Case Study: After an exchange
Life a year after exchange
by Michela from Italy
Michela, 19, came to the UK on exchange from Italy with MyEducation from September 2014 to June 2015. Michela was placed in Salisbury and attended Sarum Academy. While on exchange she achieved a lot and Michela has very kindly shared her reflections on the experience a year after she returned home to Italy.
Looking back, what are your memories of your exchange year in the UK?
I clearly remember the first days, when I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said to me and I was so afraid about the whole new universe that was ahead of me!
Things got better in no time and I am really proud of what I accomplished. Classes at school became very easy, I started to think and dream in English, and speaking Italian with my friends and family at home became confusing as I often mixed English and Italian words.
I loved the London trip organised by MyEducation, and I still keep in touch with the other exchange students I met there. My wonderful host family also helped me to have unforgettable experiences: we had a lovely trip in Oxford and, as a birthday present, they took me to the Harry Potter studios in London as they knew that I was a huge Harry Potter fan!
What was it like to return home after spending a year in the UK? What emotions did you go through?
It wasn’t easy at all!
I cried when I left Italy and I cried even more when I had to go back home! It was great to see my family and friends again, but I think that I will always miss my English life. Starting my old routine again was hard, as everyone expected me to be the same person that had left 10 months earlier, while this period totally changed my life.
What do you miss about the UK?
Certainly not the weather!! 🙂 I do really miss my host family and some bits of my life in England: my workplace in the restaurant of a hotel, my lovely volleyball team, my independence, the nice chats with my host family at dinner, my comfortable house with the little garden, my lovely room and the most comfortable sitting room ever where I’ve read tonnes of books!
Now that you have finished school what do you plan on doing?
I was planning to go back to the UK immediately after my exchange, but I thought that finishing my studies was wiser! Thanks to my exchange year, I discovered my true passion, patisserie, so I took a pastry course and I’ll leave for Australia in a month to start my working life there
How do you think the experience of the exchange programme changed you as a person?
It was both the best and the worst year of my life and it helped me to discover a lot about myself. I think I grew up to be a more strong and independent girl, I know what I want from my future and I’m not afraid of travelling to Australia and starting all over again, because now I know that I can do it!
Are you planning to return to the UK?
Probably! Not in the near future, because I will be quite far away from Europe, but I’d love to see my family, my colleagues and my friends again.
What advice would you give to students about to undertake an exchange programme?
Talk about every problem that you might have, then meet with your area rep and discuss it, even if it can feel silly: they know what you’re facing and they will make you feel less lonely.
Don’t worry if your exchange isn’t as you expected at the beginning and keep an open mind: you might be placed in a very different context and it may be confusing, but if you stay positive you’ll immediately get used to your new life and it will enrich you more than you can imagine!
Keep busy! Find something you love (sport, music, clubs); it will be a great opportunity to meet new friends and it will keep your mind away from homesickness and sadness!
Remember that your friends from home will be there when you return, so focus on building relationships with the new people you meet and try to stay away from your phone when you’re alone.
Don’t worry about the language: don’t be afraid of asking people to repeat things if you don’t understand and don’t be ashamed of your accent, because it is what makes you unique and everyone will find it adorable!
Finally, you’re going to have an amazing experience: remember that you’re lucky and not everyone gets to have such a great opportunity.
Thank you so much for these wise and inspiring words Michela. We wish you the best of luck in Australia.