Exchange Student USA

Before entering a “whole new world”

Most young people nowadays seek for experiences that will make them different from others who are the same age. I definitely did the same.

I have since I was 13 years old wanted to be an exchange student and study abroad in another country – wanted to go someplace where no one knew my name or knew who I was – always wanted to challenge myself in every way, and I must say, that I have completed a big step so far.

I remember it all and it seems like only yesterday. August 26th 2013. I didn’t get much sleep that one night.

A few hours from that time I would leave. I would see my hometown one last time before I got on the flight to my host country. At that time I had never tried traveling alone. I was beyond scared yet really excited.

It was time to leave the real world and make my dream come true. Time to leave the world, where I grew up and became the person I was at that time, to meet a new world where a lot of things would change me.

I knew the year in front of me would change me a lot and I knew I would have to dig deep inside to find the strength to adjust to the big changes in my life I would run in to.

I talked to my sister on Skype the night before I left for the U.S. She moved out of town a week before I did and I remember we talked about how we just left mom and dad all alone at home.

When I woke up early in the morning my dad came to my room and asked me;
“Ida? What are you going in to?
I answered him with a smile on my face;
“I actually don’t know myself, daddy”.

The drive to the airport was very long yet it went by really fast. I remember sitting in the car looking out of the window, listening to music and thinking about the year in front of me. A tear or two might have fallen down my cheeks.

My hands were shaking as I looked down at them. Just hours from now I would arrive to the country of opportunities. Hours from now I would walk into my new home. I would unpack my things and have dinner with my “new” family – kindhearted people who opened their home for me, and just had been names on a sheet of paper before that.

Every emotion passed through me as I reflected on my life and how much this was going to change it. How long would it take me before I would start missing home? What if I suddenly didn’t remember how to speak English? What if people would look at me like I was a foreign alien? What if I missed out on too much that was going to happen at home?

I would soon fight the tears and reluctantly give hugs and goodbyes to the people who meant the most to me, and I would slowly leave the normal life I used to live. I would leave reality for 10 months.

I would desperately try to hold on to every person and every memory from my home country. Leaving and saying goodbye to your family and friends, knowing you’re not going to see them for the next 10 months is probably the hardest thing you can ever expose a 16-year-old for.

I had expectations about getting out of my comfort zone, improve my English skills, become a more independent girl, do something new and exciting and just live in the moment.

I remember my mom shed a tear or a few, and I actually think my dad did too. The last three things I remember they told me was that I should take care, that they were going to miss me terribly and that they love me. Even though it was going to be tough, how lucky was I to have something that made saying goodbye so hard? I kept it together and shed a tear walking towards the gate. I knew it was the beginning of a new life and I was more than ready for the experiences to come. I thought about what my dad had asked me the same morning. What was I actually going in to? This was so crazy and unreal.
Soon I would be on my own and have my own adventure. I would fulfill my dream of trying something different. I knew when I got back again nothing would be the same as it was when I left.

My mind was set. This was going to be the best year of my life.

Ida Kaergaard

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