Sunday, February 21, 2016

What I've learned from my exchange year

At the beginning of 2015 I made a blogpost called Why an exchange year? in which I explained my reasons for going to the USA. When I was reading through old blogposts I came across that list and I was surprised to see that I've experienced all the things on that list! I decided to wrote this blogpost about everything I learned during my (almost) 7 months abroad.

I've learned to get out of my comfort zone and to just do it. 
This exchange year is probably the scariest thing I've ever done and will ever do in my entire life. Leaving my family and friends for people I don't even know yet, in another country, with another language and another culture. Of course it scared me a lot, but I was ready for a change in my life, an experience I would never forget. So I just did it. And that's what I am doing during my year too. Want to try a new sport? Just do it. Want to audition for the school play? Just do it. Want to talk to new people? Just do it. Because an exchange year is mostly what you make out of it yourself, and by just trying out new things you can have the best possible experience.

Hiking with some awesome friends this weekend
I've learned how to make new friends.
Of course, people are generally more interested in exchange students, but that doesn't matter that it's easier to make friends. During my time here I learned how to just introduce myself to people and start conversations with them. Through my friends I learned a lot about the American culture and how American teenagers spend their time. And now I feel like an American myself too!

I do miss my pretty hometown, Zwolle
I've learned how to appreciate what I have.
Before my year I always wanted to get out of my home country, the Netherlands. I thought the USA was way cooler. But now I've realized that the Netherlands is a great country too. I love how everyone bikes everywhere, how good our healthcare is, that we are so open to other cultures and all the history the country has. I still think the USA is really cool but I'm also proud of my home country.

I've learned all about the American culture.
Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, spirit week, homecoming... I've experiences all those typically American traditions and holidays I wanted to experience. But I've also got a deeper understanding of the American culture, how people interact with each other and what people like to do.

So true!
I've learned how to make the best out of a situation.
An exchange year is never gonna be perfect, trust me. The most important thing is to make the best out of it yourself. Before I arrived here, I thought my year was gonna be awesome every single day. But it's not like that! There are days I'm really homesick or days I just want to stay in bed. There are struggles with friends and family, there are cultural differences... It can't always be great, but I definitely learned that the little things are so important as well! Not every situation is gonna be great, but if you can't change it it's better to look at the positive things.

Throwback to the Welcome Days when seeing a school bus was the most awesome thing ever and our accents were way heavier!
I've learned how to speak English better.
I still have an accent that's never going to go away, and I don't want to! Because I think an accent is a sign of bravery, since a person is not in their own country and isn't speaking their own language. However, my English has definitely improved. It's natural for me to speak it now, and I'm using some Southern words like 'y'all'. I think it's a great thing to be bilingual!

These are the most important things I've learned, and I think a lot of other exchange students will agree on this. I hope to learn even more things in the next few months and I'm sure now that my exchange years is an experience I'll never forget. I can't thank my parents enough for the opportunity they gave me (by the way, today it's exactly one month until I'll see them again!).

If you're an exchange student too, what have you learned from your year? 


  1. Echt tof dat je er zo veel van geleerd hebt! En aan al je posts te zien was het ook gewoon SUPERGAAF!! :)

  2. It's good to see you grow up.

  3. Echt een hele leuke blogpost!! Ninaa