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My experience as an interchange student at Itchen College is something I cannot describe with proper words.
It has been the most amazing months of my life and I would do it all over again without second thought.
My host parents were delightful, they were very understanding and funny. The food was amazing everyday and they always did something special for me since I am a vegetarian. My room was huge, maybe even bigger than the one I have at home and the house was only 3 minutes walking from the school, which is more handy that I could imagine. Itchen was amazing, they offer all the support we could possibly ask for, and are always willing to talk if there are any issues.
The teachers are great and they all know how to engage with the class, which is nice since international students might feel a little shy. I felt very welcomed at the school and most of the British students were very friendly.
The cultural shock is very interesting and we could really learn more about British culture. It was hardly ever a barrier between us and them, and it was mostly a funny comparison. I think the hardest part is your independency, which comes with responsibility and homesickness. I miss the comfort of my bed and my mom’s hug on a daily basis, but I would stay longer if I could, because every bad moment or sad feeling I might feel, other ten smiles compensate for it. Living in England also allowed me and my adventurer’s soul to go to 9 different countries and 12 cities around Europe (Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Brussels, Brugge, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Geneva, Dublin, Brighton and Bournemouth). It was truly a dream come true. I traveled with my friends and we all had so much fun. It was a lot of responsibilities and quite exhausting to find good and cheap hostels and tickets, but it was all worth it. We laughed all time and we have so many stories to tell, so many perfect memories and an eternal will to live those moments again. Probably managing money was the most complicated part, not only travelling, but also in Southampton. Even when I tried to save a little, I ended up spending more that I though.. so beware.
The social part is surprisingly easy since we were all just trying to get to know everyone. People from the same nationality tend to group together, but we all talked with each other and tried to be friends. Meeting people from all around the world is something simply amazing, there were a dozen of different countries, which means a dozen of different cultures and languages. I’m leaving Southampton determinate to take Italian and French lessons back in Brazil, and full of plans of when I will be able to meet everyone again. Me and my friends became close very quickly because we had only our company to count on, so we were hanging out together practically every day.
The best part of my time here was my friends. Without them the interchange would be so much different. I understood that it doesn’t matter what we are doing or where we are going, what is important is the company.. the rest we could figure it out. The coldest, windiest and rainiest days were all good days because of all the laughter and love that we shared. And that is a lesson that I will carry for the rest of my life.
The people here is what I am certainly going to miss the most. Not only my friends, but everyone who was ever part of my routine. And also, my freedom. One of the things that I discovered here is that having this much freedom is so liberating.
I grew so much as a person and I found out so many things about myself.
In conclusion, doing an exchange program will be something you won’t regret. You will discover a lot about yourself, your ‘host country’, and the whole world. You will meet people who you’d never get the chance at home and their friendship will be something so valuable that it will hurt to say goodbye. My advice is: do it. Throw yourself in this opportunity and welcome it with opened arms. It will recompense you in ways that I can’t describe.
Every person, smile, laugh, hug… every memory I have of my time as an exchange student I will carry with me in the brightest part of my heart. <3