Case Study: Exchange in the UK
On exchange in Wales
by Ina from Germany
Ina, from Germany, was 16 when she arrived in the UK to live with her Welsh host family for one year. At the end of her exchange, Ina has taken the time to share her thoughts on the experience and to reflect on what she has learned about herself and others.
As I seriously considered moving to the UK once I am done with secondary school and have finished my studies, the exchange year was a unique opportunity to get to know the everyday life in England.
I would be going to school there for a whole year and would encounter the great and highly regarded British school system, which was awesome! Since I was little I have always awed at the British schools with their uniforms and their extraordinary classes and I have read so much about it in books and watched films. I have always hoped to get to see everything myself once. I was hoping to make friends there as soon as possible, with whom I could attend a lot of extracurricular activities and spend my free time.
I was also extremely curious about how life in a host family would be. Especially at my current age, my life is really shaped by my family, friends and direct surroundings. The exchange year gave me the chance to experience a whole different life and culture, which is important empirical knowledge, because that way I would get to know different perspectives and ways of life. Perhaps I would have a host sibling my age, who could help me through the school day and become my closest friend or I might have a cute little host sibling, like I have always wanted. Maybe my host family is religious and they would take me to church with them. That would be an incredible experience, for I am not religious myself, but really curious about religions. However, something about the host family was going to be absolutely certain: they would transfer first-hand experience of life in Great Britain to me. I could really feel something that seems to pull me straight toward the UK and I guess it must be because of its interesting culture and its kind, but a bit reserved, people, who I find to be very similar to myself. The friendships I would be making during my exchange year would be for a lifetime, I knew that even back when I decided to go on an exchange trip, and turns out everybody truly has taken a special place in my heart.
Living in Great Britain for a whole year would also, first and foremost, immensely improve my spoken and written language. I had already spent a lot of my free time dealing with the English language while reading books, watching films, clips, and more, but actually speaking to native speakers all day for a year would give me the ability to talk spontaneously without thinking. And just a few months after first arriving in Wales I had my first dream in English. All my lessons in school would be held in English and I could practice my absolutely favourite language everywhere I go. All the new vocabulary I would learn and the confidence I would find would be highly useful even once I am back in Germany. I would not only benefit from the exchange year while I was there, but for a lifetime. I want to study English and eventually become an English teacher, so the year in the UK helped me incredibly on my way.
And it turns out that school in Wales was absolutely amazing! The teachers were great and I loved the relationship between student and teacher. School is a lot easier and relaxed in Wales than it is in Germany, but you still learn a whole lot. I just wish school was the same in Germany, I might actually like it then.