Students Abroad Expand Horizons, Comfort Zones

 Mr. Caleb Martin

Imagine moving to a foreign country all alone for nine months and not being able to speak in your first language. Why did over one million students in the US decide to take this risk, and what are the potential benefits? Frans Lindberg, an exchange student at CVU, explained his reason for why he made the decision to come to the US. “It is a family tradition, both my older brother and sister went abroad for a year.” He said that playing for the soccer team in particular was a great experience that made his year.

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Jan Bedard, the Regional Coordinator for Education First (EF) exchange student agency, explained how the process begins. “It all starts with having a potential American family express interest in hosting, which is pretty rare. Once I have determined that they are likely a suitable family and genuinely interested, I make contact with the school to be sure that they have a space for the student and are willing to work with me and my organization. All four of my kids graduated from CVU and I have been supervising EF students at CVU since 1993. We hosted before that, so CVU is pretty easy. Other schools may not have any spaces left or not want exchange students.”

Not only is CVU an easy school for the agency to work with, but the students find it to be a great place to live and learn as well. Lindberg said, “The teachers are great and if I have a question in class I do not hesitate to ask. The language barrier was small at the beginning of the year and has got increasingly smaller as my time at CVU goes by.” CVU is great for exchange students, and exchange students are great for CVU. They provide a different perspective on the world and help other students at CVU see themselves from a global point of view.

Students decide to take a year abroad for various reasons. It could be a family tradition, or a desire to try something unique. Either way, you are given lifelong friendships and knowledge which are otherwise unattainable. This risk is something to not take lightly. Bedard said, “It is helpful to have a good sense of yourself and be able to speak the language fairly well.

It is a difficult thing to do for people of any age, but for a teenager to leave behind their friends and start all over in a new family, school and community all while speaking a foreign language is a pretty tall order.” There is a sacrifice that is needed to make the year possible that should not be overlooked. The decision made is predicated on how you balance your future and long-term goals in life with your immediate short-term interests.

It is easy to get used to the way life is. It can take a large change for an individual to see the world in a different light with a larger scope and perspective than before. Lindberg said, “I love it here, a lot of teenagers don’t like Vermont because they think there is nothing to do, but it’s a nice change from what I’m used to.”

Lindberg is from Stockholm, the largest city in Sweden. Life in Vermont is slower and provides a different style of life than that of where he came from. One benefit Jan Bedard discerns is that “It opens many windows on the world which remain closed if you stay at home in your comfort zone.” This furthers the idea of an exchange year providing great benefits to students who are willing to take the risk.

One of the biggest risks one can take is to leave one’s stable life at a crucial time of life. To meet people which have a different outlook on life. Although for many people reading, pursuing a year as an exchange student is not practical or possible. However, we all can learn from the mindset of those that are able to. Their willingness to be vulnerable in the pursuit of knowledge and attain a greater understanding of the world around us is remarkable. They set an example for how we can take similar risks in our own pursuit of learning about ourselves and the world.