Insider's Guide to High School

Insider’s Guide: Making The Most Of Your Year As A Foreign Exchange Student

Getting involved in a sport can be a way to learn about your host country and make new friends. Here, senior members of the spring track team at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut include Nathaly Gracia Rodriguez of Ecador. From left: Meghan Powers, Jessica Li, Emily Tomanelli, Nina Franzen, Emily Sweeney, Michelle Runge, Rodriguez, Codi Bierce and Cassie Schmitt. (Provided photo)

PUERTO DE MANTA, Manabi, Ecuador – If you’re lucky enough to be a foreign exchange student, I’ve got a few tips for having a great school year.

First of all, you should know that everyone loves exchange students! They are different from the rest of the school. They’re brave to go to a different place, learn about the world and use a new language. This is accompanied by the friendly personality that the exchange student possess.
Everywhere you go, whether it’s your class room, the lunch hall, gym class, or labs, always smile to teachers and students. This will show them your happiness and positivity. The smile is a simple act of courtesy, respect and kindness worldwide. 
Introduce yourself whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Let them know you are in the high school and that you would like to let them know you as a person and friend, not just as a visitor or tourist in their country.
Be knowledgeable about your country. Kids and teachers are going to ask you about your culture, your family and friends. Show them how much you love and care about your country. They’ll become interested in you, and will learn about you and your country as well as its culture.
During your first months, always have a dictionary with you. Try to talk to as many people as you can. With the dictionary, you’ll have easy access to the words that you don’t know. Talking to people will help you to pick up the language easily.
Ask people about themselves. Don’t let them ask just you about your life and things you usually do. Remember you are in their country, and you have to learn about them. The fact that you care about how they are doing will show them that you can be a nice person and a good friend.
Join a club or practice any sport. This is one of the best ways to make friends and enjoy the culture of your host country. It’s best to try something you never did back home because the point of an exchange is to experience new and incredible things.
In the classroom, try to participate and be part of the group activities. You will get more comfortable with your host language and spend time with your classmates.
My final piece of advice is not to let yourself feel sad or depressed about the fact you don’t know the language, and you are far from home. Life is full of challenges, and this is one of them. With a little bit of time, you will be fluent in the language and you will make memories that will never leave you. Changes are difficult to accept, but they are always for the best.  Good luck!
Nathaly Gracia Rodriguez is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.