Everything I learnt from my first student exchange

Everything I learnt from my first student exchange

Many don’t even consider student exchange until University but at 14 years old I was flying halfway around the world to test out life as an American High Schooler and… this is what I learnt.

Don’t say no just because you think you have ‘been there, done that’

I was sitting at my weekly school assembly and as they listed the range of cities the G’day USA trip offers I checked off in my head the places that I had already been, thinking that I probably wouldn’t bother with the trip because I had already seen most of it. I was 13/14 at the time but I can’t even blame my age for how ridiculous I was to even consider shutting down this incredible opportunity.

The truth is that even though I had already been to many of the places on the trip, my experience was completely different from the previous times I have visited.  I had grown up, I was surrounded by completely different people and the places themselves had grown too. I had a different outlook on life and was surprised by how much I actually had not seen and done.

I understand the urge to see as many places and you possibly can but don’t forget to see as many things as you can in those places.

Girl with Dora the Explorer and Diego at Universal Studios California

Don’t let others hold you back

If it wasn’t for one of my friends begging me to go with her I would have let my stupidity get the better of me and missed out completely. The crazy thing is that this friend unfortunately had to cancel leaving me with the decision to quit out of the exchange program or go ahead with this opportunity that I was now so excited for.

Spoiler: I still went on what was one of the best trips of my life.

It is okay to do the things you love and follow your dreams even if the people around do not feel the same way or are unable to join you. You do not want to spend your whole life wondering ‘What if?’.

Girls on Student Exchange in San Francisco

It is okay to find comfort in familiar people

This particular exchange program was not like many others around. I will try to explain it as best I can for you but I do like to ramble quite a bit so I apologise in advance. You see, The Education World Travel G’day USA program reaches out to schools. Then depending on numbers the schools will  be put in a group of up to 60ish students with other schools. From there they fly each group over where they will spend 2 weeks with a host family joining their American host to school and then a week travelling with the group to explore mostly theme parks as well as some other fun things America has to offer.

So although it may not be a traditional exchange and I don’t think I had to do any school work besides read some papers out loud because everyone was quite fascinated with my accent it was still a very new and overwhelming experience.  However, I was not alone. There may have only been 9 of us in my little school group but there was so much love and support within the group that made even the worse days great. Plus my family was only a message away.

You don’t have to be alone. You are still able to experience new things and meet new people while still seeking comfort within familiar people.

Girls on a boat in San Francisco with Alcatraz

It is important to reach beyond your comfort zone

Yeah, Yeah I know I just said it is okay to stay within your comfort zone but just make sure you are not stuck there forever. Once you step outside of that comfort zone a world of opportunity will open up.

I still find it unbelievable how many friends I have made and life changing experiences I have had because I allowed myself to live.

“Life Begins at the end of your comfort zone”
-Neale Donald Walsch

I love shopping in America

Okay, I love shopping in general but don’t we all?!

As an Aussie, shopping in the USA is extraordinarily exciting and cheap even with an average exchange rate. It is where to go to stock up on all your makeup, clothing and whatever else you can get your hands on before returning home to your overpriced country.

It wasn’t until this student exchange, when I was free to roam the malls without my parents, that I really began my shopping rampage. Sure Australia is finally picking up its shopping game with some H&M, Sephora and most importantly Forever 21 but 14 year old me was in absolute heaven wandering though these stores that were so exotic at the time. To be honest I still feel like I and in heaven wandering through these stores.

I also learnt that:

  • Johnny Rockets cheese and bacon fries are great for jetlag.
  • If you pass out at the airport you will be offered a wheelchair and all of your friends will carry you luggage around for you.
  • It is possible to miss your entire birthday due to timezone changes when flying from America to Australia.
  • The Shining was filmed at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood, Oregon.
  • Voodoo Doughnuts is awesome and delicious.
  • Being Homesick sucks but it doesn’t have to ruin your trip.
  • Disneyland is a lot quieter and a whole lot cooler in January.
  • Not everything works out the way you want or expect it to.
  • American High School is not at all like the movies.
  • Some people actually believe all Australians have pet kangaroos. Sorry to disappoint, but we don’t.
  • You meet the best people while travelling.

I learnt so much, did so much, ate so much and met so many incredible people. All in all this trip changed my life.

Has a trip ever change your life?

Have you ever been on a student exchange?

I would love to hear your story!


  1. How lucky were you to have your first overseas trip to the United States at the tender age of 13! I didn’t get that opportunity until I was in high school when my French teacher organized annual Spring Break trips to Europe. I ended up going on three of them. You’re right! These trips do change you as I have now been close to 25 countries in my lifetime as a result!


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