Eliza went on her SCCE student exchange program to Norway in 2017.
Here is an interview with Eliza and her mother Emma sharing their thoughts and experience from Elizas student exchange in Norway.
Why did you choose to go on a Student Exchange?
I chose to go on a Student Exchange to experience a life that was different to my own and to have the unique opportunity to see how a family live on the other side of the world. Also the chance to see and attend a school was also another aspect of the Student Exchange program that made me want to travel. Travel really inspires me to understand the culture of another country and having a Student Exchange Program at hand, helped me to have the chance to go and witness for myself, the way other people live. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I believe it opened up my eyes to the big wide world.
Do you have any advice or tips for students about to leave on an Exchange Program?
My advice to students is to be really accepting of the differences in cultures and traditions of the country they are visiting. The best thing to do is be very open to new people, culture, foods and the language. Many people will be very curious and would want to know lots about you and understand things about your home country. Just be yourself and know that you may never have the chance to do something like this again. So therefore it’s best to do EVERYTHING and give everything a go, even if it may be out of your comfort zone. You will make many memories if you are brave enough to give things a go.
How did you choose the country you visited?
There was no second thought about the country I had chosen to visit. I had always wanted to travel to Norway and understand a completely different way of life on the other side of the world. The change of weather, language, culture, food and family attracted me to explore and discover the amazing country of Norway.
What were the main benefits of living and studying overseas?
The main benefits of living and studying overseas were probably witnessing the change of the how education system functioned and how the school worked. It was interesting for me to do some of the work and see the change in the levels of difficultly from my school in Australia to theirs in Norway. Living overseas allowed me understand the cultural differences but it also allowed me to see a country where everyone and everything is connected and that people’s characteristics are the same all across the world.
What was the highlight of your experience?
There were very many highlights of my experience including making all these wonderful new friends, having the chance to go skiing through the mountains ranges and seeing snow for the first time. Dog sledding through the snow was another highlight and memory that will stay with me forever. Furthermore, experiencing a very traditional Christmas with my host family was unique and even simply walking down the road to experience the natural wilderness of Norway displayed to me how the Student Exchange Program was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
What was your favourite thing about the culture you experienced?
My favourite thing about the culture was the very traditional Christmas that I was fortunate enough to experience and having many family gathering to celebrate that time of year. From the many traditional foods and gifts that were presented to me and with the beautiful candles that were lit and decorations hung around every house, demonstrated how much their culture influenced how they celebrated Christmas.
What was it like living with a host family, and what advice would you give someone about to meet theirs?
When I first met my host family it was a little strange being in a house that you had never seen before. The family invited many people over to the home and they were all very welcoming to me and made me feel like I was part of the family. Some advice I would give would be to always be open and enjoy the time you have with your family which includes things like sitting with the family and having dinner with them. This makes you feel more relaxed where they get to know you better and vice-versa.
What positive impacts has student exchange had on you?
I feel that I have come home more appreciative and grateful for the experience that I encounter in Norway. I now have a greater knowledge of others from different cultural backgrounds through understanding of what it is like living in a different country. By making new friends and experiencing friendship across the other side of the world also demonstrated to me the positive differences between my country and Norway.
What would you say to someone considering going on exchange?
Do it! It is definitely worth the time and experience to go live in another country. It opens up your mind to new perspectives and teaches you to be more independent, confident and how well you can to adapted when faced with different and sometimes challenging situations. Student Exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and if you are considering going on exchange, just do it.
Can you sum up your experience up in two – three sentences?
After arriving at Oslo Airport and meeting my host family, my cultural journey had begun with everything being so foreign to me. The days attending school everyday and getting to know some of the amazing boys and girls that made me feel comfortable and I was grateful for their kindness towards me. I got involved in every activity of the Norwegian culture and immersed myself fully in every opportunity that I was given with no regrets.
– Elizas mother
What were your initial thoughts when Eliza wanted to go on exchange?
My initial thoughts were that I was a little worried that my youngest child wanted to go across the other side of the globe on her own, to experience a different culture. I also knew that she would embrace this opportunity with both hands and have a fantastic time travelling to Norway. I took a little time to be convinced but I agreed to let her go but the association were very positive and understanding that I trusted my decision.
Why did you choose Southern Cross Culture Exchange as Eliza’s exchange organisation?
Southern Cross Cultural Exchange were the program that had come to the school to promote and encourage students to travel abroad. I did research on the program and spoke to some friends and found that Southern Cross was a very well respected organisation and was the best option for Eliza.
Did you do anything particular to help Eliza prepare for exchange?
I wanted to make sure she was committed to the Exchange Program and that she would embrace the experience whole heartedly. Eliza was extremely excited and really looked forward to travelling overseas however, she was little nervous about flying over on her own. I believe we prepared her well mentally for the moments of solitude she may had experience due to the language barrier.
How did you communicate with Eliza on exchange?
I believe that communication is very important when it comes to your child living overseas. Eliza and I would send a weekly email to each other, outlining what she was doing or had done and to give her some reassurance if she felt weary about anything regarding her experience. Occasionally, Eliza would send me a text message and during some of the more important events like Christmas and New Year’s, we would Facetime each other. Communication made Eliza’s exchange experience better where she knew that we were only one call away.
What changes have you seen in Eliza since going on exchange?
The Student Exchange Program allowed Eliza to grow to become a more independent, caring and worldly young lady where she is more conscience and understanding of people and their culture with appreciation about the uniqueness of living abroad. Eliza has made some lifelong friends where she is more tolerant and accepting of people and Eliza can’t wait to travel back to Norway.
What would you say to other parents, whose children are interested in going on exchange?
Parents should make sure their child is sensible enough to be able to think on their feet and to be confident in times of difficulty. They must be ready to experience the many highs and lows that comes with going abroad and it is a very big deal to let your child go overseas on their own and live with a host family. It is an amazing experience to travel and the Southern Cross Cultural Exchange are a fantastic to go with.
What aspects or lessons from exchange do you think have been the most beneficial to Eliza?
Some of the things that have been the most beneficial to Eliza is that by attending school and learning to use all her senses to understand conversations, the language and to utilize those skills to make new friends. Also, her decision-making skills have definitely enhanced and was one of the most beneficial aspects of her exchange experience.
Thanks for sharing Eliza and mother Emma.