Experience as an Exchange Student

1 January 2017

My experience in the United States as an Exchange Student To be a young adult living in Malaysia, the United States is appeared to be a way off place, both in a social context and geographically. I was sponsored by the American Field Service (AFS) in 2008. Throughout my months as a Malaysian exchange student in Boston, I have been smiling and crying, yearning to go home and hoping I could continue staying longer. Being an exchange student, we’re appealing at the start, striking, comical with our strange accents, and regular speech errors, but after one month, the exchange student is no longer that new and popular anymore.

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You will have to make yourself appealing, never wait for other people to invite you; you will have to begin it. I thought it was effortless, but it’s once you’re in that place, you will realize. As an exchange student, it is all about fighting to make your dream come true. I always wanted to be an exchange student ever since I was eleven. I faced many difficulties prior to leaving, such as I did not want to be separated from my family and friends.

In my mind I was thinking of how to deal with a new house to live in, a new family, an unfamiliar language, a laptop screen amid me and my family back at home, when all you want is just to hug and touch them. Not only that, I faced difficulties when I got back to Malaysia after the program. I found out that many of my friends had a great time even if I was not there; I recognized that I have matured and people around me are not. Each one of these conditions requires strength and that is what being an exchange student is all about.

I packed up and left the country one warm January day early of 2008. Twenty five hours later I was in Boston, one of the oldest cities in the United States which was to be my home for the next six months. My host dad and sister waited for me at the crowded airport with open arms. I spotted them right away as they were holding up a huge, bright yellow sign saying “Welcome Aleena! ” Our cultural differences became evident immediately when I came up to them and bowed down with my arms together saying “hi” in respect.

Something that took them in surprise, as I later learned that hugging was their usual form of greeting. As I walked with them to the car dressed in my Malaysian knit sweater and gazing at their cool clothing, up to date hairstyles, and flawlessly applied makeup, I felt like an outcast. Being an exchange student is one of the greatest things that could ever happen to me. Getting to know new people, tasting delicious new food and being loved and respected are just some of the best things that could ever take place during this exchange year.

For me, my first view about America was the amount of fast food restaurants, super sized cokes which were refillable, fast paced living, bigger ambitions, and endless stretches of highways. It was indeed an amazing first thought. My experience in an American high school was something to definitely talk about. I have had so many difficulties getting to know about the new school system in the US. The surroundings were very different compared to the schools in Malaysia.

The hallways were long and confusing, I never had to use lockers, change classes every period and being in a class with different students depending on the class Im taking. It was totally different in a good way. I made friends very easily as you were the center of attention at first in school and everyone talks about “the new exchange student. ” I liked the attention but it was not for long as they got used to me and I was yesterday’s story. I barely knew the language; everyone was talking in a fast passed way. I would have to ask the teachers and students to slow down all the time.

For the first three months in the U. S. , I went to school but could barely understand a word being said. After two to three months, many words began to make sense. Everything comes with practice and with practice I got to improve my English writing and speaking skills. My short experience as an exchange student in the U. S. was something that I will never fail to remember. It was a breath of fresh air and an chance to learn about a different culture and about myself. Aside from finding out about peanut butter and jelly, there are many other American reminiscences that I still hold close to my heart.

My first job in the U. S. with my American sister Ali, learning how to scoop ice cream for anxious customers at Baskin Robbins; babysitting, something that was so strange to me, as my parents paid maids to take care of my siblings and me as kids; getting lessons in the art of applying makeup by my American sister and later touring around town in her Corvette; high school parties, getting my ears pierced three times; being picked up for my first real date with a boy and hearing my American dad give the necessary pre-date speech. It was all a worth it experience to treasure forever. I have learned to be independent and think more maturely throughout my experience in the US.

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