At first, the idea of a virtual exchange seemed unsettling and futile. How was I supposed to settle into a school’s system “virtually”? Even though Zoom was a far cry from an in-person exchange, there was a lot I could take away from this experience.
I was introduced to Jack, my exchange partner. Even though I like to keep all my stereotypes aside, it was difficult for me to believe that a Chinese American was not a math stud! Regardless, I realized that Jack is an amazing person. I had a great time connecting with him over Zoom calls, watching movies, and discussing our college plans (in the States).
As a virtual exchange student, the twelve-and-half-hour time difference between India and California was the biggest issue. Most of my meetings were either late in the night or early in the morning. However, the Athenian Exchange team was really helpful and they shifted my classes to the time slots that suited my schedule.
While my school and Athenian shared the same liberal and outgoing culture and set of traditions that almost all boardings do–such as calling teachers by their first names–Athenian was unorthodox about how they conducted their classes and meetings. Athenian created a comfortable environment for each individual to speak freely without having the concern of being politically correct or being confined by the set of classroom rules. I really appreciated that.
Additionally, I also got to connect with Mark Lukach, a humanities teacher at Athenian. Mark is helping me with my research even after my exchange is over! After I saw Mark’s inspirational TED talk, I never thought that I would have been able to actually meet him (virtually)!
I thank the Athenian team for helping me make the best out of this experience. To fill my (in-person) void, I look forward to visiting Athenian when I come to California.