If you're considering being an exchange student (or if you've decided and need some help convincing your parents to let you go), the benefits you'll get from the experience of living abroad for a year with a host family are vast. Here are some things you can expect to get out of your exchange year.
You'll learn another language. Many students choose to do their exchange year in a country in which they already have some knowledge of the language. So, if you've been taking Spanish for a few years, for example, Spain and Mexico are great places to consider. You'll broaden and deepen your knowledge of the language by immersing yourself in it 24/7, and come away from the experience with a near-fluent level of proficiency.
You'll get a second family. Host families welcome their exchange student into their homes like a true part of the family. Students forge deep bonds that last a lifetime with their host parents and siblings. For the rest of your life, you'll know that there is another family, perhaps halfway across the world, that has your back.
You'll learn about and adapt to a culture that's not your own. As an exchange student, you'll immerse yourself in the culture and customs of another country. You'll get to try different foods and adjust to doing all kinds of things in a different way. Also, you can share things about your culture and customs in return, hence the term "exchange." Host families truly want to learn about your culture and share their own.
You'll know what it's really like to live in another country. You can't get an experience like this by simply traveling to another country and seeing the sights. This is about day-to-day living, and it's a rare opportunity to really know what it's like to live in another place.
You'll gain a new perspective on the world. Learning the language, bonding with your host family and immersing yourself in another culture broadens you as a person, and gives you a perspective that you simply would not have if you stayed at home.
You'll grow up and become independent before college. While you will be living with a host family, you are striking out on your own, away from everything and everyone who is familiar to you. You will realize that you're a strong, independent person who is capable of handling life on your own. Many students struggle with this when they first go away to college, but you'll have it down.
You'll meet new friends from around the world. Exchange programs hold regular events for their exchange students, so you'll have no trouble meeting people who are all going through the same things you are going through. Exchange students typically develop deep bonds with their fellow "exchangers" because they can relate to each other right away. You'll gain a truly global perspective by making friends from all across the globe.
For more information about becoming an exchange student, visit us at Youth For Understanding. We've got answers to all of your (and your parents') questions (and your parents' questions too!).