Case Study: Exchange in the UK
Reflections on my exchange in the UK
by Pernille from Denmark
In August last year, Pernille from Denmark kindly wrote about her thoughts as she is prepared for her departure for her year exchange to the UK. She spoke of her nerves and excitement and determination to succeed, and now, 10 months later she has written about her experience and reflected on the opportunities and challenges she has faced.
Now that you are preparing to go home, how do you feel about your exchange experience?
It’s been such an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It’s been challenging and I’ve learned so many things and grown extremely much in such a short time. I’ve experienced so many things and met so many nice people while staying here and I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity.
What did you enjoy most about your time on exchange?
I know it’s a typical thing to say, but everything. I don’t think I can pick out one thing and say that I’ve enjoyed that more than another thing, because each thing I’ve experienced has a meaning to me in different ways.
How did you find living with a host family?
I am so pleased with the host family I got. They are all very nice and really good company. I’m really happy that I got to stay with them and get to know them. It has been a really fun experience to live with someone else and create this bond between us. They are so nice to you and treat you as you were a part of their family. They listen to what you have to say and make sure that you feel welcome and are happy.
What was it like meeting your family for the first time?
It was so weird and awkward (haha). It was weird meeting them because I’ve been talking to them before I came. They helped me feel welcomed and a part of the family from day one.
What challenges did you face when starting school?
It was not too easy making friends at the beginning because I had to settle in first. The language wasn’t difficult but it was still a challenge at the beginning that everything was in English. But of course it got better with time.
How did school in the UK differ from school in Denmark?
The school system in the UK is a bit different than in Denmark. For example I had a different class/classmates for each subjects because we chose our subjects ourselves. In Denmark you have one class for all subjects. And I got frees during the day so I didn’t go to school from 8-3 everyday with only one break, as in Denmark. It was nice trying something new. The teachers are nice and funny and we could always talk to them if we had something on our minds. The other students made sure I felt welcome as well, and I got a lot of really nice friends. In general, the school was such a nice place with lots of fun things to do. They even planned a trip to Bristol for our photography class.
Do you feel more confident speaking English and how will you keep practising when you are home?
I definitely feel more comfortable in my spoken and written English after these months. I don’t think as much about if what I say is right anymore as it comes more naturally. I plan to still have contact with my friends and host family so in that way I’ll keep up practising my English, and of course I’ll have English at my college when I go home.
Did you feel prepared for the exchange and supported by the staff?
I think so, yeah. We got a lot of information about the exchange before we left and while we were here, so I knew what I was going into, even though of course it’s different when you’re there. I could always contact my Area Rep if I had any problems so that was nice as well.
What advice would you give someone preparing for exchange?
I would first of all say, no matter what, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re in doubt of anything no matter how stupid you think it is. And then just make sure to be open, have an open mind and think positive. That will get you a long way!
Would you recommend an exchange to other people?
I have already recommended it to so many people. Being on exchange is a special thing and you learn and experience so many things while you’re away. I was surprised myself how much I’ve changed and learned. It’s something you can’t just experience by going on holiday to the country. Living there in the culture, in their environment gives you a better understanding about the country and the people. You see how other people live outside from your own country and that is an amazing thing! I think this is something every person should experience in their life.
What are your plans when you get home and has exchange influenced your plans for the future?
I’m starting college after summer holiday and then continuing my education after that. During the summer I’ll just work to earn money. The exchange made me realise how passionate I am about photography so it definitely influenced me to start working with my camera a lot more.
Pernille’s reflections on her experience highlight the fact that it does take work to make your exchange a success. Students have to be willing to be open and talk with their host family, classmates and local Area Representative. Her commitment to the experience helped her to make the most of her exchange and we congratulate Pernille for her effort and wish her every success in the future. We hope to see some of your photos from Denmark!