What Priya Canzius learned on exchange

G’day mates, and greetings from Canberra, Australia! This is my second posting. I’m not going to talk about what I have done, but rather what I have learned from my Australian exchange.

1) Do NOT bring Uggs to Canberra. – You’ll look like (cue the Australian accent) such a bogan. Try not to just think of stereotypes when you pack for exchange. Make sure to really ask your buddy what (s)he wears and what clothing is appropriate for everyday wear.

Priya 11 - Copy - Copy2) Establish a connection with your exchange before you come to the country. – Asking your buddy in-person what their favorite color, band, TV show, etc. is can become annoying and repetitive. Try to figure out your similarities beforehand so that you can use those as your topics of conversation when you get to your exchange’s house. That being said, don’t give away too much over the internet. You still need some new topics of conversation to keep your newfound friendship alive!

3) You WILL get homesick. READ MARK’S DOCUMENT. – At the very middle of exchange, you’ll start to doubt yourself: Do you actually have friends out here? Does your buddy even like you? You’ll miss your home and friends so much that you’ll want to get on a plane that very second. I was expressing my fears to my mom when she sent me Mark’s exchange handbook. The part on cultural adjustment said that I should be feeling exactly like that in the middle of my exchange. Once I realized that I wasn’t alone, my fear melted away and I began to enjoy my exchange much, much more.

4) Try to use common expressions from your host country. – For some Australian examples:Priya 13

Bogan: Redneck

Soz: Sorry

Toilets: Restroom/bathroom

Good on you: Good for you/Props

This is a great way to really feel like you belong in your host country. If you keep talking like an “American,” you’ll always be known as ‘the American exchange’. For example, say “I reckon,” instead of “I think.” Try to assimilate. Most people (except you) won’t notice the difference at first, but soon enough, you’ll be sounding like a real Aussie!

5) Give your buddy space! – I followed my exchange around like a lost puppy until the end of week two. DON’T do this. Your buddy has friends that (s)he wants to be with, even if (s)he likes you. Giving them space will allow YOU to make more friends and branch out socially. And I found that my exchange buddy and I got even closer once I let her have her own space.

6) Go to events, meet new people. – I absolutely can’t stress this enough! You might think that you’re better off just staying at your buddy’s house, but GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! Have a sleepover. Get invited to a party. Do anything to meet new people. It’s scary at first, but it is SO worth it. Once you meet new people you’re able to branch out and recognize people on the following Monday.

7) Eat some muesli every day. – Because you are living with another family, it’s hard to make decisions of your own. My first day, I tried some muesli and yogurt–and I’ve had that for breakfast every day since. Let your family make their decisions, and all the while keep some control of your life: whether it’s what you have for breakfast or the time you wake up on the weekends, you’ll have the power to control something.

8) Participate in school, but learn to relax. – In my first two weeks at Radford College, I participated in all assessments, class, and homework assignments. And it all interested me because it was stuff that we hadn’t learned before! As the weeks progressed, there were less and less assignments that I had to do because they were long-term; in these weeks, I learned to relax. So please, appreciate your time learning in a school environment without having to stress.

9) Appreciate Athenian. – I’ve always appreciated Athenian and everything the school has to offer, but going on exchange made me truly grateful for our school. I realize now that we completely live in a bubble, mostly free from bullying, derogatory slang words, and, well, the real world. Appreciate Athenian, because not every school is like it!

10) Exchange changes you. – I mean, change is in the name! During my six weeks in Canberra, I’ve learned so much about myself and have become so much more talkative and independent. I don’t feel any social anxiety when starting a conversation and I’ve learned to get along with all different sorts of people. The best thing and the worst thing about exchange is that you are constantly out of your comfort zone. For example, I had to take the bus to school by myself one day in the first two weeks of school when Estelle was sick. I didn’t know my way, and ended up getting off at the wrong stop! Thankfully, I made my way back to the bus stop and got to school on time. That day I was able to socialize with everyone and go to all of my classes without Estelle’s help. This may hardly seem like an accomplishment, but it really made me feel independent and like I belonged.

Priya 12So, friends–or mates, I should say–I’ve learned a lot in my time in Canberra.

My final piece of advice is to go on exchange. Whether it is in sophomore year, before junior year, or even senior year, it’s an amazing opportunity that most people don’t get to experience. In the wise words of Ms. Frizzle: take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. The risks you take make for the best stories later.