This week’s Thank You Thursday, Alessandra from Italy shares some advice for our 22/23 exchange students starting to arrive soon as well as some heartfelt thank you to those people who made her time in the US special. Alessandra spent the 2020/21 school year in Wisconsin and her memories of those 10 months couldn’t be fonder!
When you apply for an exchange year abroad the first thing they tell you is not to have expectations so you won’t be disappointed once you get there. However, I know from experience it’s almost impossible. I often heard from other exchange students that they ended up in a “house in the middle of nowhere”, and those words worried me a little, as I wished to live in a fairly populated town not far from some big cities…guess what? I ended up in a house in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin, a farm, to be precise; yet when they gave me the information about my host family I was the happiest person in the world, and I still was when I got to that place which now has a special spot in my heart.
All the people I met were special! First of all my host family: my mom and my dad, who were always available to take me anywhere I wanted and were eager to involve me in their everyday activities, my five siblings, who made me laugh and always invited me to play with them. I will never forget the days we spent sledding on the snow pulled by the snowmobile. My grandparents, who let me take part in their more-than-40-year-old family tradition of the “cookie-baking weekend”, and last but not least, my great-grandparents, who felt like the great-grandparents I’ve never had, my great-grandma in particular, who was truly interested in being part of my life. I am grateful to all of them for making me feel part of the family.
Then I have to thank my coordinator, Cathy, who has been extremely kind from the beginning and helped me go over a hard time halfway through my exchange year. I appreciated her effort in taking us exchange students somewhere interesting every month, whenever it was possible. One of the best memories I have with her is me helping her finish a puzzle she was working on. We are both puzzle lovers.
I am grateful to my teachers, who involved me in their classes without treating me as “the different one”, for letting me appreciate school, something I didn’t do back home, and for doing all they could to make me understand what they were teaching.
A person really special to me is Sam, my best friend. We quickly became friends, and it didn’t take me long to understand that our friendship would last even after I left. He’s extremely precious to me and he was always there whenever I needed support. He always had some kind words to comfort me or some jokes to make me laugh. I shared a lot of memories with him: we went bowling, kayaking, tubing, and he took me to Prom.
My exchange year changed me a lot: I am more open to new experiences, and my mind is more open, too. I feel more independent and confident. I am aware of my abilities and now I know that, if I really want to, I can do anything and face difficulties by myself, even on the other side of the world. It wasn’t always easy, but I would do it again a thousand times.
If you are thinking about being an exchange student, my advice is to accept everything they offer you to do, you won’t regret it. If you have a problem, talk to your family or your coordinator if you feel more comfortable. Be open and keep in mind that you have nothing to lose.
– Alessandra from Italy
Are you interested in making a student like Alessandra part of your family this upcoming school year? We are still looking for wonderful American host families to welcome a student in the fall! Check out the profiles of our amazing 2022/23 students!