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First Day Of School As An Exchange Student In Your Host Country

Going back to school is always exciting and full of new beginnings, but your first day of school in your host country as an exchange student is even more exciting...

Going back to school is always exciting and full of new beginnings, but your first day of school in your host country as an exchange student is even more exciting (and scary!) than usual. These are some of the things I wish I’d known for my first day of high school in my year abroad:

1. The First Day of School is Overrated


I remember having this feeling of disappointment when my first day of school was over. Not because it went poorly, but because everyone online seemed to have the most fantastic first day ever. While mine was okay, it just wasn’t outstanding, and this led to reflection. 


Your best days are yet to come. You will have so much fun once you know who your friends are, what the class dynamics are, learn the layout of the building and the schedule, etc… There is all of this pressure on the first day to meet everyone and put yourself out there. This is super important, definitely meet as many people as you can, but realistically your best friends won’t come from a one-hour interaction on the day where everyone feels nervous and confused at times (yes, even the students that are from your host country). 

2. Be Kind, to Everyone 

I like to think that everyone is trying their best, even when they give you a mean face or you feel like they are talking about you. Give everyone a chance to make a good impression. Don’t have a fixed mindset and close yourself to meeting new people. I remember thinking at first that I would definitely only be friends with people who had similar ideas to mine, but at the end of the year, I was friends with people who were complete opposites. You never know who can become a good friend with time and respect. 

3. Introduce Yourself as the Exchange Student 

This advice is given a lot for a reason. When people find out you are an exchange student from a different country they will most likely show some interest. This can be a great conversation starter! Don’t be scared to ask people to have lunch with them on the first day, they will likely be super nice and comprehensive about it. It can also be helpful to introduce yourself to the teachers as an exchange student. Even if they don’t introduce you to the class (in big high schools they are a lot more used to foreign exchange students so they may not make a big deal about it) it can be helpful for them to know your limitations and the struggles you may encounter.

4. Ask for Help 

Asking for help can be a great conversation starter. Whether it is opening your locker, getting to class, asking about schedules or class notes, people will be willing to help if they are asked with kindness, especially when they know you’re an exchange student. Many students will be confused themselves but that doesn’t mean that won’t spark a good conversation.  If at any time of the day you are feeling overwhelmed with questions or doubts, find out who your guidance counselor is and ask them! They will love to help with anything they can. You can ask them about classes, teachers, schedule hours, etc… Your counselor will be big support throughout your year as they will help you with grades if you need it as well.

5. Don’t Compare Your First Day to Others

I love this advice in every aspect of life, but I found it really helpful during my exchange year. Consuming content can make you doubt yourself and your process. Each exchange is UNIQUE to you. There is no right or wrong way to be an exchange student, let alone to have the first day of school. You are on your own path, and even if everyone else seems to have it figured out I can assure you they don’t. Talking one on one with other exchange students can be really helpful! Get their insights and help each other out. 

Summary

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Remember you just started your new life abroad, and anything you are feeling is okay! You can be scared and excited at the same time. You are just beginning a new journey as an exchange student that will change you forever, make the most of it!


And remember that unfortunately, not everyone you will encounter will be nice or willing to help. While kindness is the rule, don’t let the exception make up your whole mind about your school or a group of people! Stay open!


Thank you all for reading! In this podcast episode, we talk about how our first day of school went, you may want to give it a listen!

1 comment on First Day Of School As An Exchange Student In Your Host Country
  • Laura
    LauraSeptember 09, 2022

    Love that this advice is first hand. Also, I’m a little biased as this author is my amazing exchange “daughter”.

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Exchange isn’t a period in your life, it’s a life within a period…
Exchange isn’t a period in your life, it’s a life within a period…
Exchange isn’t a period in your life, it’s a life within a period…
Exchange isn’t a period in your life, it’s a life within a period…
Exchange isn’t a period in your life, it’s a life within a period…
Exchange isn’t a period in your life, it’s a life within a period…

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