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Gioia: to be or not to be an Exchange Student?

I know that many of you are asking yourselves: should I go on an exchange or not? Well, let me tell you, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. In this article, I will talk about my experience, the pros and cons and how I feel now that I have returned home after ten months of being abroad.

When I decided to do ten months abroad, my mom wasn’t really happy about it. She wanted me to go for six months because she thought ten were way too much. But I was firm about my decision and, finally, I convinced her to let me do ten months. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I absolutely wanted to do it.
For this kind of experience you need to feel 100% ready because, believe me, you will go thru ups and downs. You have to decide if you want to do it, not your parents!
Well, let me start by telling you about my experience. I left on the 21st of August 2016 and, when I was going to the airport with my family, I started thinking “Am I ready for this kind of experience?”. As soon as I passed thru the airport security I bursted into tears. Oh man, I didn’t even know a human could cry that much. For the whole trip (almost 24 hours), I cried non-stop but now, thinking about it, it makes me laugh a lot.
Once I got there, there was my host family waiting for me at the airport and that was probably the best moment of the whole experience. I was meeting the family that I was going to live with for the next ten months and I was so excited.
The first three months weren’t easy, I had to get used to a completely different routine, I had to make friends since I didn’t know anybody there, I had to get to know the place where I was living and, most of all, I had to get used to speaking a complete different language.
My English was pretty good when I left but still, at the beginning, when local people were talking to me, I couldn’t understand anything. I started to understand everything and talk fluently around February, so after about six months of being there. This is the reason why I didn’t want to do just six months, because you have to leave just when you start to understand everything, talk better and consolidate your friendships.
The first day of school was traumatic, there were 3500 students and I was the only exchange student in the whole school. I consider myself really lucky because I met this girl on the first day of school and today she is still my best friend. We were in math class and she wanted to meet me since I was an exchange student and she had never met one before. The first months we hung out a little, we got to know each other and she introduced me to her group of friends. They were all super nice and super open to meeting a new girl from a different country. By the end of October, we always hung out together, they were always coming over to my house and we spent a lot of time together. Well, those girls are today my best friends.
During this experience I had good and bad days, sometimes I wanted to have my Italian mom next to me and sometimes I wanted to be back in Bologna with my friends but, without the bad days, this experience wouldn’t have been the same.
The state of my exchange year was California. I didn’t tell you this before just because you would have thought: “You were in California, you can’t say you had bad days, you could only have had good days in a state like that” as a lot of people told me that when I got home. Wherever you go, the country, or the state doesn’t mean anything, YOU make your own experience, YOU are the one that decides whether an experience is going to be a good memory or a bad one and YOU are the one that has to be open and ready to anything that is going to happen.
So YOU are what is important, not the destination.
When I got home after ten months away, nothing had changed, the people were the same, my family was the same, my home was the same but something didn’t feel right. I was the one that had changed.
Coming back home and having to leave my American friends, my American family, my American school and my city hasn’t been easy, it’s been even harder than leaving Bologna. That was a year that nobody is ever going to give me back but it was amazing.
I will be forever thankful to my family, to my school and to Mondo Insieme, that gave me the chance to live the year of my life.
What you have read until now is not even half of my experience. If I had to tell you everything, not even 100 pages would be enough.


Gioia: to be or not to be an Exchange Student?
Gioia: to be or not to be an Exchange Student?
Gioia: to be or not to be an Exchange Student?

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