Becoming an Exchange Student

By Mariana Rodrigues. This is Mariana’s tale about how she came to be here with us. Mariana is with our family for the entire school year and is from Brazil.
Becoming an exchange student takes a lot of planning, patience and openness to a different culture and ideas. It’s an important decision that is made with much thought. It’s a long and exciting process that I and other exchange students have been through.
After talking to a lot of people who did it, including my Mom, I realized that it was what I wanted for my life. So I went to a travel agency to choose my destination, duration, and other details relating to my school. After making my decisions, I completed my application and sent it a year before the date I was going to go to the US. Then I completed my medical screenings, American visa, and other documents.
The programs available were broken into five regions. I chose the Northeastern region with thirteen states available. I had a long time to get ready and prepare myself for my stay of almost an entire year in a different place with different people. During this period of time, I attended a few meetings with the agency to talk about the program and learn some things we needed to know. It was nice to meet other students that were in the same situation as me.
The worst part of the process was waiting because I didn’t want to create expectations on anything. I was afraid I wouldn’t get into the program I wanted. I was afraid I would not fit into my new school and home. I was anxious about everything.
I felt like I was in a holding pattern. June passed quickly and before I knew it, it was already August. My suitcase was packed with blank on the destination tag. In Brazil, the school year starts in February and goes until June. There is a break for the month of July, and then class resumes until December. So my friends and my brother went back to school, but I stayed home. Most of the other exchange students I knew had already left or were leaving soon, but I had no destination yet and was worried. Finally, I received my host family’s application, all the information about the family, and the name and some of the details of the place I was going to live for the next several months. With much relief, I was finally ready to go.
The support of my friends and family through this whole process was so important through this whole process. They helped me get through my frustrations of not knowing what was going to happen. However, it was very difficult to leave them behind in Brazil when I left to come here.
I stayed in New York City for three days with other exchange students from different countries like Germany, China, Mongolia, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and others. All of us just arrived and were there for our orientation. It was an amazing experience meeting so many people from so many different places, and I had a really good time.
There are many differences between my country, my life in Brazil and my life here in the US, but I’m enjoying everything.  As I live here, I want to learn about American life and culture. My ambition can be summed up best by a phrase from a famous Brazilian explorer and sailor, Amyr Klink:

“A man needs to travel. By his own means, not by stories, images, books or TV. By his own, with his eyes and feet, to understand what he is. To some day plant his own trees and give them some value. To know the cold to enjoy the heat. To feel the distance and lack of shelter to be well under his own ceiling. A man needs to travel to places he doesn’t know to break this arrogance that makes us see the world as we imagine it, and not simply as it is or may be. That makes us teachers and doctors of what we have never seen, when we should just be learners, and simply go see it.”


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