So, one of the greatest fears of an exchange student is making friends on the first day. I do realize that this is probably a common fear amongst anyone in the world really, (unless you’re like super popular and make friends in a heartbeat). But it is one of those things that can keep an exchange student up at night.
And I was not an exception to this fear, no sir, the weeks up to my departure this what almost all I could think about, (of course with the exception that I was leaving for the US and getting to meet my host family soon, and basically change my life upside down).
Eventually it became reality. It was the first week of school, and it was very difficult getting to know people, because you each time you changed classes, new people would be around you. I think I learned a total of two names during the first week, and one of them was a teacher’s name.
My host sister decided she wanted to go to the football game that Friday and I reluctantly agreed to tag along. In Ohio in September it is hot and extremely humid, so it was very unpleasant being outside, especially at a football game where there are so many people around you. So I wasn’t very pleased with the situation, and on top of that my host sister left me alone to go find her own friends.
For at least half an hour, I basically just stood there, where she’d left me, (another thing exchange students fear: being left alone somewhere unknown), and waited. I mean she had to come back eventually right? But no, this is where I slightly started to panick. I considered calling my host parents, so they could pick me up, (I lived closeby, but you know, it’s America, we drive everywhere!), but I thought to myself that it would be stupid to give up so easily, and I started to walk around instead.
I ended up at the end of the field just after the Marching Band had played during halftime, (turns out that people actually came to hear the amazing marching band with 200 band kids, and not to watch our lousy football players play), and I recognized a couple of kids from my English class.
Apparently they recognized me too, and waved me over. At first it was just the three people I had recognized. But a lot of people actually started to kind of crowd me. It seems that the word “exchange student” makes people extremely curious. And you know it was nice talking to them, the attention felt awesome in some way, in contrast with at home where you’re just like everyone else.
However, because there were a lot of guys in the band, it was a lot of guys ‘crowding’ me, (and no, I’m not sure if that is because I am a girl or if it was just a coincidence). So there was basically the fence around the field, me standing against it, and all the band people (who were mainly guys) standing around me. Yes, you can picture it.
Leaving that night I thought it was a hilarious experience. I mean, that is just not something you experience everyday. And because of that, I thought I would share it on Facebook. This was during the early age of smartphones. So I did.
What I didn’t but should’ve foreseen was my host dad calling me like 10 minutes later, asking what the heck was going on. Because in his mind what I had described was me, his 16 year old foreign exchange daughter who he has promised to take care of, who was ‘pressed’ against a fence by a sea of 16 year old boys.
I can tell you now that I didn’t post any weird stuff during the rest of my exchange year. Anyhow, I left that night having started many friendships that I still have today. One of those guys asked me to homecoming and we actually dated 8 out of the 10 months I was there. Another one the guys became my best friend, and I still talk to him today. A couple of the girls I met that night I went out with this summer when I was back in the states.
But I would not have met any of them, not really at least, if I had not left my comfort zone and approached them in the first place. When you’re an exchange student, there’s a chance that you seem interesting to people, but most of the time you have to put yourself out there. And you will probably get a funny story out of it like I did. Exchange is about finding friends in an unusual place.