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7 Things I Learned as an Exchange Student | Pia from Norway

Pia and her Cross Country team.

Pia from Norway is experiencing America in Washington for the 2015-16 academic year. In today’s post she shares with us 7 things she has learned as an Aspect Foundation exchange student!

1. I have learned to take care of myself. I started the year off by traveling for 17 hours without my family or anyone I know. I was so nervous that day and I was scared that something would happen. I was scared that I would fall asleep and miss my plane. When I walked through the security check I had to believe that I could do it. When I arrived in Seattle and met my host parents at the airport I was so happy and so proud of myself for making it all the way to Seattle from my home city without any problems.

2. Taking care of myself leads me to independence. The teachers really expect you to do your work and to find out how it is done yourself. American high school is all about independence and learning that you need to do your homework every day and that you need to show up in class every day. It is a good thing that they teach you how to be independent. The only way you can succeed in life is to do it yourself.

3. I have learned not to judge. Where I live in Norway most of my friends are not very religious and that is the way I grew up. When I moved here I met more diverse people and a lot of people are involved with their church and in other religions. I have learned that they are not any different than me, they just have different beliefs. I have learned that even if we have different beliefs we can still be good friends and that how they look and if they go to church or not should not determine if they’re nice or not. I think it is important to learn this, because people judge way too easily.

Pia from Norway with her host mom and family dog Charlie.

Pia from Norway with her host mom and family dog Charlie.

4. I have learned that I’m not so outgoing and social as I thought I was, but I have learned how to be more outgoing. I had some hard weeks at the beginning of the school year because I wasn’t confident enough to speak to other people. I never thought I would be afraid to introduce myself to a new person, but I was really afraid. The days for me where always the same and I didn’t say a word during lunch, but one night I was thinking to myself that if I want friends I need to talk, introduce myself and ask to hang out with them. I started the next day and asked a friend if she wanted to hang out and that Friday night we went to the game together and now she’s my best friend here and we are having so much fun together.

5. I have learned a new language. I have learned so many new words and phrases the last couple months. I don’t really think about it, but I learn so much every day. I don’t only learn normal daily language, but in psychology I learn about the brain, the nervous system and our eyes and tongue. I know that I’m going to learn so much this year and I can’t wait. I know that this year and all the new English I learn this year will help me so much during my last year of high school back in Norway, college and in work situations later in life.

Pia from Norway with her host family in Washington.

6. I have learned to be more confident. When I first came I didn’t talk much, because I was afraid that people would laugh or make fun of me. But I have learned that the more I talk the more I learn. I have learned that people understand that this isn’t my first language and if you try you will see how nice and understanding people are. They will help you if you’re stuck in the middle of a sentence. My host-family teach me new words and how to say things all the time, and I am so thankful for all the help and all that they have taught me these months.

7. I have learned that clothes and what you have isn’t really important. Norway is a rich country where the brand of clothes is a big deal. Teenagers spend so much money on clothes to look perfect and to look like they have a good life. To be honest I cared too, I had a lot of “cool” brands, but why does it matter? I have learned that actually it does not. If I wear a Ralph Lauren vest and my friends wear a jacket from Target, we can still be friends, and why should I judge her for what brand she’s wearing?

I have probably learned a lot more that I do not even think about. But I am so happy and thankful I got to learn all of these and more. Being an exchange student is a really good way of learning about a new country, culture and so much more.

A few of Pia's favorite photos of her exchange year!

A few of Pia’s favorite photos of her exchange year!

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.