Olivia - Spain (2018-2019)
I have only been on exchange for a short time, and I have already learned so much about myself and gained so much from this amazing experience. On my flight to Spain, I was so nervous and I felt like maybe I made the wrong decision doing exchange. But literally the same day I arrived and met my host family, I knew it was the best decision of my life! I am becoming so independent and discovering things about myself I never would have known if I hadn't done exchange. It's so meaningful to me because I have been wanting to do this for so long and now I'm really here and it's so surreal to me still that this is my life. I now have a family and friends from a different country than I have lived for my whole life. It feels so good to make relationships with people from another part of the world. Advice I would give to anyone thinking about exchange, do it. It's the best experience and even though it's not always easy and happy, it's all so worth it because the outcome and the way you change as a person is amazing. I say this and I haven't even finished my exchange so just imagine me in the end. This program is amazing and I'm so happy I found Rotary Youth Exchange when I did. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I have no regrets!
Tim - Peru (2018-2019)
Of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, going on an exchange year to Peru has been undoubtedly the best, and I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly for anyone with even the slightest amount of curiosity about themself, their capabilities, and their world.
Over the course of the last three months, I’ve been gifted with tremendous opportunity. I’ve hiked through the ruins of Machu Picchu, blown darts with villagers in the Amazon, cooked traditional Incan food at dusk in the dirt of the hills, played the prince in my school’s Spanish rendition of Beauty and the Beast, worked to construct a safer learning center for severely impoverished children, toured more cities than I can count, and learned a language I never thought I’d know. Most important, however, I’ve had the opportunity to fall in love not only with the greatest group of young people I’ve ever been a part of, but also with an entirely new culture. As with the best things in life, though, exchange has been hard. It’s out of the instances of hardship, struggle, and uncertainty that I’ve developed such a sense of empowerment that no experience but an exchange year can provide. Everyone deserves the chance not only to find this power within themselves, but to see the beauty of other cultures in this world that we share — it’s just a matter of being brave enough to make the decision to step out of your comfort zone.
Isabela - Bolivia (2018-2019)
Exchange is a constant adventure. As I wake up every day, go to school, hang out with friends, watch TV with my host mom, I constantly think about how this was the best decision I have ever made. I have become a part of a new community of people, a new family and I have only been here for 55 days. Living life in a new language honestly sounds scary and in a way, it was but taking that step outside my comfort zone has really taught me about myself and the world. Being able to communicate with the people in their native language changes everything and speaking Spanish really has taught me so much more about Bolivian culture. The people here have been nothing but amazing and this is a huge reason why I love it here.
Exchange is being accepted into this world that once was a world away. Honestly, there is no feeling or words that I can use to describe this experience. If I am being honest, Bolivia is a place I never thought about traveling to and, as a matter of fact, it wasn't on my country selection list. However, I am thankful for however I ended up here. So, for any prospective student thinking about going on exchange, if you're up for a challenge and want to learn more about our world, sign up. And remember the country isn't important. Every place has something beautiful to offer and countries that aren't well-traveled offer something special. This is an experience you will never forget and, I will say that even though I have only been here for close to two months, thinking about leaving is a terrifying thought. This program is such a blessing so thank you Rotary!
Fernando - Japan (2017 - 2018)
The greatest minds have always been those open to new ideas. Even if one finds open-mindedness difficult, a student exchange allows for nothing less than, and in fact forces, a complete change of world perspective. Personally, my world connections got a lot bigger as I made friends from around the world and in Japan, yet the planet became a smaller, more unified place, as I realized everyone’s shared humanity despite the small barrier of language. Things that once seemed so foreign to me integrated into my identity. I find myself savoring a bowl of miso in the morning, bowing to greet and say goodbye to friends, or stopping at a temple to say a wish as if these customs had been a part of me forever. I’ve grown up in both Mexico and the United States, and however independent and dissimilar these cultures are from Japan, I find the same joy in sharing a laugh, a hug, or a smile, all which amount to our human nature that permeates the same wherever our species may encounter. The best part of an exchange is the people you meet. The people that show you just how far away they can live, yet how close of a relationship you can build; friendships that surpass language and connect you across oceans. Since I’ve been exposed to this bigger, smaller world, I’ve fallen in love and I feel as if I have no choice but to keep exploring it. I’m certain that in the future I will have to do an exchange again, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this one.
Kamryn - Germany (2017 - 2018)
Why should I go on an exchange?
I would say going on an exchange you're definitely going to grow and learn about yourself, you gain responsibility and independence. You learn things are tough, but you work through it. I feel going on the this exchange opened my eyes to things I have never seen and heard about. Learning new things about other people has helped me become less closed minded to people's culture.It has made me realize that what we think is "Taboo" is actually just a normal thing for others and we should respect it. While on this exchange I definitely found a new respect and love for my country because people will judge you base on what little they know about your country and you can help them learn that things are not always what they seem.
What did you get out of your exchange?
From this exchange I learn to not judge others and I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that being an English speaker is something we take advantage of. When I came to Germany I figured it was going to be easier for me because how close English is to German.While being here I never thought about how hard non-english speakers are going to have to work to translate or understand German. German to English was hard but just imagine translating German to Chinese, Japanese or Portuguese, for example.
Going on exchange has taught me how hard people work with learning or speaking a new language. Coming here made me appreciate my language but it made me learn how hard non-English speakers work to be able to get there opinion across or to just be able to say hello to you.
During your exchange you will face challenges not from just learning the language but also from yourself. During my exchange I faced many problems, but facing these challenges made me more mature and taught me to fix my own problems and understand more about myself and be independent. As I said to my mom, these issues I'm facing is something I have to go through to be able to thrive and grow as a person and adult.
What was the best thing about going on exchange?
The best thing about going on exchange is the bond you make with people from all around the world. When you go abroad you feel alone, scared and frustrated. Then before you know it you create this weird friendship with other students from all over the word because you're all going through the same thing and understand each other’s frustrations. Also sometimes you don't share the same language, but you just manage to get along so well. These exchange students I've been with for a year are considered family now, I never thought I would be making some of the best memories and friendships from someone from Japan, Finland, Canada, etc.
Noah - Argentina (2017 - 2018)
It is strange to think that I almost DIDN’T go on exchange. It has become such an integral part of who I am as a person and who I will be in the future. So if you have any doubts, DO IT ANYWAY.
The truth is that not every exchange is perfect, but every exchange is life changing. I have had friends who have had the most incredible exchange experiences of their life and I have had friends who have struggled on their exchanges because they couldn’t make friends, had trouble integrating, or just weren’t enjoying themselves. However, in both cases, I have been told 100% of the time that no matter how their exchange went, they do not regret doing it. It was worth their time and they have grown as people as a result.
I cannot say my exchange has been perfect, but I do firmly believe that I have gained much more from the risk I took in going than I would have gained by simply staying in my comfort zone. I would recommend exchange not only because of the international friends you make, the languages and cultures you learn about, and the AMAZING food you eat, but because of how you return as a person. You find yourself more prepared for everything life will throw at you. You are more prepared for adversity and difficulties that come your way. This is what makes exchange worth it. This is why I keep going every time I hit a bump.
Some advice I would give to be thinking about going on exchange or for students who are already on exchange:
- Do it (for those who haven’t decided)
- Prepare yourself for some of the most incredible times of your life and some of the most difficult as well
- Choose a country you think you may never have the opportunity to visit
- DO NOT ONLY HANG OUT WITH EXCHANGE STUDENTS
- Try to lose yourself in some part of the culture you love (for me it is most noticeable in the Argentinian card game Truco)
- Be open to change (you as a person, your life, whatever it may be)
Quincy - Spain (2017 - 2018)
My exchange year has been incredible! The biggest thing I have gotten out of my exchange was the opportunity to work on an ecological farm. This farm was important to me because I am very passionate about agriculture. For me, finding a common interest within an unfamiliar place is very important for growth. I learned new words about the things that interest me, I discovered new techniques for farming, and made new friends and connections! Most importantly, I finally found a place where I felt like I belonged. Despite being over 1,000 miles away from my home country, I felt home.