An unusual difficult experience for the exchange students


Mathias Mouriaux

Exchange programs are well known worldwide and possess a high demand. These  programs allow students all over the world to travel to other countries, learn a new language and a new culture, plus live an incredible experience. The goal of those programs is to immerse the students with the local people and create interactions between them. By doing so, students learn from them but also share their own culture with them.


Because this year is quite different, exchange students can not have the optimal experience. Indeed coming over to the United States and having to stay home almost 7 days a week because of online school and the restrictions could be hard to handle. 

Those students who signed up for the exchange program came over with the idea of interacting with people, learning a different way of life, a new culture, new language. But instead of that, they can barely do something outside because everything is closed. So far in the school year, Grand Ledge High School has been closed which reduced student’s social interactions to almost only their host family. 


“Online school is really challenging since you have to adapt to this new environment without any human interaction other than interaction between you and a screen…Finding people to interact face to face has been another challenge.” Ariadna Pons, exchange student from Catalonia said. Ariadna’s experience can be applied to other exchange students because all of them faced the same challenges. The only interactions they could have had were with sports teams, families and friends if they were able to make some.


“At the beginning online school was very hard, my English level was not good at all. Now it is easier but I still don’t like it, I’m not focused and I can’t meet people.” Justine Masson from France added.


Also, sports teams are mostly closed and without either school or teams, it can be hard or even impossible to make friends. Ona Gomez from Spain had the chance to join the cheerleading team and she is very grateful for it, “I really like everything. The cheer team just changed my experience, they are the ones that make my days happy and I really love them. I’ll miss them.”

Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to join a team. Hopefully, all sports teams will reopen soon.


Those students came with a dream, the dream of America, the dream of a novelty, the dream of a new experience. Sadly, all they found after the few days of their exciting first steps was nothing more than an experience cut in half. School Homecoming, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, all great traditions for which they came over with the hope of living the best experience of their lives. Instead, they lived them like any other day. Even if they all do their best to enjoy their experience, it is frustrating to know how many things they missed. 


Fortunately, for most of them the experience was still amazing.They still are living amazing moments everyday. 


“I’m disappointed about Covid because we can’t do every normal thing that we expected to do during an exchange year. But I’m also very grateful to be here, my host family is amazing. We went to Kalahari in Ohio and during spring break we will go to Florida.” Justine Masson said. Indeed, they probably don’t live the experience they were hoping for but another one, completely different and as much amazing. The pandemic took some activities from them but also brought a lot of new activities. Because they have to stay a lot more at home, they have all the time to share and learn from their families, get to know them as well as their own family and feel really comfortable, like home. 


“The experience has been great but I’ve missed some experiences. All the activities have been really restricted. I’ve had to find a way to make friends out of the school community. A good thing about this year has been learning how to be patient and much more adaptable. Being home allows you to establish a close relationship with your host family.” Ariadna Pons said.


Online school and face to face school have both advantages and disadvantages. Despite this, all exchange students decided to go back, starting on March 1st twice a week. They will experience for the first time a face to face American’s high school after months and months on their computer. 

“I’m very excited to go back face to face but definitely nervous as well.” Flora Manns from Germany said. They are hoping for the third trimester to be 100% face to face.


Obviously, this year is far different from a usual year. The worst thing to do is probably blaming the situation and closing your eyes on the amazing things the pandemic has enlightened.  Flora Manns has always stayed positive, “ The pandemic is an interesting experience…All in all school is different and in a way more fun in my opinion.”

All the students will emerge greater and enriched by this experience.