Check out our tips for a great time while abroad on your Adolesco exchange. Whether you’ve hosted already or your exchange is about to begin, it’s a good idea to think over the challenge and adventure ahead so you can get the most out of this great opportunity.
Plan ahead. Expect that you’ll feel a little lost (and tired) during much of the first week. By the second week things will seem slightly more familiar and you’ll begin to understand a few words, and after the third week you’ll be much more settled and understanding a lot more of what’s being said around you. Block those dates out on a mini-calendar or a sticky note – you won’t be shocked and surprised when you’re exhausted and thinking, “This will never work!” on day 5, and by the time a month has gone by, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come!
Participate. As much as you might like to hide under the covers and text with friends at home – don’t! The only way for it to get better is to dig in and do the hard work. Remember that it will pay off with weeks of ease and fun. So go find your exchange partner and play Uno – if nothing else, you’ll learn numbers and color names and likely a new international version of the game.
Give yourself a break. Go easy on yourself. No one learns a second language in two days – and everyone eventually makes progress – we promise. But it’s hard to be happy when someone (you) is giving you a hard time. Smile and tell yourself everything’s going to be fine!
Give everyone else a break, too. Things are weird for your exchange partner and family, too. A new person in the house always adds a little stress. They want you to be happy but might not be sure of the best way to help you – so smile (even if you don’t feel like it) and remember they’re doing their best, too.
Stay busy. You’re more likely to worry about what you’re missing at home if you’re sitting around. Don’t. Make sure to join in with something that’s going on around you – even if it’s not ‘your thing’. Maybe it will become your thing!
Speak. Out loud. Really. As much as you might wish you could perfect everything you want to say in your head before you say it out loud – you can’t. The only way to learn to speak a new language is to, well, speak it. And you’re going to make mistakes. Jump into that mess with both feet, because the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll learn how to do it right.
Sleep. Eat. Repeat. Remember to take care of yourself, especially at the beginning. You’ll be tired and jet-lagged and sleeping and eating on schedule are the best cure. Do your best to match the (new) schedule as quickly as possible, but if you need an extra 30 minute nap here or there, go for it. Being extra tired and hungry never did anyone any good – so get your zzz’s and ask for a snack if you need one.
Enjoy New Experiences. Forget what you know and what you’re used to. Try something new at each meal – even if you think you won’t like it, you might. Try a new activity or a new way of looking at things: immerse yourself in the new life experience as much as the new language – you’ll feel like a real part of the family all the sooner when you do.
Take pictures. (or let other people take pictures of you). Two or three months may seem like a long time (especially at the beginning) but it will actually go by in a heartbeat once you get adjusted. You’ll want to remember the fun, and your parents definitely want to see photos, so smile for the camera whenever the opportunity arises.
Have fun. As educational and life-changing as your exchange experience will be – it’s also supposed to be fun. Play, laugh, smile, and enjoy the amazing opportunity you’ve been given along with all the wonders of another city, language, family life, and culture!