A Day in the Life of an Exchange Student

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Katie longnecker, Reporter

Some people get homesick after a week of being away from their home, but imagine being thousands of miles away from yours for an entire year. For the foreign exchange students at our school, this is an exciting and somewhat scary reality. Traveling to a different country and living it’s lifestyle is an extremely educational experience that not everyone gets to experience, so by taking this opportunity, these students are very lucky. I even had the pleasure of interviewing one of the exchange students at our school, who gave me an exclusive look at what day-to-day life is like for her.

 

Pia Dolge has traveled all the way from her home in Germany to join us during the 2018-2019 school year, and after only a few months of being here, she has learned quite a bit. “I think I have learned a lot already. I think I have improved my English a bit in speaking and vocabulary, and for me [it is] an important thing I really wanted to learn during my stay. And what I think I already did a little is growing more self confidence and independence.” Pia tells me. Not only has she learned a lot by being here, but Pia has also noticed a vast difference between life in Germany and life in the United States. “My life is very different here than at home. There are multiple things, first of course the language is different and there are some cultural differences like Germans [do not say] “thank you” that much and we’re not that open to other people. Other differences for me specifically are that I don’t have any siblings at home in Germany. Here I have a younger sister, I also have a lot of animals (2 horses, 3 dogs, 4 ferrets and 1 cat). At home I only have 2 cats. Because of all the animals, I have a lot more things to do in the household than in Germany”. She says. The majority of our student body most likely has English as their first and only language, so it is hard to imagine what it’s like to compute a completely foreign language in a matter of seconds like we do with our primary language. For Pia, this is an everyday occurence, and it can be pretty taxing. “Sometimes it’s just like my brain is fine with everything. [But then] I get headaches and it’s pretty hard to keep up with the English language, because sometimes I really have to concentrate to understand things, and that can be very much for my brain. But otherwise I’m understanding most of the things very good and if there are things I don’t understand I try to get it from the context or just see if it is important or if I can just ignore it”. She explains.

 

Sometimes as Americans we tend to be a little bit ignorant, and what I mean by that is; we don’t normally think about what it’s like for people who have English as their second or even third language. I might even go as saying that we are somewhat privileged to have English as our native language because if you think about it, the English language is an almost essential tool to have when you are from a non-English speaking country. For example, if a person from france needs to ask directions from a person from Poland, they both might not have each other’s language in common, so, they use English as a middle ground. Although I might sound like some self-righteous english speaking American, the fact is that scenarios like I mentioned before are more common than you might think. The bottom line is that maybe we should take some time to educate ourselves about what it might be like for people who speak multiple languages so that we can have a deeper connection with the outside world, as cheesy as it may sound. So that being said, reach out to your fellow exchange students, befriend them, and get to know them more.