Anonymous asked: im going to denmark in January for 10 months & im from New Zealand. I've never really heard of people going there so im kind of nervous, any tips? xx

I know a few people who went there and they loved it! Are any readers current or former students to Denmark? Please share your experiences and tips! If you use the reply option or the Disqus comments, your responses should show up immediately :)

-T

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Two More Christmas Responses

I was very homesick had plans to go home for Christmas that I had made in October. However, by the time December came, I was much happier and thought going home would set me back, so I cancelled my plans. I don’t regret it at all.

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Right now I wish I could go home for Christmas, but I know it ultimately wouldn’t be good for me. By the way, I think somebody has said it before, but home probably isn’t what you’re imagining it to be. You’d be arguing with your siblings, being bored in school, etc. Remember that this is what you wanted.

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Anonymous asked: I've just been given a host family for my exchange from Sydney, Australia to Hawaii. They're an older, retired couple. Being honest, I'm a bit disappointed, because I feel that the age gap could hinder opportunities. I feel as though they might not want or be willing to take me hiking, or surfing etc. I've stayed with older relatives before, and as kind and generous as they are, they're just not interested in the same things. Can someone who's been in a similar situation please offer advice? :)

Many older couples are very active, and plenty of younger couples aren’t really (guilty!), or they can be too busy with their other kids to take their exchange student out a lot. You can also have big differences in interests with families of any age, but even in those cases you’ll probably have plenty in common and a lot to talk about on a daily basis. Also, since the family chose you, they probably saw things listed in your profile that matched with their interests.

One cool thing about your family being older is that they’ll have a lot of great stories to tell you, which will be especially interesting if they’ve lived in the same place for a long time. I volunteer with a woman in her 80s who’s lived in my city her whole life and it’s great to hear what it used to be like. And my city’s much less exciting than Hawaii!

The most important thing with any family is to communicate with your family regarding your needs. Even if they aren’t up for the level or types of activities you want, they can help get you in touch with groups that can enable you to have those experiences (scouts, hiking or other sports clubs, even just friends who like to do [whatever activity] a lot and would love to have you join them).

Good luck and enjoy Hawaii!

-T

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Anonymous asked: Plz help ASAP. I need 2 find a host family in Bologna, Italy within 1 week and I am not sure how 2 go about this. The host family I am with now is terrible and I am desperate 2 leave. My rep thru Mondo Insieme is working 2 find a host family 4 me in Bologna, but with no success. I have been in this area 4 a little over a month, I go 2 school in the city centre, and I can't change cities because my family at home doesn't have enough $ to pay for everything again. I will be here for 10 months.

Okay, here are my various thoughts on this:

(1) While it is fair for you to be part of the search process, especially if you have a preferred location, your organization should not be putting the primary responsibility for finding a new family on you. Do tell your friends and trusted teachers (or coaches, etc.) that you need a new family. They may know people open to hosting, especially for a student who someone they trusts endorses as a good student. All 3 students I’ve represented who changed families actually ended up moving in with friends from school.

(2) I don’t know what “terrible” entails for your current family situation, but if it’s an abusive or dangerous or just truly unbearable situation your organization should be able to move you immediately to a temporary emergency family until a permanent one is found.

(3) Ask if there are other cities that may not require a large cost to move to, or if the organization can contribute to those costs.

(4) Have your parents contact your organization in your home country to push for a better situation for you (new family immediately with assistance with the costs of being in a new city for you if needed).

Good luck, and please let us know what happens!

-T

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Anonymous asked: Just wanted to share a quick story - In high school, I was an exchange student from USA to Germany. One of my very good friends in my host country wanted to come to the States, so she came over and my family hosted her for a year. After that, she and I moved to Scotland together! Now, we're in our 20's, best friends, and rommates in a completely different country! Don't underestimate the relationships you establish on your exchange - They just may last forever! Xx

That is awesome, and can definitely be true! :)

-M

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forever-teenage-fashion asked: So I'm going to Mexico for an 11 month program with AFS and I'm really nervous about not being able to communicate with people becuase I don't speak very good spanish. I took 2 semesters of spanish but I still don't feel ready to try and converse.

You took as much Spanish as I took of German before I left for Germany! It is scary at first, and you for some time you may feel lost, but you will be surprised at how much Spanish you pick up when you’re actually speaking and hearing it daily, versus when you’re just in a class. Most people in Mexico also speak some English, so if you were really struggling, you can ask them what that word means and get help. Many people are appreciative of you just trying to speak the language, and are willing to be patient and help out as you learn. Also, continue studying Spanish even while you’re there, and soon enough you will be having full conversations.

-M

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Anonymous asked: To the student thinking about going home for Christmas: I did this during my exchange year (I was with a much smaller organisation that said nothing against it), and now, several years on, I still don't regret it. It was one of the best Christmases I've ever had, because I really appreciated my family and friends more. Also, I was quite homesick, and the time at home during the holidays rejuvenated me for the rest of the year. I say, if you think it's good for you, do it. I'm glad I did.

I personally still think it’s not the best idea to go home during Christmas, although I am glad that you made the right decision for yourself.

Here’s why:

  • You’ll only get to experience Christmas with your host family once
  • It can improve the relationship between the student and host family
  • Often times leaving during exchange can cause more homesickness once the student returns to the host country
  • Most programs don’t allow it (I know International Experience didn’t, the programs we’ve hosted students with didn’t, and I don’t believe AFS does either)
  • I think it’s polite to celebrate the holiday with the family taking you in for the year

Of course, it’s always a case by case matter, and each student knows their situation best, but I would also encourage students to stay in their host country during the holidays if possible. 

-M

edit: Hadn’t read through T’s whole response, and I noticed I’m basically just reiterating what she said, but I’m going to keep my response as is for now.

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Anonymous asked: I think the person planning to go home for Christmas should evaluate their personal situation and make the right decision for them. I didn't go home, but I almost did. My aunt was quite ill and I wanted to be with her, but was encouraged to stay. She passed away a few months later, and even though I was glad to have the experience that I did, I often regret not spending one more Christmas with her. Sometimes life gets in the way of things like exchange programs. So, do what you think is best.

I think in those situations it is completely appropriate to go back home, and I would say that most programs would make an exception for that. 

-M

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usedtobeastraightastudent asked: Hello! I'm doing an exchange from Czech Republic to Sweden in 15/16 and was wondering if you could post this ask so maybe someone who is/will be/was in Sweden or who will be also doing an exchange in 15/16 can message me. I'm so excited about all this, though working on the application is really hard - I'm not used to talking about myself at all!

Anyone in Sweden? :)

There is also an application tag, as well as this post here that you may find useful.

-M

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Anonymous asked: Although I hadn't planned it at all, I'm thinking I'm going to go home for Christmas. I might be giving up an opportunity, but I simply can't imagine Christmastime without my family. Plus, I think 2 weeks at home will be good for me. Has anyone else ever gone home for the holidays while on exchange?

Have you spoken with your program about this? YFU, at least, does not allow this. Any temporary returns are only allowed in extenuating circumstances. It is very likely that other major programs share this policy.

Even if your program allows this, you need to think about the effect this will have on your relationship with your host family and the general progress of your exchange, both of which are likely to be set back, possibly permanently. You would also miss unique holiday traditions of your host country, which is a huge part of being on exchange.

You will have many, many years to have Christmas with your natural family, but this is your one year to experience it as a member of a family in a different country. The chance of you regretting missing that new experience is significant.

Readers, what advice do you have, especially those of you who are or have been full-year students yourselves?

-T

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