A Message From Three Corners of the World

Claire Gosson, Editor in Chief

For many incoming exchange students, the anticipation for the adventure of a lifetime is typically the most stressful part of an exchange. The constant questions that linger are often unable to be answered because no textbook can prepare one for the journey they are about to embark on. The closest way to answer these nagging questions is by allowing past and present exchange students to share their experiences wholeheartedly. 

Georgia-Lili Howe, an exchange student from Australia was asked about her anticipation for her upcoming exchange to the United States before her arrival on December the 10th. Georgia-Lili is the first short term exchange student from Australia to enter the United States. Becoming an exchange student requires a certain amount of knowledge, overall awareness, experience with independence, practicality, and maturity. Georgia-Lili is one of many who possess all of these traits. Before her arrival, she was asked a series of questions about the predictions of her upcoming exchange. Georgia-Lili was asked what prompted her to become an exchange student in the first place. She states, “I think it was my mother’s involvement in her Rotary club and my involvement in Interact that prompted me to seek this opportunity.” Georgia-Lili has traveled outside of Australia multiple times on her own which contributes to her open-mindedness as well as provoking her desire to finish the book she has only just opened. 

Jesse Cools, an exchange student from the Netherlands who exchanged to Australia was asked multiple questions regarding his experiences so far in Australia. These questions included the queries of whether Australia lived up to his expectations before his arrival. Jesse was asked if his expectations of Australia were somewhat correct. Jesse humorously responded, “Correct: bloody hot, incorrect: snakes and spiders are everywhere.” Jesse is about halfway through his time in his country of choice. Jesse mentions his exposure to Australian culture stating, “Since my time here, I went to school, I spent most of my time there or in my host family’s house. I have gone to Brisbane a couple of times, I went to different places around the Gold Coast, I’ve been to the famous Australian Zoo, Elliot Island and went on a trip with other year 12 students.” Since Jesse arrived, his experiences have shaped his thoughts about Australia, breaking multiple stereotypes the world has created over time. Jesse was then asked about his own country and the stereotypes that he feels must be broken about the Netherlands. Jesse replied, “Most stereotypes aren’t very negative and are true in some cases about the Netherlands. But, we do not always wear clogs. I mean yes, people who only wear clogs exist. Also, we do not live in windmills.” To conclude the interview, Jesse was asked what advice he would give his past self if it was possible. After much thought, he responded, “Whenever you are ever worried about something, don’t. Everything will turn out just fine in the end.” Jesse, like Georgia-Lili, has been exposed to travel which has triggered his urge to gain valuable knowledge with new experiences. 

Simon Pauken, a student from Rex Putman exchanged to South Korea last school year. Throughout his time in his inbound country, he gained a universal perspective which allowed him to reevaluate what it means to be apart of this giant world. Simon was asked if he experienced reverse culture shock when he returned to the United States. He replied, “I would definitely say I did have some. When I was in Korea I built an image of what an American tourist looked like from a foreigner’s perspective. When I came back and saw everything and everybody, I thought it was all just so American.” Simon is a traveler at heart, even before his exchange. His ability to gain another perspective through his travels gave him a tool in life that many are unable to possess: worldliness. Simon expresses that if he was able to give his past self advice, he would say: “…you can always make up the money that you lost, but you can’t always make up experiences so just do it even if it costs you.” To conclude the interview, Simon was asked about what it meant to him to be an exchange student. He replied, “Overall, I think being an exchange student is important because it is a teaching and learning opportunity for both countries. You learn about other cultures and other cultures learn about you. It creates more worldly citizens.” Simon believes that being an exchange student acts as a bridge between countries and cultures.  

Georgia-Lili has been in the United States for a brief few weeks which is only just the start of her exchange. Throughout her time so far, she admits that her past knowledge of the United States has been useful in allowing her to expect what to be faced with. When Georgia-Lili was asked what she thinks is the healthiest way for an exchange student to approach an unfamiliar lifestyle while they are on exchange, she responded, “Have an open mind and be grateful for the opportunity you have been given and to see how other people live and the difference in cultures.” Georgia-Lili, like many other exchange students, has had an opportunity to fully immerse themselves into an environment far different from their own. Georgia-Lili was asked what advice she would give to future exchange students. She replied, “Expect to be put out of your comfort zone, expect to embrace aspects of life you wouldn’t normally and expect to learn new things you didn’t think you could learn.”

Even though Georgia-Lili, Jesse and Simon are from three different corners of the world, this resulted in the realization that these varied parts of the planet have more to offer than what is shown as an inaccurate facade. Society tends to be a victim of preconceived notions that are based entirely on isolation. This is problematic as very few people take the leap to overcome their personal boundaries and the barricade surrounding their country. After speaking to each one of the like-minded students, unique information was gained that otherwise could have only been sought after genuine experience and raw life lessons. 

“Travel is the best way to avoid prejudice.” – Jesse Cools