A snapshot of Luise’s exchange, four years on
We spoke to Luise from Germany, when she returned to Australia 4 years after her exchange program to regional Victoria. Looking back on her experience, Luise reflects on her time here, the friendships she created, her growth as a person and shares her tips on readjusting to life after she returned home to Germany. Find out more below:
What originally interested you about going on a student exchange program?
I wanted to be in contact with other people from other countries and learn a language to a nearly perfect grade. These were my goals when arriving in Australia.
Even though Australia is a country of the Commonwealth and therefore the culture is similar to the European one, I learnt that there are many differences, particularly at school and the way of life.
Ever since I began school I have been fascinated with wearing a uniform!
What most the most memorable part of your exchange?
I always smile at these questions, because there have been several memorable parts of my exchange year, for example, the moment I looked back to my parents when passing the security check and realizing that my dream came true.
As well as the surf trip I took part in with my outdoor ed class, the trip through Victoria with my host family and the Justin Bieber concert (I am no fan, but it is a once in a lifetime thing).
Christmas was also a very special moment for me because it was Summer and therefore it was not the usual Christmas feeling for me.
I loved being at school, meeting with my friends and participating in the drama club during the breaks, and then at the end of the year, I gave a speech in front of the whole school.
So if somebody asks me what the most memorable part was, I can’t really answer it, because it was the whole year and all of those memories, which made it so special.
Have you experienced any life changing benefits or skills from your exchange?
I think because of my exchange I became more mature, and therefore I‘m better at socialising with other people and communicating (not just in English but in German).
When you are going through an exchange at some point you have to face some problems whether with your host family, friends, homesickness or other. But getting through this without your parents is a major step. This is why you not only grow one year older physically but you also become very mature. And with maturity comes the benefit of other skills I think.
How did you manage to readjust to your life back ‘home’, and can you provide some tips for exchange students about to return home?
When I was in Australia some of my relationships with friends back in Germany weren’t as strong as they were and other friendships became stronger, this is normal.
Every exchange student should know, that you should not feel ashamed if you don‘t text your old friends back right away or even if your friends are not texting you every day.
You have a life in your “new home” and so you have new friends, and therefore you experience mental and physical distance between each other back home, and in addition there is also the difference in time too.
I guess it took me a little time to readjust. While I was here I learnt to be independent and even though my parents respected everything I did, they somehow waited for me to be the other girl. But this is totally fine.
You may think everything stopped at home while you were gone, but it does not.
Nevertheless, it does not mean that you have to be afraid of going back. It is a new opportunity to get to know each other better or even make new friends in your new grade. Some of your friends at school might have had a similar experience and others want to go after school and they ask you many questions about it, and others do not want to know about it at all.
Do not be afraid! Take it as another adventure, just like your exchange and be open minded.
Can you tell us about your trip back to Australia?
My parents gave me the tickets as a gift for my graduation and I got really emotional because it was one of my big dreams to go back, meet friends and family again and of course travel a bit more of the country.
Of course, my time here in Australia was not the same as when I was here for the exchange, but I got to know the country even better and I had the freedom to act more freely without having school.
It was excellent to see my host family and my friends again, to be again in this beloved community, to speak English 24 hours again, just to be here made me feel great.
So in my 4 weeks back in Australia, I went on a road trip with one of my friends from my former school here. We drove to Phillip Island to see the penguins, I got to pat a koala and then we travelled along the Great Ocean Road with stops at Ocean Grove, Apollo Bay and Princetown. It is a really amazing landscape and a big highlight for everybody who visits Victoria.
After that, we had a day at the Grampians and did a little bit of hiking to MacKenzie Falls and I even got to stand on the Balconies, which was really stupid. But we are young and reckless and nosey about everything, which is a good thing because it brings us nearer to the world and the people.