"Hello, there is so much to say, it is difficult to sum up my experience! My trip to Japan was just wonderful, I had so much fun!
There was never any serious problems during my entire stay, only getting lost a few times in the confusing Japanese metro, train and bus system! But even that, was an experience in itself, a fun challenge!
My host family was very nice, understanding, and always made sure I was happy, understood what was going on, etc.
I had a little Japanese brother and sister, a first for me as in my (real) family, I only have an older brother of 19 years of age. They were very funny and loud! I remember the first day with my host family, my little sister hurriedly invited all of her friends over so that we could play together and meet each other! I was really happy although a little disoriented as they all spoke Japanese...! : D
I visited many sites, and tasted meals, all very delicious! I love Japanese cuisine!
I also made many Japanese friends with whom I keep contact via Facebook, e-mail, Skype, Twitter...! I speak with them often!
Not only did I make friends from Japan but from all over the world, those that were in the same program as myself...Australia, United States, Bulgaria, Italy, China, etc.! We obviously all keep contact, and speak daily via Facebook!
In terms of learning the language, I really improved my Japanese. I had a small base prior to my trip but, living in an environment where people practically speak exclusively Japanese (or some basic English), my speed of learning really accelerated. I was so well ‘settled’ into Japanese that I started using expressions unique to the region I was living and was slowly losing my French!!!
I enjoyed so much learning Japanese that I continue to study the language in Quebec.
It is really an experience that has changed my life, I think. And that has also changed my personality; I am more responsible, curious and sociable than before! I really would like to return to Japan and see all the people I care about, maybe even live there, who knows!?!"
Madeleine Therrien, Japan
“This summer has been one of the best experiences of my life. This trip is surely one I will never forget. It has helped me grow, and has made me come out of my comfort zone. My favourite parts on this trip would have to be the weekends. Especially Granada, Nerja, Frigiliana and Sevilla. I loved going to different cities and learning a little more about them. Like the different architectural structures of each city, the different cultures and what is important to them, and the historical places. Also, spending time with my new friends and getting to know them better was also a highlight. I enjoyed many other activities as well, like going to the beach, hiking to the top of the mountain that overlooked Malaga and having team bonding. Although sometimes 60 people was a little overwhelming, it worked out for the best and most people would have a lot of fun. This trip was amazing, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it. I will try to continue to improve my Spanish, take home many memories, and keep in touch with my new friendships.”
Bruna Salerno in Spain
"This experience brought me incredible souvenirs, a lot of self-confidence and enabled me to grow as a person, which gave me the possibility to meet many lovely people and friends that will forever stay in my heart. I experienced many unforgettable moments in Panama, and even thought I have been back for a few months, I look forward to returning to discover many more things about this beautiful country and its colourful culture.
Thank you for giving this opportunity to many students, it is a unique experience that lasts a lifetime."
Mélodie Roy, Panama.
"My year in France was truly the experience of a lifetime. What I've learned is that a year abroad with AFS is not really about the things you do nor the places you go but the people you do those things with and the people you go the places with. Personally, I did not have any concrete expectations of the year before I left but I did fully expect to learn and to discover in a variety of ways. It's really amazing how this year has helped me recognize my qualities and weaknesses and thus, it helped me determine the kind of person that I wanted to be. For me, AFS was so much more than learning to be responsible, independent, open and mature, although it is an inevitable part of living away from home. For me, the treasure was finding out and actually seeing in myself, the development of the qualities that I hoped to see in others."
Bernice in France
"Hello, I would like to thank you for your help. It's because of you that I am in Germany today and living my dream ofthis unique and enriching experience. I am doing very well here with my host family and new friends. In fact, Germany is a country much more welcoming than one would expect! I feel that I'm in a country that will teach me a lot about real life, since after only three months I feel that I've learned much more in terms of culture and experience that I thought would take the entire year to learn. For example, the fact that I arrived in Germany via London, (to my surprise) made me really feel like an adult. Speaking German has become an everyday thing for me. I'm now capable to have simple conversations with classmates without using my pocket dictionary to understand new words. Up until now I've visited many cities including Hamburg, Essen, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam (although I know it's in the Netherlands), as well as a bunch of little villages whose names are too complicated for now to write! Haha! Honestly, everything here pleases me: the typical dishes are succulent (Bratwurst, Glüwein, Kartofeln mit Kase) and what to say about the great beer! Don't worry, although I won't be 18 until April, thedrinking age here is 16 so it's legal to have a beer with friends!"
Thanks again for allowing me to be part of this student exchange.
Charles Cabana in Germany
My Best Experience
"An exchange year isn’t about just having fun. It isn’t just about learning a new language and learning to respect your elders. It isn’t just about trying all the new marvelous food and wishing you hadn’t after you step on a scale. It isn’t just about learning how to wash your own clothes and not being able to watch what you want on television. It’s about all these things and a whole lot more of whatever you want it to be. Your exchange year is a car, and you can drive it whichever way you want.
Now I will explain the process of thoughts of an average exchange student, with a time line. You arrive in your destination after a long plane ride and everything is wonderful, even though you haven’t slept in the past two days. Your flight was only ten hours yet before you couldn’t sleep because you stayed awake and repacked all your things ten times the night before your flight. After three weeks of living in your new country reality starts to kick in. You are not on vacation, and you won’t be going home any time soon. Panic and homesickness takes its place. Two months goes by really slow. School isn’t what you thought it would be and the friends you have now might not actually be your friends. You talk to your fellow exchangers and realize that you aren’t the only one who has problems. After six months your host family’s house actually feels like home. You have your own daily routine and have friends that actually want to be there for you. After seven months I am just assuming that everything goes by really fast, and soon enough you’ll be home in your own bed.
I have some advice now that I would like to recycle for you. An exchange year is completely different than what you think it will be. Don’t expect anything. Don’t regret anything. Don’t forget anything."
Samantha Rossi, Brazil
My defining Moment
"It was January 1, and a beautiful summer’s day. The sun was shining and, surprisingly, the wind wasn’t too strong, for the Rio Gallegos. I could feel the heat from the open fire that was slowly cooking the two lambs held by wrought iron posts, the Argentinean Asado. The smell filled the air and made us all very hungry as we patiently waited and chatted while the meat cooked. I was in the best company; my friend Pablo’s family was so warm and welcoming. It had been a while since I felt at home, because I was so far away from my family. The Argentinean Asado; a time for family and friends to get together and celebrate or to just being surrounded by loved ones, and of course, to eat!
Earlier, I had left my house from Marambio 45 where my host mum was setting the long 18-seater table with our best wineglasses. I really don’t think much of it; I was just excited about the Asado I was going to. I love my host family very much but at the same time I didn’t always fit in, their local habits were clearly different from mine. That is why on the afternoon, I was so happy to get warm loved feeling again!
I sat down at the table that was casually set up outside. The gentle breeze blew through the wooden structure that the table sat under. The table was full of food, chicken, salads, bread, and of course the lamb. It was the first time in what had seemed so long that I felt completely comfortable. Things were so simple and relaxed. There was no pressure to impress or to look a certain way. I was quite quiet that day; I was observing all that was going on, and I could feel the positive energy floating about. Everyone was laughing, telling jokes while drinking the famous Argentinean wine out of yogurt cup. I knew that I had 10 days left in Argentina. It was sad but it didn’t seem to bother me at that moment. I felt that I could have gone home the next day if I had to because that day was defining moment in my life, it was what I needed to learn from my experience and finally I discovered it for myself. I had got a taste of what I was missing. What I learned that day, I will carry through with me for the rest of my life. I can still remember the feeling. Family is such a sacred gift that we all cherish.
Unconditional love is something that can’t be taught. Because of that day, I have much greater appreciation for being a part of the family and being surrounded by warm and caring people. My goal in life is to always insure that the people I meet along my journey through life are good and will only have a positive effect on life.
I will always put my family first and by supportive of the people I meet along my journey through life. There are so many beautiful, amazing people in the world and I hope to meet as many as I can. Life is about who you are with, not what you have."
Vanessa Sykes, Argentina
"Since I left Italy I promised myself that I would always be in contact with AFS at some extent, it brought so much joy to my life and I think I owe AFS my help in any way I can, for it changed my life. I think that people that have the opportunity to go with AFS abroad have an opportunity of a lifetime to get to know themselves, exploring new cultures and challenging one's beliefs about the world and people in general. I think AFS is an organization that brings about peace in the world, something that I've promoted my entire life, its quite inspiring. "
Francisco Sebastian Morales, Italy