Norwegian Exchange Student Explains Why She Studied Abroad
by May-Linn Fengaas
About one year ago, I applied to be an exchange student. It was a decision that I did really spontaneously and a lot of my friends were a little bit surprised because they didn't think that I would do it. I have a strong relationship with all of my friends and family, so leaving them for a year would be different. But I knew that they would support me no matter what, so this was something I wanted to do.
After a lot of papers to fill out and people to talk to, I got a host family and I was ready to go. They told me that I was going to live in Jacksonville, IL, with sixteen-year old Katie and her parents Cathy and Steve Hackett. I didn't know much about Illinois, and I had no clue to the location of Jacksonville. But after searching on Google, I had an idea of where I was going to live the next ten months. I've always wanted a sister, so I was really excited. I started to Skype with Katie, and I found out that we would be good friends.
Summer went by, and suddenly I stood on the airport saying goodbye to all of my friends and family. I left Norway, and I was on my way to this big continent on the other side of the ocean. I didn't know what to expect, I didn't really know anyone, and I was a little scared. After one week in New York and a couple of long plane rides, I landed in Springfield. I was very excited and nervous at the same time, and I couldn't believe that I actually was here. I met my host family and we got along since the first day. This summer really went by since I got here, and I experienced a lot: we went to the Ozarks, I made some friends, and I started to learn where everything is.
Suddenly school started. I was nervous and excited. I didn't know how high school would be. All I knew about high school before was that it's the best four years of your life, filled with friends, drama and a lot of different activities to join. The hallways at JHS can be very confusing sometimes, and I probably looked like a fool walking around in a circle. But after a while, I started to figure out where to go and when I had to be there. All the students I met were very welcoming and nice. They were interested to get to know me and I got a lot of funny questions.
Now in February, I’ve been here for six months. The time just flies by, and when I look back I've experienced a lot and met a lot of people. I've been to my first football and basketball games. I've been to homecoming and experienced everything around it. I've been to big cities and big events. And I experienced Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas, birthdays, Halloween and Valentine's Day. I've been to concerts, and I now know how it is to live close to a cornfield.
As an exchange student, you experience a lot. You leave everyone and explore another part of the world all alone. But thanks to all the people I’ve met and my American family, I've never felt alone. Everyone has been very including and nice, and my family has treated me as a family-member since day one. They support and love me just as a family member, and I know we will keep in touch forever. I'm really grateful for having them in my life, and I know that without them this experience wouldn't have been as good.
Being an exchange student is the best decision I’ve ever done. This year has been one of the best years of my life. I’ve experienced so much and I've learned how to appreciate all the things people do for me, and I've learned a lot about myself.
Being an exchange student is similar to playing lottery. You can have bad or good luck. I'm one of the lucky ones, and I if I could, I would experience this year again and again.