as my year draws to a close, i have been thinking about some of the things i learned about being an exchange student, and i thought that i would pass them on to other exchange students in a convenient blog form. let me know if you guys have any more questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.
preparation is don't sweat it, too much. if you're feeling adventurous, a quick nip over to culture shocked is enough to send your pulse to new levels of claminess. check out facebook and see if your group of inbounds has a group. Ask an AFSer is a great place for questions and answers, as well as networking. The book, The Exchange Student Survival Guide, is a very realistic portrayal of what to expect, as well as some interesting peaks into the mind of a hostfamily. Try learning some basic phrases in your new language, or brushing up on some helpful vocabulary that you may or may not have learned in school. (The first words I learned were "home" words-- foods, furniture, and so forth.) I didn't speak German when I came, and I survived. However, if you have the opportunity... learn a bit of your new host language.
packing is a pain in the butt. just getting that out there, right now. no matter what you pack, i think, you end up regretting what you forgot and what you didn't bring. I've ended up buying a lot of clothes here, but I think if I packed better, I wouldn't have had to. In Germany, the dark skinny jeans and converse look is super trendy, and converse are wicked expensive here. I wouldn't have come without a laptop, or an iPod, and I wouldn't recommend bringing a phone with you. I wish that I'd brought my favorite hoodie and a few comfort items. I would pack less more than more because you accumulate so much stuff over the course of a year.
budget oh man, i bet my mum's laughing about this again. but germany and europe is expensive, and you're dealing with a dollar to euro switcheroo, which is... not a very good rate at this point in time. I am meant to get 100 dollars a month from my parents (ca. 70€), and I don't think I've ever had a month where I haven't used extra money from somewhere else or had to ask for more money. Clothes here are very expensive comparatively, and kids (in my school at least) are very into brand names. We wear a lot of H&M-- it's the same price as it is in the US (EXPENSIVE) and because of the price difference, it's cheap. There's also the issue that you're paying for a lot of things that you didn't in the US-- shampoo and haircuts and school supplies and a bus pass or train tickets, perhaps. You might have the opportunity to travel-- train tickets are expensive, even if you buy them well in advance. I don't feel comfortable 'snacking' from my family (i.e., when I have my German class, I end up getting something to eat. plus, in germany, you're faced with the possibility of going out. a night in the disko (without drinks), will set you back, in my experience, normally about 7-8€. A movie ticket on a Friday night, bottom seating with student discount? 8€. A lot of kids are spending in the 150-200€ a month range.
school, weight gain, host family gifts, rush week, homesickness