A letter to you from a former exchange student

Dear exchange students,

It is a lot of work and a hard process to be a foreign exchange student!  You have to be prepared for your interview with your organisation, you have to keep your grades up and you should be looking forward to be a foreign exchange student in the United States.  If you think this is enough and there is nothing else to do for you, you are wrong. There is lots of stuff to do and to know and it will never stop.           

I was so excited to come to the United States and I thought I will be a perfect student, but it does not just take to be a good student. You got to be open minded for more.

I would like to let all you upcoming foreign exchange students to know, that you should be great listeners. Lots of Americans tell you something but do not say it directly to you. For example, if your host parents tell your host siblings that upstairs looks like a mess, they also talk to you and want you to help clean up. You have to remember you are living in a different county with a different culture; sure things are going to be different then at home.

Do not think you are going to live in a hotel. You are not just eating, showering and sleeping in your new home. You are a family member, and a family member does not just eats, showers and sleeps. A family member means to be a part of the family that interacts with the family. You wake up in the morning, but early enough to set up the table and help making breakfast. You cannot sleep in the day and then just expect breakfast to be done and served. You do not do that at your house, so you do not do it here either. Keep your room always clean. You should not embarrass your family with a dirty room. Because what happens when friends or neighbors come over to the house and see your dirty room? Since you are a member of the family, it gives your host family a bad representation.  Instead of 5 minutes on the computer, tidy up your room!

Try to use your normal human senses. If you smell food cooking, go and help set the table or ask what you can do. If you hear dishes moving, help to put them up. If you feel crumbs on the floor, vacuum or mop the floor and if you see washed laundry in the dryer, go and fold it and put it up. It is not that hard and that are little things you can help your host family with.

I just want you to think about something. This Family that grateful opens their arms for you, feeds you breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. They pay for your water, the heat and give you a place to sleep and love. They help you with homework, show you around and do everything for you, so that you have a great time.

Be kind, be thankful, be open-minded, and share emotions and feelings, experience and questions with your family. Then you will have the best year of your life.

Marie from Germany

2010/2011 in Texas