#StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibility

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

My name is Lea, and I was a foreign exchange student in high school at the age of 16. I was born in Central Europe, where I have spent the majority of my life. I have a blog, where I talk about many things, but also about student life and my exchange year. In case you would like to know more about my experience, besides this interview, you can find some of my posts on this topic on StudyHealthy.org

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
My motivation wasn’t learning English or any other usual reason most exchange students could have. My English was pretty good when I arrived in the States. I think I have always dreamed about studying abroad in high school, but I never thought of it as an actual possibility. I would look up “study abroad in high school programs” but I never thought I would do it. Then the agency I have later traveled with came to our school. At this point, I was in my freshman year of high school in my home country (this equals the sophomore year or 10 grade in the USA). I started to actually see it as an option of what I could do with my life. Of course, my parents played a huge part in this decision. I believe they were a little worried, but thank god they have agreed to the idea. At this point in my life, I can not imagine not going. I honestly don’t know how would my life be like right now. Looking back, now I’m realizing I wasn’t really happy with where I was at, at the time and I just needed a change. I needed to do something different, something new. I really needed things to feel different.

I wanted an English speaking country, and England seemed too close :D. The US was a place I wanted to try out and the agency I was going with kind of specialized in it. Also, I had an American accent and I really wanted to blend in. That did work and most the majority of people didn't realize I was from a different country unless I told them so.

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
My experience was much better than I expected it to be. I think I might even call it great. It was so eye-opening and just awesome. I learned a lot about myself and others, new cultures, people, ... so many new things.

I have so many great memories from the States, It's really hard to pick one. Most of them would be with my host family or my friends. One of the nice memories would be my seventeenth birthday. It was really nice to spend some time with the people I knew there, before I left in a few weeks.

I can’t say there were no challenges along the road. There definitely were some, but not much of them. I was really lucky in terms of my host family - they are so great and we are still in contact to this very day (I left about a year ago). The most challenging part of the whole trip was my return back to my “old life”. Why? Well, a lot has changed. A lot changes in 6 months when you are 16 or 17. I changed, even though I didn’t feel like I have. My classmates changed. Well, everything was different. And although I was in regular contact with a few of my friends, the part of me getting back home and feeling okay about it is still in progress.

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 
I do think I might be a little more mature, then I used to be before I left. Also, I realized how many great things I can do, and this student exchange program motivated me to really consider studying abroad in college or university full time. 

I do believe I have changed a little bit, or at least I like to think I have. 

I do think I have a different outlook on things, and my knowledge of English got a bit better, even dough its quite hard to see the difference from before and after. On the other hand, my English was quite good, to begin with so the difference wouldn't be as apparent as with the other students.

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 
Yes. I feel like I can do so many more things, and that there are so many options in life right in front of me, I just have to look for them.

The whole thing was truly inspiring and I would recommend it to pretty much everyone.

Currently, I tutor English conversation in my home country, and I really like it. The fact I lived and studied in the United States for months does help with that, since I have much more experience. Also, being in a fully English environment has most likely helped me with getting my C1 certificate in English.

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
Go. If you have doubts about going, go, just go. If you have the option, take it. Just don't overthink it.

Once you get there, take as many options you get to do something new. But also, make sure, It isn't too overwhelming for you, which can especially at the begging easily happen. Try to get out of your comfort zone and see what you can do. I wish I had done that. I have missed many options because I was too scared to take charge of my life there, or in general. I do wish I had talked to more people, other than my classmates who just asked me way too many questions about my country. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that, of course, I will answer some questions, I don't mind and I get it.

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
A major difference was the comparison of the American school system and the "Europian" school system. I knew there were some differences, but some of those things you realize once you sit in the classroom and go to school there. Also, funny thing, many Americans say that those "teen tv shows" are nothing like reality. To be honest, it's so much more like it than you realize. Of course, the plot lines are not true at all, but the way the schools look like and the way people behave is so similar to reality. In Europe, the schools look different, the peoples thinking and behavior is different. There are many differences, but, I'm not going to get into that here and now.


#StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

Studying abroad taught me that it's okay to need a change. It was not only fun, but it made me more mature.

Lea at StudyHealthy.org: #StudyAbroadBecause It's A Great Possibilty

Find Lea online:
Blog - http://studyhealthy.org/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Study_Healthy
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/study.healthy/
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/studyhealthy/


All photos courtesy and copyright Lea, StudyHealthy.org