Vitoria is a former student from Brazil! Vitoria spent her junior year at Waukesha High School and lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with her host family on the Academic Year Program. You can read her other posts here, here, here, here, and here.
By Former AYP Student Vitoria
Another school year is beginning, meaning that there are new exchange students arriving for the time of their lives. Can you believe it? Time has gone by so fast! I got met host family in early August 2017, and I just realized it has been a year already since we first met. Crazy, huh?
For this blog post, I decided to share what I think I could have done differently to maximize my experience abroad. I don't mean to make this seem like I did not enjoy my exchange. That is not it. I have no regrets regarding when I studied abroad. My goal with this blog post is to give you my best advice about life as an exchange student.
To get started, I would say that avoiding electronic devices more would have been more helpful. Try to keep your cell phone, laptop, and other personal electronic devices away from you most of the time. We know social media can be tempting, especially at our age, and it can get in our way from talking to people at school and at home.
I wish I had gone to say “hi” to people who I wanted to be friends with sooner. Here is my advice: don’t wait for anyone to sit with you. Just go out there and politely ask to sit with them. Even though most of the kids at school have known each other since kindergarten or elementary school, they probably won't be rude to you, you just got to take initiative and show them who you are.
Do not get me wrong on this one. I love my friends. I am glad I got to meet awesome best friends on this journey, and I miss them so much! But one thing I realized is that I also could have connected to other awesome people, you know? Including more local people. I could have tried to talk to new people and not to get in my comfort zone with my exchange friends I already knew. I value my friends a lot, which is one thing I definitely don’t regret, but I could have been less shy and tried to be friends with other groups as well. You can be friends with all of them. Just don't limit yourself by being shy or afraid.
I could have expressed my personal opinion more. I was always the “it is up to you” kind of person. Being flexible, especially when living in someone's else house, is essential for me. It is not a bad thing, and I consider it a great personality trait. But at the end of the program, I realized I could have said more of what I was feeling whenever people requested my opinion, instead of being too flexible to the point of not letting them know what my "wishes" were. It does not mean to impose what you want - please, don't do that, you'll just be selfish and rude.
I also would have tried to speak my native language less while in the U.S. (on calls, with Brazilian friends, etc.). Speaking English most of the time is different at first if you never went out of your country, but you will realize speaking English will become natural the more you practice.
Not sure about something? Ask. Have no idea what they are talking about? Ask. Anything you would be interested in knowing more about? Ask. You won't get yelled at for asking, believe me, people won't think bad about you. I have never heard about an exchange student who got yelled at for having a question. Your goal is to learn. I just wish I had followed this philosophy the earliest.
I am not a morning person at all, but right now I miss my exchange so much that I even wish I had woken up like super early on each day off I had (on school days we had to wake up early anyway, so they don't count), even when I did not have anything planned in advance, just to enjoy even more every single second of my American life. Don't waste your time sleeping too much, but also don't forget to get enough sleep to be well-rested on the next day.
NOD alumni, what advice would you give to new students? Did you wish you had done something differently during your time abroad?