Hey! My name is Louise and I was an exchange student in the Netherlands (from Australia) from February to December 2018. I decided to do the 10-month High School program because I wanted enough time to really learn about the culture, integrate and learn Dutch to a high level. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could handle living away from home for so long.
In my opinion, living abroad as a teenager was perfect. I had the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a student in another country, which is something you can only do for a limited time. Living with a host family is awesome because although you are away from your own family, you are not completely alone because you have the support of another. It’s not just lodging, but you truly become part of their family… You are introduced to extended family and friends and get involved doing family activities. These are experiences that wouldn’t happen if you were simply a tourist.
I was incredibly blessed to have such generous and enthusiastic host parents that were determined to tick all the activities off my bucket-list (and even added more things for me). They were not only interested in learning about my culture, but were are also passionate about showing me as much as they could of the Netherlands.
I got to try so many delicious foods like poffertjes, fresh stroopwafels (dipped in melted chocolate!) and gerookte paling. The zoute haring though was a step too far haha! And just some of the most memorable places that I have visited include the Keukenhof, Rotterdam, the Kinderdijk, Amsterdam, the Hague, Schiermonnikoog… the list goes on.
In addition, I also had the pleasure of going on holiday with my host parents to Belgium and Austria, in which I learned about even more cultures!
There’s no denying that it was difficult at times. For me (and I imagine for other exchange students too), my first month was very hard because I had to make new friends, get used to school, deal with homesickness, etc… Furthermore, I had to get to know my host family better. Having only lived with one family my whole life I forgot that other people won’t understand me as well (like knowing when I’m upset, etc…). In addition, I arrived in the Netherlands at the coldest time of year when it was still summer in Australia!
However after the first month, everything started to become more normal and I felt less like a tourist and more like a fellow teenager. Deciding to go and live in a foreign country with strangers is definitely a brave thing to do, and you have to be tough because it will not always be easy. - But I strongly believe that if you feel it in your heart, you should take the leap and give it a go.
With regards to the language element, at the beginning I was afraid of looking stupid. But then when I decided to start only communicating in Dutch, I saw how much people really appreciated when I put in the effort.
And after so many months of struggling and feeling hopeless, people started to notice dramatic improvements, which was so rewarding.
Whilst I was on exchange I created such strong, amazing relationships. The thing that surprised me most was finding out (especially just before I left) that not only did everyone impact my life so dramatically, but I also had an impact on their life. Celebrating my 17th birthday was also really memorable and touching because of all of the unexpected gifts and sweet messages I received.
I can say with confidence that now that my exchange has ended, I am a different person from the one I was when I first arrived. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true.
You are given more responsibilities as an exchange and have to deal with certain problems on your own. I became comfortable with travelling and meeting new people.
I am so glad that I challenged myself and went on exchange. This experience has proven to me that even my most adventurous dreams can become a reality. This has without a doubt been the best year of my life. And now that I have this new-found confidence and sense of adventure, I can’t wait to find out what the future will hold!
Auteur: exchange student Louise uit Australië