Student exchange programs allow a window to meet and study with people of countries. The U.S. is one of the most sought out countries to travel to for education, with an international student rate of around 20%. Host families accept students into their homes, allowing the exchange student to attend school in America.
For Japanese exchange student Reina Senda, the struggles of living in a new country come off as daunting at first.
“It’s scary being an exchange student. I’m trying to speak English better since in Japan we focus on reading and writing,” Senda said. “It’s also a lot harder when the classes are English based. My host [Linnea Margiotta], is helping me practice my English.”
Along with the experience of a new country comes feelings of homesickness. Due to timezones, Senda isn’t able to call her family much, and texts them through Skype whenever available. The sophomore also finds America to be quite different from Japan.
“It’s a lot different here. I thought there would be a lot of freedom, like using phones in class,” she recalled. “In Japan, we go to school six days a week and take the train to school, where in America we go five days and take buses.There’s a lot of eye contact and smiling when speaking, too.”
German exchange student Madeleine Nietzold has found her arrival to the United States to be a dream come true, and sees the experience as a wish checked off her list.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the U.S. and live the American way of life,” Nietzold said. “I’ve wanted to live in America for a year, not just come for a vacation. When I went to hand over my boarding pass, that’s when I really realized that I would be away from everyone I knew for ten months. That’s when it got emotional.”
Like Senda, Nietzold also found there to be multiple differences between schools in Germany and schools in America, such as clubs.
“In Germany, school is about just getting a job, not school spirit,” Nietzold said. “All the classes are two hours long. There are no sport teams; only academic clubs, though we have theater and chorus. The U.S. has so many cool things.”
Junior Linnea Margiotta has previously hosted two exchange students from Japan and is currently hosting Japanese exchange student Reina Senda. Margiotta compares having an exchange student to having a sister and a best friend living with her. Margiotta went on to describe the process of receiving Senda.
“We got Reina and our other two foreign exchange students through Ayusa. Ayusa sent a representative to the house to make sure it was suitable and not in shambles,” Margiotta explained. “After inspecting the house, my family and I got on the website and picked Japan as our preferred country. A list of exchange students came up, and we got to go through their interests and pick the one that matches ours bests. My parents picked our first two exchange students, Shiori and Nami, but I got to pick Reina because we have similar interests.”
Margiotta went on to describe what it’s like living with an exchange student.
“Reina often helps around the house with chores. We’re really working on her English since she’s having some trouble speaking,” Margiotta said. “Once I’m enrolled in Alabama University’s Japanese course, then we’ll practice Japanese together. We hang out a lot, watching anime and playing games.”