When I was fourteen years old I came up with this crazy idea to leave my home country, The Netherlands, for ten months to live in America and make my dream come true. When I was fifteen I was done with all the paperwork and I applied. When I was sixteen I got my host family and finally left to begin my adventure. And now look at me; a seventeen-year-old girl, living in Michigan, attending an American high school and living her dream.
Doing an exchange year is not something small. We exchange students are people who dare to leave everything behind and start a new life somewhere else on this planet. This year will change you, no matter what; you will become more confident and independent. Doing cheerleading this year and being involved in theater helped me with this and also being in yearbook helped a lot. In the beginning of the year I was a little shy walking up to strangers but with my yearbook camera and press pass I feel like I can do anything! To all future exchange students: if you get the chance to be in yearbook, DO IT! You get involved so quickly in what happens at your school and you get to know a lot of people. It’ll be a great experience I promise.
An important thing you have to know about being a foreign exchange student is that nothing just happens without effort. Nobody with take you by the hand and do things for you. It won’t always be easy and not everything will be fun, but the things you get back for it are so rewarding. I wanted to be on the cheerleading team so I went to the athletic office to get a coach’s phone number, I tried out and I got on the team. Also, I was the one who wanted to be in the play, I auditioned and I got the leading role. If you sit around waiting for the people to come to you I can assure you not much will happen. Take action yourself, step up to people and don’t be afraid to ask. And if something embarrassing does happen, just say ‘’I’m foreign!’’ (I had to do this a couple of times and it helps, believe me).
But about cheerleading, if you would go on a vacation to the US later in your life you can do a lot, but something that you can only experience during your high school year is being a cheerleader. And I made the team. In the fall I did sideline cheer which was mainly to cheer the football team on. But in the winter I did competitive cheer which was the real deal; stunting, tumbling, jumping and what else. Practices were four if not five days in the week, two and a half hours after school. Because I trained this much and spend so many hours a week with the same girls, my team became like family to me. I loved every single practice and competition and I learned so many new things! Besides all the physical practice I had, cheerleading also taught me to be positive even when something doesn’t go as planned; to not stop and keep smiling all the time; and to get up after you fall down (literally…). I got to keep my cheer uniform and that’s probably one of the most valuable ‘souvenirs’ I am taking back home. I know I will never be able to be Wildcat cheerleader again but in my heart, I will always be one.
The other thing I was talking about was theater. I have been doing musicals since I was little so I really wanted to do something with theater here. So I decided to audition for the Fall drama at my school and it probably went very well because the next day my name was on the call back list that hung inside school (High School Musical feelings)! I went to callbacks and it went even better because again a day later I checked the cast list and my name was behind one of the leading roles!!!! The show was amazing, maybe even one of my favorites I have ever performed! The best part was when my host parents were in the audience. They said that when I told them ‘’I had done some acting before’’ they didn’t expect me to be this good! It was such an amazing feeling that I made them so proud. It was an amazing feeling overall; performing in this beautiful auditorium, in a different language, ‘just somewhere in America’. I loved it.
Another really important part of your year is gonna be your host family. You have to realize, this family is willing to shaken up their lives and take a stranger like you in their house for a year, they are the people that give you the chance to make your dream come true. And with this I’d like to give a huge thanks to mine. They started as ‘just a host family’ for me but really turned out to be my second family. We have so much in common, sometimes even more then I have with my Dutch family! To my two great parents, Jeanne and Geoff, and to the most amazing sisters I could wish for, Anna and Rachel, I love you so much. You made my American Dream come true and I cannot describe in words how thankful I am. I know that whatever happens, I will always have a family here in America and I will always be your loaner daughter, Dutch sister, foreigner and Dutch Apple. Thank you.
I think I should probably end this post soon, it’s getting pretty long. One more thing that have to say for future exchange students is make a blog. Make a blog and try to write about all your adventures. For me it started as just something to like keep my grandpa and parents updated but by now I have more than eleven thousand hits!!! I have been writing every two weeks (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) since the day I heard I was accepted into the exchange program. It’s really fun for the people in your home country but also for yourself, you’ll see.
I never thought a year could go this fast! June 17th will be the day I leave here, the day I leave America, my home and my life. I can’t say I’m going back ‘home’ on the 17th because I found my real home and that’s over here. On June 17th, I have to go back to The Netherlands.
To all people who are leaving for their exchange next year or in the years after that; I am almost jealous of you because you still have the whole year to look forward to. Get involved in your school activities, say yes to everything and enjoy every single moment you’re there because believe me, it’s over before you know…
…I wish you, dear future exchange student, the best year of your life.
-Nimfe the American, May 2016, Michigan
Interested in sharing YOUR corner of the world with an international exchange student? Learn more about becoming a host family at: http://aspectfoundation.org/host-families.