By Henderson Rotary’s current International Youth Exchange Student, Nina Prokop from Austria.

Don’t go on exchange. Yes. I mean it. Don’t. I mean other than making new friends, learning everything about a new culture, learning how to deal with things on your own and travelling, there is nothing good about it. Make the decision of staying home instead, walk the same path every morning because that is much more exciting than maybe getting to know someone new every time you get on the school bus. People always say how good their home town is, how yummy the food is, how they are cooler than foreigners, how beautiful their language sounds. So why would you even consider going?
That’s what most of the people around me said when I told them that I want to do an exchange and they’re right. Home is home. I love my traditional Austrian cuisine, my mountains, my family and friends, my little village, my language. Simplified, I love my home. Still, this did not stop me from leaving my “home” behind to go somewhere and make this my new home, a “little” island which is 3 times bigger than Austria and change from a village with 9500 people to a city with a population of 1.3 million. And believe me, it was very scary at first. Not only living in a city but being officially responsible for yourself for the first time in 16 years. You don’t have Mom or Dad or your friends who save you. It’s just you. You’re the one who has to sort everything out and stand on both feet. But you know what? Now, exactly 8 months after I arrived, I’m prouder than ever before. I’m proud of myself for what I managed to do, for flying to the other side of the world, going to a country I’ve never been before, speaking a language which is not my first one and making friends whose culture is so different from mine. But you know what? In ten years I will be able to tell people amazing stories, while everyone else will talk about the same kind of coffee they drank every single morning for the past 10 years. I will be able to say that I saw dolphins right outside my batch, became fluent in a second language, lived a whole year by myself and made friends all around the world which I call my family.

If you are wondering whether to go or not, it means that something is holding you back. It could be a person telling you he or she doesn’t feel like you could handle it. Or maybe fear is stopping you because you read on the internet someone had a bad experience. That is absolutely wrong, each one of us is different and deals with things and approaches people in different ways. Pack your things, smile, and walk towards your fears, because once you tear them apart you will feel the greatest.

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