Across the Globe

AC Insights: Advice for Exchange

December 14, 2018

Editor's note:  From our most junior level staffers to our president, our global staff has a lot of knowledge about exchange to share. This month, we asked them to share some of their best advice, based on their studies, work experience, and their time working at American Councils. For this piece, we asked:

What is your best advice for someone going on an exchange program?

1. Be prepared to present [your] country's culture, do not hesitate to make new friends, have a good attitude, have a sense of adventure, and to be ready for any kind of cultural shock. (Submitted by staff in Azerbaijan.)

2. Take as many gifts, souvenirs, and magnets of your country as possible! (Submitted by staff in Tajikistan)

3. You will embarrass yourself at some point during your exchange; be ready to cringe, move on, learn, and eventually laugh at yourself! (Submitted by staff in Serbia.)

4. Familiarize yourself with your local host city in terms of the maps, key resources/how to access them, safety, and transportation system. Figure out what is the cultural norm interacting with strangers. (Submitted by Overseas Flagship staff in the US.)

5. Engage with the culture and your present surroundings if/when you feel homesick before turning to technology to connect yourself with those at home. (Submitted by Applicant Information System staff in the US.)

6. Say YES to everything (within reason and safety of course)! Azerbaijani camel quesadilla? I'll sample that once (but only once...). Travel to Antakya with my language partner to attend a Kurdish-Syrian wedding? I'll try out dancing skills I didn't think were there! Don't shy away from the uncomfortable or unknown. You just may find (more of) yourself there. (Submitted by YES staff in the US.)

7. You can never have too many copies of your passport. Also have a scanned copy too! (Submitted by AC Study Abroad staff in the US.)

8. Live in the moment! Rather than constantly viewing your experience through the lens of a camera or how it could be portrayed on social media, allow yourself to take it all in, and later put your experience into a more fruitful blog post or article for your local newspaper. (Submitted by AC Study Abroad staff in the US.)

9. Journal often to self-reflect, take note of your progress when challenges arise, and develop your goals for your exchange. (Submitted by NSLI-Y staff in the US.)

10. Get out of your comfort zone, learn as much as you can, stay open-minded, adapt as much as you can, have fun, meet local people and make local friends. Learn their language, try new food, and enjoy the ride. You are one of the lucky people who got the chance to go on an exchange program, so use it wisely. (Submitted by staff in Bosnia & Herzegovina.)