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Av Frida Lindh - 14 december 2011 22:15

We have now decided that we are done with the interviewing of previous exchange students! Actually we had planned to get some more aspects from other students, but we feel like this is enough. So now we are going to move on to the next step – the info meeting for students that are considering being exchange students that is going to be held next week at Meeths, Kungsgatan 37.

The meeting is organized by YFU. They purpose of the meeting is that anyone that has questions, doubts, thoughts or just want to get more information about what it’s like to be an exchange student can come and talk about it there. Anyone is welcomed, as long as he / she is suited to be an exchange student; the age limit is between 15 – 18 years old (some exceptions can be made, for example if you turn 18 in May and the exchange year begins in July).


So this is what we are going to be doing next week. But meanwhile we will start to prepare some questions and thoughts of what we exactly want to achieve during the meeting, so that we have some special points that we can focus on.   

Av Frida Lindh - 11 december 2011 22:15

Today we got in contact with a Norwegian girl; Katarina Østberg. She lives in Oslo and was an exchange student in the United States in 2009 / 2010. Once again, due to the distance, we interviewed her through Skype (God bless technology!). Here come some of the most interesting answers she had to our questions: 

- Can you summarize the whole year in just one sentence? “Oh that’s easy – the best year of my life, without any doubts”.

- How did you develop as a person? “Well, I definitely got more independent. You know, before I relied on my parents for a lot of things, but now I learned to take care of my self and to be responsible. I also learned to face my fears; instead of avoiding them you should confront them, because who knows, maybe it isn’t that scary after all”     

- What was the best part of the year? “My friends! They pretty much made my entire year! I have never felt that connection that I felt with them with my friends in Sweden, we became more like sisters. And we did everything together. I even looked forward to going to school, because I knew they would be there, and that’s something I can guarantee you has never happened before.

- How did your host family treat you? “They were lovely! Already from the first day they made me feel like one in the family and not like a guest. That is really important, to feel like to fit in. They always made me feel comfortable and always offered their help if I was struggling with something. I’m always going to be grateful to them for opening up their home to me”


Av Frida Lindh - 5 december 2011 22:15

We still haven’t heard back from the Swedish girl that is currently living in Brazil! Honestly we don’t even know her name! But we did write a message to Stella (the girl she is staying with) and asked her to pass it through to the girl. But still nothing … and quite some time has passed since we wrote her the message … So either she has just decided to ignore us, or she’s extremely busy with all the fun things you experience as an exchange student and has just forgot to answer the message from the two strangers in Sweden! Anyway, let’s not waste any more time waiting for her reply, even though it would have been useful to hear her point of view now when she’s actually in the middle of her exchange year instead of after when some time has passed like we have with the other students.   

Av Frida Lindh - 2 december 2011 22:00

Today we got a mail from Stella Lazzuri (the girl from Brazil who spent her exchange year in Sweden):

“My experience in Sweden was unique and very different, because Brazil, has a completely different culture comparing to Sweden or to any other country in Europe. The habits are different, as well as many other things, specially the language and the weather in the winter time. The experience in the foreign country is difficult in the begining, because everything is new! But if you don't give it a try, it will continue to be. So you have to accept the fact that you know nothing about where you are, and let people show you everything without saying no to the oportunities that the new family and friends will give to you. In the end, when you look back and see everything that you've passed through, it's really pleasurable to know that you have strengths enough to cope with all your fears in the different place. And the last thing, you have to enjoy all the moments, because they'll just happen once, and when you're back to your home country you'll miss them”.

We are pretty happy with this answer because we want some kind of overview of the year and not too many details. Then it’s easier to quote what the person had said and put it in our logbook.

Av Frida Lindh - 23 november 2011 13:15

Today we actually had a face to face interview with a girl from the other side of the world; well, it was almost a face to face interview because we talked to her through Skype so we could see her and she saw us. Does that count?

Anyway, she’s also from Caracas, Venezuela. Her name is Valentina Ibarra Padilla and she’s 18 years old. Due to Frida’s previous experiences from Venezuela, she can with 100 % guarantee state that no one, absolutely no one, speaks English in Venezuela. Not even the English teachers in the schools knew English. They just translated a sentence word to word from Spanish to English without being aware of the grammatical differences; the most common example was that they always said “how many years do you have? I have 18 years” when they asked someone how old they were. So that was the main reason to why Valentina wanted to go as an exchange student; she wanted to learn English!  

Valentina went to Edinboro, which is a small city in Pennsylvania in the United States of America. It was quite a contrast for her, because she had lived her entire life in Caracas which is a huge city and it has about 12 million inhabitants. But she really thought that Edinboro was beautiful and she loved that fact that it had a lot of nature; something she had never experienced before. The thing she liked most about Edinboro was in the summer, which was without any doubts the best season, because there was a beautiful (but extremely cold) lake where you can spend your time with friends and family. It made her laugh every time someone said “do you want to go to the beach?”, because she really did not consider that rocky cliff a beach (if you have ever been to Venezuela you will understand her point, because the beaches there are amazing!).

She learned a lot during her year in America; she became more independent, she learned how to make things happen on her own, how to take care of herself, she learned about different cultures and how to deal with different kinds of people. For her it was one of the best experiences of her life and she wouldn’t change it for anything. And she would love to go back one day to visit her host family and all the friends she made during the year.

As mentioned before, the main reason to why she wanted to be an exchange student was because she wanted to learn English. So when she had finished high school in Venezuela she went to America to do the senior year again (they have a different school system than what we have in Sweden, because in Sweden you must have at least one year left of high school when you go to study abroad as an exchange student). She has always dreamed of studying at a university abroad, but the language had always been a barrier. But now afterwards when she has learned English, she sees no reason at all to why she should study abroad.

Av Frida Lindh - 21 november 2011 13:15

Today we interviewed at girl named Sandra Lindh (yes, she does have the same last name as Frida, and yes, it’s her sister!). She was born in 1987, has lived in Gothenburg her entire life and is attending Handelshögskolan. She spent her exchange year (2005/2006) in Cape Town, South Africa. We met her at McDonalds at Brunnsparken for lunch.

The first thing she said was that her year in South Africa was absolutely wonderful. In one year she had never had that much fun, experienced that many things, and learned that much about life and about herself before. She learned how to adapt to a new culture, how to appreciate differences, and how to see things from another point of view. She also got aware of how good we really do have it here in Sweden, but that it doesn’t mean that we always do everything in the right way. We still have a lot to learn from other countries, especially when it comes how to prioritize and how to live life. But what she focused most on during the interview was her friends; she made friends for life that she will never forget.

Av Frida Lindh - 17 november 2011 13:15

Today we had our first face to face interview with a previous exchange student! Her name is Constancia Johansson, she was born in 1987 and currently study in a university in Stockholm. But she was born and raised in Gothenburg and her family still lives here so she called us to let us know that she was coming to town. We decided to meet at Espresso House for the interview.

First she gave us a little background information of where she had been and with which organization; she had spent the year 2005 / 2006 in Salvador which is a city in Brazil and she travelled with YFU. She told us that she really liked the family she stayed with and that they made her feel really welcome and as a part of the family. She thought that the school she was attending was a little bit boring in the beginning when she didn’t understand anything (she went there with no Portuguese knowledge what so ever), but the positive thing was that she wasn’t the only exchange student in the school. There were 5 other students from different parts of the world so they supported and helped each other.

She also said that she really learned and developed a lot during her year abroad. First of all she learned to talk Portuguese fluently, but she also developed as a person and got more mature. She challenged several cultural dilemmas, but by doing that she learned that “it’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s different”.So as a summary of the year she said it was wonderful and she would definitely do it again if she could!

Now it really feels like we are starting to get somewhere! But we feel like the easiest thing to do is to gather all the information we need in order to make the handbook, and then start putting it together. So we are going to continue with the interviewing of previous students before we move on to the next part; hearing thoughts and worries from students that have not yet begun their exchange year.

Av Frida Lindh - 15 november 2011 13:15

Today we got our first reply from one of the previous exchange students that we won’t be able to interview face to face due to the fact that she lives on the other side of earth; her name is Emperatriz Yamin, she’s 17 years old and she’s from Caracas, Venezuela. She was an exchange student in Germany 2010 / 2011. This is what she wrote:

En mi ano de intercambio aprendí muchísimas cosas, las más importantes creo que son: el idioma, convivir con personas completamente diferentes a mí durante todo un ano, lo importante que es la comunicación, el respeto por otra cultura y aprendí mucho sobre mí.

Para mí fue un ano relativamente duro empezando porque me fui sin saber nada de alemán y eso fue una barrera que logre vencer a lo largo de mi ano, tú debes saber lo que se siente querer decir algo y no poder hacerlo y/o que por falta de vocabulario te mal interpreten lo que quieras decir, en muchas ocasiones quede como mal educada o antipática por esa razón, fue muy frustrante.

Mi familia fue lo más duro de todo, tenía 2 hermanas gemelas que me tenían muchísimos celos y me hicieron mi estadía poco agradable, mis padres son las personas más raras que he conocido, tanto que me sentía incomoda estando alrededor de ellos. Estando todos en familia me sentía fuera de lugar, de sobra, la razón por la que me quede ahí todo el ano, a pesar que más de una vez estuve por cambiarme de familia, fueron mis amigas y mi colegio, esa parte de mi intercambio fue lo mejor para mi. El colegio es completamente diferente a lo que estaba acostumbrada, allá en verdad van al colegio a aprender hahaha, pero me gusto estar en un salón de clase con un ambiente sin burlas cuando alguien intervenía y se equivocaba y en serio ver clases, incluso al final del año en mis clases de inglés yo intervenía mucho, yo jamás intervine en clases en Venezuela, aprendí a tomar en serio mis estudios.

Recalque muchos valores, el no juzgar a una persona por sus costumbres y hábitos fue una de las grandes lecciones, todos tenemos culturas diferentes y hay que ser tolerantes y respetarlas. La comunicación no era algo que veía con gran importancia hasta que en mi ano se hizo presente que para resolver muchos problemas de convivencia hay que comunicarse y decir las cosas en la cara aunque duela o no guste.
Lo más impactante para mí fue lo que descubrí de mi misma. No me conocía en situaciones “extremas” como lo fue mi familia, sabía que era tímida pero no que fuera tanto, no sabía mi manera de llevar estar triste, especial en esas navidades, aprendí a ser independiente y manejar mi propio dinero y tiempo, madure muchísimo en ese año.

Mi ano de intercambio fue una montaña rusa de emociones y aprendizaje que me servirán a lo largo de mi vida. Ya hoy estando en la universidad mi convivencia con mi familia alemana me ha ayudado a tolerar y saber llevar a compañeros de clase que son insoportables y a profesores. Toda experiencia en un ano de intercambio te ayuda o te es útil en un futuro aparte de que te hace crecer y ver las cosas desde muchos puntos de vista, te crea una mente “abierta”

Now, to make it just a little bit easier for those who don’t speak Spanish, we’re (or actually only Frida) going to translate it for you! Sit back, relax and enjoy …

“During my year as an exchange student I learned a lot of things, and these are the most important ones; the language, to live with people that are totally different from me during a whole year, how important the communication really is, respect for another culture, and I learned a lot about myself. For me the beginning of the year was really hard because I went there with no knowledge what so ever in German, but that was something I managed to overcome later on. It’s really frustrating when you feel like you want to say something but you can’t, or that your vocabulary isn’t big enough, or that they misinterpret what you are trying to say.

My host family was the toughest thing of the all, because I had two twin sisters that were extremely jealous of me and they made my visit anything but nice. My parents were the weirdest people I have ever met, so weird that they made me feel uncomfortable just standing next to them. When the whole family was gathered I felt left outside, like I always was in the shadow. The reason to why I stayed there throughout the whole year, and to why I didn’t change host family, was my friends and my school. That was the best part of the whole exchange year for me. The school was completely different to what I was used to, there they really go to school to learn! I enjoyed being in my class because they don’t behave ridicules when someone says something that is wrong and they really take the classes seriously. I also developed a lot when it comes to English, because I never did that in Venezuela and I learned to take my studies seriously. 

By emphasizing many values, not to judge a person by their customs and habits was one of the great lessons. Everyone has different cultures, and you have to tolerant with that and respect them. The communication wasn’t something that I took that serious until the point in my year where I had to solve many problems, and then you have to communicate and say things face to face even though it hurts and you don’t like it.

The most important part for me was what I discovered about myself. I didn’t really know myself in “extreme” situations like in my case was the family, and I knew that I was shy but I didn’t know how shy I actually am. I didn’t know in what way I could be sad, especially in Christmas. But I learned to be independent and to have control over my money and time, and I really matured at lot that year.

My exchange year was a mountain filled with emotions and knowledge that will benefit me a lot in my life. Now when I’m in the university, my interaction with my German family has helped me to be more tolerant and understanding with my classmates that are unbearable and with the teachers. The whole experience with an exchange year will help you in the future and it makes you grow and you learn to see things from many points of views. You get a more opened mind".    


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