Youth exchange has been the greatest experience of my life. To all of you who are considering a youth exchange, know that I myself was hesitant. However, having arrived at the last week of my two month exchange, I can safely say that it has been the most wonderful time of my life.
I departed Namibia for Germany about nine months ago, and said goodbye to all of my friends and my family, after my mom dropped me off at my host family. I left the comfort of my house and everything behind. I was scared. Who wouldn’t be!
I arrived in Germany and was immediately hampered by a language shock. Everyone spoke German and only a select few students in my language class spoke English well enough for a conversation. It was challenging. My host mother Andrea had limited English and so conversing became an immediate obstacle. I was new, shy and doubtful about what on earth I was doing on the other side of the globe. But I was not alone. In my language school there are about twenty other exchange students from countries as far afield as Mexico, the US, Japan, China and South Africa.
Being all in the same boat, all facing the same challenges, we became friends almost immediately. Other exchangers contribute significantly to a wonderful and successful exchange. However, now having grasped the language, I look around in my neighbourhood and realize that some of the local guys have become just as good friends as my fellow exchangers. Just last weekend my host family took me and some of my friends to a local festival, where I had lots of fun with them – without any conversion barriers. They are truly friends that I have made for life. It’s one of the beautiful things about exchange – you learn to be a very social person, much more than you currently are, and you make friends for life from all corners of the world.
My host family also showed me around many places, all over Germany, and even some neighbouring places like Switzerland and Austria. I have gained a much better perception of the world around me, and I am now much more conscious of other cultures.
Germany has been good for me. I have made friends, jumped into lakes, climbed mountains and overcame some of my biggest fears. I’m not saying exchange is easy. At times it is very challenging and difficult. But it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I would never have forgiven myself if I gave in to my doubtfulness and had not stepped onto the plane that brought me here. For you reading this, I hope you all find the courage to venture out on one of the many similar journeys that Youth Exchange Club has to offer.