Exchange students in the USA

Imagine living your life in your country with your habits, family and friends, everything you are used to since you can remember. One day you decide to go to the United States to improve your English, and as soon as you arrive everything is completely different. This is what exchange students experience by traveling to a foreign country.

 I am an exchange student too, so I know how hard it can be to find yourself in an unfamiliar culture and way of life. Here at Imagine Prep, I have been able to meet students from other countries and confront our personal experiences.

The first day of school is one of the first challenges we have to come across. Alba Fernandez, a sophomore from Madrid, Spain said she was lucky to have an exchange student from Spain as well.

“The first day of school I was nervous,” Fernandez said. “But I had Claudia and the fact that she’s also from Spain and that we can easily understand each other made everything easier. I was excited too.”

Madrid, Spain (Alba )

Sophomore Laura Weiler is a student from Germany and shared her thoughts on the first day of school.  

“My first day at school was confusing,” Weiler said. “I have many classes with older people so I was a little bit scared.”

 The exchange students have shared their thoughts on some of the biggest differences they are experiencing between their home countries and Arizona:

Sophomore Claudia Carreras said the food here is one of the biggest differences.

 “The food,” Carreras said. “Because the size is bigger than in Spain I like this way to serve more food,” Sophomore Fernandez explained that she thinks the people here are a lot nicer than in Spain. “People here are nicer,” Fernandez said. “Streets, schools, everything here is cleaner.” 

Weiler, who instead comes from Germany, talked about the transportation system.

“Transportation system is really different,” Weiler said. “I live close to a big city and I can go there by myself without my parents. Here I have to ask my host family if they can give me a ride to where I want to go.”

Yellow tram in Berlin (Laura)

“People live more healthy in Europe, we don’t have this much fast food and here the schools are bigger than in Germany,” she added. 

Of course, there are things that we really appreciate about this country, like the scenery.

“The landscapes because in Spain there are not landscapes like these,” Carreras said.  

I totally agree with Carreras’s words, Arizona landscapes are unique, it is really hard to find places like The Grand Canyon or The Death Valley somewhere else. 

“Some types of food,” Fernandez said. “Like Reeses’s or macaroni and cheese.”

Weiler, just as Fernandez seems to like the food.

“Fast foods are better, Arizona things like Spanish food,” she said.

 Even though we like it here, there are things we miss from our home countries.

“‌The weather here is too hot.” indeed moving from 70°F   to 100°F must have not been easy for Carreras. 

The food too,” said Fernandez,” but more about dinner and lunch.” 

Gran Canyon

“Transportation systems, we are more independent,” said Weiler. 

The last topic I decided to talk about is culture shock, which is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

 “The church,”  Carreras said. “The religion here is bigger and people feel it more”.

For Fernandez instead, her biggest culture shock was the amount of emphasis American’s put on sports.

“The sports are very important, almost everyone plays a sport, and in Spain, no one cares,” Fernandez said.  

“Political things are more private in Germany,” Weiler said. “Even though people know who to vote for they don’t let everyone know: they don’t put stickers on their cars and they don’t talk a lot about their political opinion with strangers.”

Talking from my point of view, traveling to another country completely alone can be hard, especially for a 15 or 16 year old. Sometimes I just stop thinking about what my family and friends are doing halfway around the world. It is common to feel homesick, it’s not just about our relatives or the people we love but our lives, everything is so different and it can be too much. Nevertheless, the experience of an American high school and life is going to change us and is something that we will never forget.