far as our courage to accept them and just live it. I am not able to translate in words everything I spent during this period, but I am sure of one thing: it was worth it. As my experience changed me in a way I can’t describe or even remember who I was before that, I was intrigued. I wanted to know other girl’s experiences, listen to them, remember with them and the most important thing (at least before I started this project) to answer one simple question: What is the best time in life to do an exchange? 

As you can imagine, that was not a simple question as I thought. I heard amazing and curiosity stories about unusual host families, difficulties to deal with other exchanges in the same house, walks in the mountain with Korean friends, dreams being realized once she got in the Parsons, meting her boyfriend, traveling with friends to know countries from Europe… No matter how different the experiences are, they ended with the same smile on their face and a phrase: I’d do everything again. As I couldn’t find an answer for my previously question, I decided to relate some stories on this text for you to decide by yourself.

Yulia Serra when she visited London (UK)

Let’s start with those who did it during High School. Giuliana de Oliveira, Radio and TV student, spent two weeks on Disney during the first grade and guarantee “The best thing I own with this experience was the hard times I gone through, once I needed to be mature and learn from other people”. Isadora Almeida, who stayed 6 months in New Zeeland, justify she did it on the best time because it was one for her latest years without “concerns” and she completed “Just go: try everything and don’t return with regrets. Lose yourself in the city. Having some turbulences for culture differences, language or missing home is normal and everybody survives.” She doesn’t think that is an excuse to prevent yourself. For Vitória Motta, the exchange was the perfect escape “I had just broke up my relationship. I only cried and the exchange made me realized that life was much more than that”. She spent only one month in Vancouver, Canada, but that was enough for her to grow and move on. Lanna Dogo, who stayed on an Island in Canada for a whole year, confirms that was the perfect time “because, at this age, we still allow ourselves to change” she finished “I learnt a lot as a citizen… about how to live in a community”. All those last three girls went on second grade of High School.

Giuliana de Oliveira at Magic Kingdom, Orlando (EUA)

About traveling during the third grade, we can read considerations of five girls. Ana Luísa Moreira, that spent 4 months in London recommended other people to stay on student’s residences, once living together with other cultures was her best memory “We spent 24 hours a day with all our friends, acting like daddies, moms and brothers”, she emphasizes “I loved the fact that I had independence to do what I wanted and whenever I wanted”. Besides that, Lais Sobrinho, after staying in Winnipeg, Canada for 6 moths declared “Evolution was my best gain, I learnt to live with what I had, so my mind opened to knew things and is, now, more acceptance to changes”. Mariana D’Ávila, journalism student, argued it was the best period for her since “I was on High School, I didn’t have bills to pay, I wasn’t worry about jobs, career or future, I just lived sorely every day”. The girl who stayed 10 months on Portland, United States, advises “Take risks, live the present, time flies and, when you stop to see, you’re on a plane coming back to Brazil”. Therefore, Beatriz Fialho, who stayed in Toronto, Canada during one-month vacation, went with her boyfriend only feel sorry for hadn’t stayed longer “I was worried with university exams, so I lost the opportunity to stay for 6 months (…) I pretend to go back and live there”. Mariana Marques reinforced the importance of the dialogue “Don’t be ashamed! After all, you don’t want to ruined the best days of your life, do you?”. The journalism student who exchanged in Belgium with 16 years old just criticized one point about traveling at this time “We weren’t able to go to some parties and places for our age and I had to had an authorization from my parents to travel”.   

Mariana D'Ávila at Portland (USA)

After college, Izabela Fini, Isadora Pirágine and Jamileh Hazbun decided to do an exchange. The first one went to Canada for 5 months and thought that was the perfect time to go, because she needed to fresh her mind with all the university exams pressure. She reveals that she disconnected from Brazil and suggested “Run from Brazilians, otherwise you will only speak in Portuguese”. Isadora, after 5 months in California, agrees with her by saying “I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do professionally, so it was the best option to me” and continued “My advice for everyone is to do an exchange, because it’s an opportunity to open your mind, know different places and deal with different people.” At last, Jamileh, who also stayed in California, but for 3 months, hadn’t got in Cásper and she didn’t want another university or nether to do a prep school, so she travelled in order to improve her English. She ended her speech with a message “When I remember this phase, words as happiness and freedom come to my mind”.

Izabela Fini and her experience at Canada

Júlia Kalili and Giulianna Iodice decided to travel abroad during the university, both after the second year. Júlia spent 10 months in Israel with other friends from her synagogue. She just gave up of her “perfect life” to try something new and assumed the result was satisfying “The best gain was the courage. Courage that still inspires me today when I have to make decisions. We can’t stay in our comfort zone, we have to aloud ourselves to live”. According to Giulianna, who stayed 7 months in New York, the most important gain was to discover herself professionally and find out her goals for the future “I learnt to be very focus and decided in order to achieve my goals.”. On the other hand, Avana Salles, decided to exchange to Los Angeles after graduating in journalism. She traveled with Au Pair which means she worked in a family house as a nanny for 45 hours per week and earn wages plus 500 dollars to spend in courses of her interest. For this girl, exchange after university is great, because you don’t delay graduation, you have maturity enough to face all the adversities, you have your goals well defined and you learn how to administrate your money “Everybody is saying I came back a lot more mature, as a grown woman”. To finalize, Aldreen Staff chose to go after de MBA to California. At the age of 25, she thinks she went “too old”, once the city was young and she didn’t have the same energy as when she was 20. For her, it was an experience to lose her fear of taking risks and living something out of her control. Her advice was direct “Plan and focus”. 

Giulianna Iodice, at New York

Independently of which time each girl decided to travel, all of them repeated some gains: friendship, not only with the local people, but, specially, other exchange students, knowing different cultures with the intimacy after sometime in the country and by talking and interacting with people from all over the world, traveling to neighbors countries, getting out of their comfort zone, maturation, losing the shame, losing the fear, winning responsibility and independence. Lais Sobrinho affirms “I’d do everything again, knowing other cultures added a lot in the human I became”, Izabela Fini noticed “I wanted to improve my English, but I did much more than that” and Aldreen Staff concluded “The best experience is to live with plurality. I lived with all the races, religions, ages… it’s beautiful to see people fighting for what they believe.”. Pick your bag, choose a country, take some time, take some risks, get out of your bubble.