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Yes, Reggaeton has ruined your spanish.
“Ustedes son unos hijos de p*ta!”
… and diminuish other words aswell. Right, mamita?
Spanish guys trying to impress you be like
“Are you joining me in mi coche?”
You meet someone from another Spanish speaking country, get all excited and start ranting and they are like “Great story but.. ”
“Are those words even real spanish? “
As a returnee, there are many advises I can give you. And you have probably heard all of them.
“Enjoy your exchange, it is the best year of your life, make the most of it” etc etc. But the reality of an exchange is often harder than it seems. People keep telling you to have a good time, while in fact you might be having a really hard time. You miss home, you miss your friends and if you could you would Skype with them all the time.
I know this seems harsh, but the fact is that being in contact with home constantly will not only keep you away from the experience of being there, it will also make the homesickness much and much worse. Yes it may seem to help at first, but in reality it will only make you realize that what you have back home that you don’t have in your host country. And yes, you might not have friends that know you completely. Your host family might not understand you at all times. But that is the experience. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should – yes, I will say it again – make the most out of it.
Does that mean you can never talk to your loved ones? Of course not. But keep it regulated. Make a schedule and don’t talk to them more than once every few days. Having a fixed time for talking to your friends and family back home might help you feel more calm, because instead of every time you miss them you will talk and using the contact as some kind of drug, you are regulating it.
First of all, because everyone can read it. That means you don’t have to tell your mother, aunt, cousin, friends and neighbours all individually what exactly you did that weekend. This will safe you a lot of time in unnecessary conversations on social media. If you don’t your feelings to be out in the open, you can always keep an email list and send it to everybody personally.
Another reason why keeping a blog is great is because later you can read it back and remember all the little details of your exchange, which is great! (Trust me, you will forget about 80% of what happened)
In the end you will probably not write on your blog as often as you’d like, but that’s okay. You can even just make smaller updates of maybe 100 or 200 words. Any update will be read with a lot of joy back home and keeps them updated on how you are doing.
Let’s face it, it doesn’t get more personal than a letter. I think every time I received a letter from my mother I cried, no matter what she wrote down, and I know she had the same reaction to my letters. You just don’t get that kind of intimacy through a Whatsapp message.
I know you want to tell them. You want to tell someone you know (and someone who knows you) but the truth is, when you are having a good time you will probably not tell them. Not so explicitly. That means that in the end, parents get worried, friends think you are having a bad time while in fact, you are probably only having a bad time when you are talking to them.
It happened to me that a lot of people started sending me messages asking me if I was alright. Apparently I had told my mom I was having a hard time, but that feeling passed. Not for my mom. And when my family asked her how I was doing, she told them what I had told her; that I was having a bad time. By the time the messages reached me I had already forgotten that I was feeling down the days before.
In conclusion, it is very hard for your family to know what is going on. They don’t know the cultural context and they don’t know the experience of studying abroad. The information you give them is always limited and that’s all they get, and although it might seem comforting your parents or friends are probably the last people who are going to understand what you are going through.
And although that might seem like an eternity right now, time will pass by extremely fast and before you know it you are back home on the couch with your parents. Only you don’t have so many things to tell them, because you already told them everything when you were there. In your exchange, as in life, there is only one certainty: it will end! Once you are back home you are going to wish you had spent less time on the internet talking to the people you would eventually talk to again and more time talking to the people around you.
Going on an exchange has many benefits. I have noticed that since my year abroad, I have become a different person. I am more patient, I easily adapt to new situations. I can very easily accept it when things don’t go the way I planned them to go. These however are very subjective things, and every exchange student depending on their personality, their experience and their attitude will learn different things. These things are also very vague, because what exactly does it mean to be a ‘different person’, and what can it bring you in live?
To make the studying abroad experience a little more concrete for everybody,the University of California has summarized some of the existing studies on the statistics of studying abroad.
One thing that stands out is that almost all of these numbers are positive numbers.
For example, 90% of the students who had studied abroad got into their 1rst or 2nd choice of grad school, and for those who are more interested in finding a job – you are twice as likely to find a job within 10 months if you have studied abroad (2012 IES Abroad Recent Graduate Study). Around 80% also found they had learned valuable skills during their time abroad and that the experience helped them better adapt to diverse working environments (AIFS Study Abroad Outcome).
They earn on average $7,000 more in starting salaries, compared to the general college graduate population. Over the course of ones life, in the United States this can add up to $567,000. And that’s a lot of money. That is more than half a million. If you are interested, here is a list of what you can buy for that kind of money.
First of all, these statistics are on average, so they are in no way a guarantee that you will actually make that kind of money after you graduate. However, this number is quite significant and I don’t think you can call it a coincidence. Yet I think these statistics might not necessarily have anything to do with studying abroad, I think it has to do with the kind of people who study abroad.
Because the kind of people who study abroad are the ones that take initiative. They think outside the box, they take action, they are willing to adapt themselves to a new environment, willing to open themselves up to new situations. They are – yes I am becoming a little bit cheesy here – brave. They are a different kind of people and even though the experience of studying abroad probably only helped them in developing these good characteristics, the fact that they were willing to study abroad already made them part of this special group of people, of which many people are already a part.
Because this group is endless. Although it is an elite group, it does not have boundaries. That is probably the main philosophy of exchange students: not knowing boundaries, or at least challenging them. These statistics are merely an extra piece of evidence of something that we already knew – that exchange students are awesome.
We know that being on an exchange is a unique experience and sadly not all that many can relate to that. But it seems as if the big stars in music have had a similar experience, because the things they mention are oddly familiar to the experiences we have as exchanges students. Here are 15 songs that relate to your exchange year
¨I hopped off the plane at L.A.X. with a dream and my cardigan
Welcome to the land of fame, excess, whoa! am I gonna fit in?
Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time
Look to my right, and I see the Hollywood sign
“What time is it where you are?
I miss you more than anything
And back at home you feel so far
Waitin’ for the phone to ring
It’s gettin’ lonely livin’ upside down
I don’t even wanna be in this town
Tryin’ to figure out the time zones makin’ me crazy
Being an exchange student is hard work. So much so that sometimes we forget that we sometimes wonder why we decided to do it in the first place. We forget that it all goes by in the blink of an eye, wasting our time like we have a lifetime to waste, but once it’s over you will want to go back. Trust me.
To future exchange students: these all may seem pretty logical, but trust me; sooner or later you will struggle with one of these things. And that´s okay. It´s part of the process. Just take note and enjoy your exchange to the fullest!
To current exchange students: This post is not to tell you what you are doing wrong. This post is not meant to tell you you have to be the perfect exchange student. The perfect exchange student doesn’t exist, at some point we all need a moment to ourselves to process everything that’s going on instead of spending time with your host family. However, this list was put together by returnees. These are things people would do differently if they would get the chance. This list is to remind you that an exchange is only for a year and that you need to get as much out of it as possible
Your host family is asking you to come to the supermarket? Your grandmother is offering you some food? Just go with it! Try to say yes to everything, even if you end up in really strange situations, you will always have a good story to tell afterwards.
This seems pretty obvious, still a lot of exchange students struggle with this. Learning a language is hard and sometimes it’s just easier to speak English. However, spending time learning the language will ALWAYS pay off. You don’t want to come home and realize that you lived somewhere and that you don’t even know the language. You say you will keep practicing, but life get’s in the way. Your exchange year is the time to learn the language. You will have to sooner or later, so why not sooner?
Learning the language will help you in every aspect of your exchange and even though every exchange is a unique experience, it will without a doubt increase the quality of your exchange, so strop procrastinating and get to work!
I have often complained about the fact that my classmates didn’t talk to me, people didn’t ask me out to do stuff, but when I came home I realized: It wasn’t their exchange. They have their friends, their lives, they don’t need to be friends with me. I on the other hand had nobody else and spent my afternoons alone in my room untill one of the other lonely exchange students asked me if I wanted to do something.
And with ‘home’ I mean your home country. Of course everyone misses their family and friends, but talking to them for hours will only make it harder. Don’t waste your time on Facebook, Skype or Whatsapp, because it won’t bring you anything good, in fact ( after you are done reading this post of course 😉 ) turn of your laptop, tablet or phone and go do something!
This is probably one of the biggest struggles for exchange students and it’s understandable. When people are talking it’s so easy to get out your phone and scroll through your news feed, but you know what? Have you ever seen those posts that say “Nobody will remember the nights you got plenty of sleep”, but a good night of sleep or a strange dream can be remembered. On the other hand, who remembers having an actual good time scrolling through their Facebook news feed?
Yes exchange students are awesome. You don’t even have to try and you can talk to them like you’ve known each other forever. To make some good local friends, it takes a whole lot of effort, but don’t forget where you are! The best way to engage with the local culture is to have some friends who are from there and can tell you about it.
You can still hang out with your exchange friends, but don´t forget to find a balance because it sucks to go home and realize that there is hardly anyone in your host country you can actually talk to.
No matter how strange or annoying they may seem sometimes, these people decided to open their house for you. They decided they wanted to open their world and share it with you. Some families struggle with it more than others, but in the end they are your new family, so treat them with respect. Don’t expect it to be like a hotel, because it’s not. If they ask you do clean, do it, because that’s what people do when they live under one roof.
You can try calling them “mom” and “dad”, however uncomfortable that may be sometimes. If you say it enough times, your mind-set will change and you will come to see them more as a family than just the people who are hosting you and they will start seeing you as a part of the family instead of just a guest.
Things will often seem strange but remember there is always a reason why they do it, and the biggest reason is probably that they have been raised that way the same way you were raised to do things in a different way. It´s what you came for; to learn about the differences and cross those cultural barriers instead of judging them.
I can tell from experience it is really easy to judge or generalize a culture based on the people you are around, yet when you talk with someone else they will tell you something completely different. The truth is, there is no truth. Sometimes it´s even hard to know who you are, or to generalize a group of let´s say 100 people, let alone a country with millions of people.
Nobody has ever arrived to a new country making no mistakes, and nobody will blame you if you do. This might sound very logical but it is always better to try and fail than to not try at all. Go out, try and make mistakes. It´s part of the experience.
It is good to talk to your host family or your exchange organization about any problems you are having. The only way people will know you are feeling bad about something is when you speak up. An exchange is not easy and people will (or should) understand that.
Talking to your parents back home is probably a bad idea since they will easily get worried and they have no idea what the culture is like. It might feel comfortable to talk to them but they are probably the last people who can actually do something for you.
You can talk to a returnee from your own country that went to the same place. They will probably have had the same struggles and can understand why you are encountering these problems and give you some advice, knowing the culture and costums of your host country.
This might seem obvious, yet you don´t ask often enough. Asking is the best way to get to know the culture because then you don´t only see it but you will also discover the thought behind it. Asking too much is almost impossible for an exchange student.
You probably had expected your year was going to be amazing and that you were going to make lots of friends, but at some point you realize it ain´t all unicorns and rainbows. And that´s okay, because neither was your life at home. Life in general just has ups and downs, and the downs might feel a little downer than they did at home, but in the end it will all be worth it, trust me!
This might be the most important one of all. I know how hard an exchange can be and how much you want to just give up, go home to your own bed, your own family where you don´t have to tip toe around. Not having to struggle with the language. Having good friends around you. Tasting your mothers food again. It might seem like it is not worth it.That you picked the worst country, the worst organisation, the worst school. You think an exchange is just not for you, but you are wrong! Every exchange student has their struggles. Some more than others, but we have probably all had a moment where we wondered why we decided to just leave everything we ever knew and go to another country.
It´s because exchange students are different. If it were easy everybody would do it, but it´s not. However, the bad moment will pass. There are two certainties in your exchange: it will be difficult, and you will go home afterwards. The months you have left may seem like a long time, but as soon as they are over you wonder what happened to them. And sooner or later you will appreciate the hard times you lived and you will be so grateful for not giving up, I guarantee you this.
For anyone who has spent a certain amount of time in the Netherlands or around Dutch people this won`t be the first time you have heard of the concept of `lekker´. Yet the translation of this word has always been a bit of a problem. Literally it means `tasty` and originally it was used in the context of food. However, the Dutch thought ¨Why should it have only one meaning, when it can mean so much more?¨.
And that is how the infinite universe of the ´L´ word was founded, or at least that is what they say. Nowadays you shouldn`t be surprised to hear things like ¨…lekker fietsen…¨ (tasty cycling) or ¨…lekker weertje¨ (tasty weather). In this context the word can roughly be translated to `nice` or `agradable`. Something pleasant.
You can extend this meaning to basically any verb, even eating. When a Dutch person says ¨Lekker uit eten¨ (Tasty out for dinner) they are actually not referring to the food being tasty, but more the action of going out for dinner being something nice. `Lekker slapen´ (to sleep tastefully) or `Slaap lekker´ (Sleep tasty = sleep well) might be the most famous examples of the combination `Lekker + verb`.
`Lekker` can also be used when referring to people, which basically means someone is hot. ¨Meisje, je ziet er lekker uit¨ (Girl, you look tasty). (Warning: the use of this sentence or the use of lekker when referring to people is at own risk as it would be completely justified for a girl to punch you in the face after you have said this to her).
When you want someone to go away you could say something like ¨Ga toch lekker ….¨ (Just go and tastefully (insert verb) ) which is a way of saying ¨fuck off¨.
The phrase ´Lekker is dat´ (tasty is that) falls into this category aswell, which is basically the sarcastic cousin of the phrase ¨Oh that´s nice!¨
If someone is messing something up and you want to say something really Dutch, tell them they are ¨lekker bezig¨ (tastefully busy), yet another form of being `tastefully busy` can be used in a work environement when people (like for example your boss) ask you how things are going ¨Ja, lekker. Lekker druk.¨
What I probably like most about the word ´lekker´ is how much it reflects upon the Dutch culture. Dutch are very humble when it comes to expressing something nice. ´Lekker´ is not super-awesomely epic. It´s not the most euphoric feeling in the world, but it is good, it´s nice and most of all, it´s enough and many times it expresses the exact feeling you have without having to exaggerate it to make people believe you actually had a nice experience.
This is what a Russian woman once told me. She lived in our neighbourhood and I had never really talked to her and had honestly always assumed she was Dutch, because her Dutch was normal, but normal in the sence of that it was perfect. I asked her how she did it and she laughed. ¨Honestly, I don´t know¨ she said ¨.. but I don`t really like getting compliments¨. I was sort of confused – how could one not like getting compliments about that?. ¨When someone gives you a compliment on your accent, your second language, it`s because they assume you don´t speak it at all. I on the other hand have been living here for 20 years. I have to speak Dutch every day. You can not compare me to an average Russian¨.
What she said really got me thinking. Was she right? Should I not be aiming for compliments after all? And after having thought about it for a long long time, my answer is yes. She was absolutely right. Of course there are exceptions, but in general compliments are more a confirmation of ´being on the right way` learning a language, than of you actually speaking it well. Of course, when you are in that process of learning a language compliments are great. They make you feel good, they keep you going. Yet when you really want to achieve fluency in another language, the ultimate goal is for natives to stop giving you compliments.
¨Why is this?¨ you might ask. And the answer is quite simple. When you speak another language so fluently you sound like a native speaker, people either assume you are native OR they think you already know how good you are. You would´t compliment a French person on his perfect pronunciation, or his extended vocabulary. So why would they compliment you, if you speak just as good as all the other french people?
I had an experience where me and another woman had to translate for a group of people from Ecuador. This woman had followed a course once and had spent some summers in Spain. When I introduced myself to the group I mentioned that I had lived in Panama, not specifying for how long. During this week I constantly heard these people compliment the other woman on her Spanish, and it was extremely frustrating as she was constantly making mistakes, mispronouncing things and often had no clue what they were talking about, while I had lived in a Latin-American country and felt like I was speaking quite well. On the 5th day I overheard three guys talking about us. One of the guys said he was impressed by the way the other woman spoke spanish, to which the other replied that he thought I was the one that spoke better. ¨Obviously¨ the third guy said ¨.. but she lived in Panama¨.
That`s when I realized that it was true. They didn`t give me a compliment because they considered me a native speaker, someone who obviously speaks well. The standard to which they measured me was completely different than the standard they used for the other woman.
And now that you know this, you will notice it all the time: people who are really struggling will often get the ¨You are doing great! I am so impressed!¨ while those who can speak a language without thinking about it will get no comment at all, and maybe even a correction in the tiniest mistake they do make. And there is nothing wrong with getting corrected every once in a while, it only means that you have done everything else perfectly!
Of course if you do get a compliment this doesn´t necesarily mean you are bad at the language. Not at all! But you will see the better you speak the language, the fewer compliments you will get from the natives, so when nobody comments on your language skills, take it as a compliment!
Being on an exchange is awesome and that is one of the reasons exchange students like to talk about it. However, being an exchange student can also pretty hard for a couple of reasons, one of them being the ignorance they have to deal with. I would encourage everybody to make contact with exchange students, ask them about their (host) countries, since they are some of the most awesome people on this planet, still there is an end to an exchange student´s tolerance. Here is a list of things NOT to ask or say to an exchange student and the thought they will probably have when someone does.