"Being on exchange is like stepping through a mirror into another world, where the mad hatter is having a tea party on the ceiling with fireworks and Madame Currie.... And then once it starts to make sense, you go home again."
How I did it: At first I thought that I would never be able to afford being a foreign exchange student. I thought that the financial strain owould be too much for my family. A few years went by and one day in school I heard a girl in one of my classes speak about having been to Slovakia. I asked her about it and found out she had been and exchange student!!! I asked her everything about her experience (and she willingly told me... As I learned from personal experiences Exchange Stundents love to speak about their adventures)... She told me she thought I would be a good candidate to be an exchange student, but I lamented that I couldn't afford it. So she told me that she wrote to various companies asking for donations ( in her name to Rotary- Rotary being the organization that sponsered me personally). So I did that and none of the companies would sponser me (but don't let that stop you from trying). I was determined to be an Exchange Student at this point, so I got a part time job and for an entire year and a half I worked to pay for my exchange. I went through Rotary and they make it really affordable as they are a non-profit philanthropic organization. One has to apply a year before they want to go so as to allow time for Passports and visas ect... Here are the steps to take:
1. Find an organization near you who sponsers exchanges... ONLY GO WITH REPUTABLE ORGANIZATIONS.... Some of these organizations are: Rotary (my presonal favourite and the one I found to be the cheapest overall), AFS, EF, Anything from a University or the government (like CBYX), YFU, ASSE, ESSEX, Lion's Club. (Those aren't the only ones, just some of the more common one's I've seen) You can read more about program choice feedback at www.cultures-shocked.org Which is a wonderful forum for those who want to be exchange students... I need to post there more now that I'm back actually...
2. Get in touch with your chosen organization and figure out costs, requirements, Application process, country selection ect...
3. Figure out your financial situation and get a job as soon as possible if you will be paying for it by yourself. Write letters to companies for support, apply for scholarships ect...
4. Start the application process (If you go with a repuatable organization then it will be long and arduous, but worth it!)
5. Once you have your organization (Rotary, AFS ect...) Things will differ a little bit, for instance Rotary has you switch families a couple of times to get a different flavour of the country, but AFS has you get close to one family. It just depends. Also Rotary clubs are local (there are several per city), and AFS is country wide, so that changes the dynamic of how everything works. Rotary, my did atleast, seems to have more orientations, because there aren't the logistics of an entire country to worry about... Of course that varies by Rotary club. So anyway, here you should be learning about the country you were assigned/chose, learning the language, meeting the people who will sponser you ect...
6. Try to learn as much of the language before you leave for your country as possible, it makes you life a lot easier and you can focus on experiencing the culture while in the country more.
7.Once you're in your country follow the rules of your program, but the rest is up to you to explore and make of it what you will. If you want to read my on-line journals to THAILAND then just ask and I'll provide the link.
HAVE AN AMAZING TIME! Seize the day while your there!
Lessons & tips: 1. Seize opportunities. Try New things
2. Exchange cultures, learn the host culture, but be true to yourself.
3. Try to speak the language everyday and speak your native language as little as possible.
4. Don't do anything illegal. Be safe and use your disgression.
5. Don't be bullied into doing anything that is against what you believe to be right. Don't bully other people either.
Have the time of your life!!!
Resources: Rotary Youth Exchange (I love Rotary!)