What is Life Without a Little Adventure?
Sooooo, what’s up?
Not too much, just moving to Mexico you know…
This conversation might seem fictional to most but let me assure you that this is a very real phenomenon that you will encounter when going on an exchange. Most people know what student exchanges are, probably by seeing a new group of foreign high schoolers walking through the streets of Fernie every year or maybe even hosting one! International high school exchanges are an amazing opportunity that thousands of willing and adventurous kids from all over the world are a part of every year.
This year is my year! I set off on my adventure to beautiful Saltillo, Mexico on August 3rd for a full 11 months of complete immersion into the Mexican culture, their language and the way of life. Some may say this is crazy… actually many people say that, and I agree! Going to live with strangers (your host family), going to a new school and having to make a brand new set of friends all while not speaking the language fluently is a little daunting. The challenges that lie ahead are substantial but what is life without a little adventure?
So why does a person choose to go on an exchange? There are many different reasons for different people. The reasons why you want to go on an exchange are greatly reflected in your chosen country and they partly determine who your host family is going to be. I chose to go on an exchange for a number of reasons. I really want to learn a new language. Spanish is a great language to learn, it is one of the most spoken languages in the world and it spoken in more then 20 different countries. There is no doubt that total immersion is by far the best way to learn a language. During an exchange you don't only get full immersion speaking to your friends and family, but you have to do all of your school work in that language as well! Meaning that after being in your country for just a couple weeks your confidence and general ability in that language should be tremendously improved (or at least that’s what they say). Reason #2, the culture! Cultural immersion is probably the biggest reason why people go on exchanges. When you go on vacation for a couple weeks and you stay at a hotel or even resort you won’t get even close to the full potential of that country. Living in a country for a year lets you travel to different cities, meet all sorts of people, be part of their national holidays and see what the day to day life is for people there. Maybe you just want to try new things, that’s fantastic! If you are a person who likes to do new things then an exchange could be for you. I can’t think of anything else that requires this much change, open mindedness, and flexibility from people at such young ages.
Talking about young ages…. how does all this work? The steps to sending a 14 year old to another country by themselves is surprisingly easy for Mexico. Obviously every country will require different documents and have varied processes for obtaining a Visa but its fairly simple. International exchanges are done through their respected companies which take care of finding you a host family and a school. Some companies will help you get a Visa but not all of them. In my case we had to get the Visa ourselves, which didn't take that long and was a pretty simple process. Your company makes setting up and getting ready for your exchange as easy and stress free as possible. They answer all of your questions and concerns almost immediately and provide all of the information you need for your trip.
Every exchange is a different story. You will never find two people who had the same experience because every student and every host family is different. So I am going to share whatever happens being an exchange student. I have heard a lot about exchanges from people who come to Fernie and I want to share my experiences and what I think about it. I am going into this never having been to Mexico and I don't speak much Spanish but I couldn't be more excited!