Over the big pond: An exchange student explains the process that brought her to America

Photo by Megan Haman. From right to left, Mark Graf, Marty Graf, Walter Graf, Maxi Jaensch
Photo by Megan Haman.
From right to left, Mark Graf, Marty Graf, Walter Graf, Maxi Jaensch

“How did you decide to go to America?” I think every exchange student answers this question a million times during their exchange year, and so have I.

Normally I just answer with: “I was always interested in the United States, and I thought it would be a good experience for me to live in a different country for one year,” and that actually was my main reason to do this exchange year.

The idea of being an exchange student first came to my mind in the library of my German school. I don’t remember the main reason why I was in there, but they had newspapers about exchange programs. I looked at them, and I thought it sounded really interesting, so I took a few with me. When I was home, my friend and I looked at them, and we decided we’d want to live in San Francisco or New York City for a year and go there to school. At this point we were just joking around and not really serious about this idea.

A few months later, I found the exchange newspaper in my room while I was cleaning up. I looked at the programs again and really started thinking about it. “Wouldn’t it be so cool to actually be a student at an American high school?” I decided it would!

I talked to my parents about it and both of them surprisingly said that it sounds like a really good idea. The only problem about the whole idea was the price. At this point I just wanted to do 6 month instead of one year, which would still cost around $10,000.

A few days after I talked to my parents about the whole exchange idea, my dad called me. He told me that he started researching for scholarships, and he actually found one. The only “bad” point about this scholarship was that it was a scholarship for one year instead for just six months, but at this point I already wanted to be an exchange student so bad that I quickly decided to apply for the scholarship.

Filling out the whole profile, writing a letter in English, getting all the notes from teachers and my doctor and much more stuff took me around two weeks to finish. I was happy when I was finally ready to send the application in, and then the long, long time of waiting stated. After around five months, I finally got the phone call that they decided to give the scholarship to me. I think, I was the happiest girl in the world after this phone call.

Unil this point, I wasn’t scared at all to do this whole exchange year but the phone call made everything so real. I stared to really think about it and thought some thoughts that scared me: I still wanted to be an exchange student more than anyone can ever imagine (except for other future exchange students).

Two weeks before my flight, I got my placement information. A family with one son and a dog, living in Michigan, decided to host me for one year. I was really happy, even if I wasn’t going to live in Florida or California.

The day of my flight was a day with mixed emotions. On the one side, I was excited to meet my host family and to start a “new life” in America, but on the other side, I was sad about leaving my friends and family. My dad, my mom, my sister, my two best friends and my grand parents accompanied me to the airport to say good by, and it was really sad.

But then I was on the plane on my way to America and all the sadness was gone–I was just excited and nervous about how my life for the next year is going to be.

If I know look back on all this, I’m so happy that I got this scholarship, and that I was able to make so many new experiences that most of the kids in my age are not able to make.

By Maxie Jaensch

One thought on “Over the big pond: An exchange student explains the process that brought her to America

  • Avatar
    April 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Nice article!

    Here is one project which could be interesting for exchange students!
    Erasmus Mobility project – HEION: https://www.facebook.com/heionproject

    The HEION team.


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