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Exchanging the world

Ever wanted to see the world, then being an exchange student is the best way to go about doing it. A large number of students today are going on exchange programmes which are organsied for teenagers right from the age of fifteen. Being an exchange student involves learning a new culture, adapting to a new kind of life style, meeting a lot of different people and learning something new and exciting everyday!

ph1.jpg (22768 bytes)Like everything in life, being an exchange student involves a lot of give and take. A student ambassador needs to know a lot about one's own country to be able to answer questions which may range from `Is India really a country of snakes and fakirs and maharajahs' or even shop for little gifts for all those in your host family or even your counsellor!

In Pune, there are a large number of students who have been exchange students, are exchange students and others who soon will be.

Explains Poorva Merchant who was an exchange student four years ago, "I am still clinging on to my experience -the one year that I spent in USA and this one year spent there has helped me and still is in every aspect of life. I had my good times and bad times, though the good ones out numbered the bad ones. I experienced things that I had never seen or heard of before. In the beginning even things like going to the supermarket were fun for me. The difficult part was coming back home. Now, my dream is to go back and meet all my families and my friends back there which has become my second home."

ph3.jpg (21088 bytes)Adds in Supriya Gurbaxani aged 16, who has just come back from a year spent in Argentina. " Though it was the most expensive country to travel to what with it being so far away from the Indian subcontinet, but I chose it because I knew that I could never travel to South America again. I can now converse fluently in Spanish which will always be very useful to me. Travelling, learning, making new friends, experiencing new things what else could one ask for. Though I've never faced any odd situtaions, sometimes I had to answer ridiculous questions like ' How many elephants do you own? Is that your mode of transport to school? These questions may seem stupid to you and me but to other people they are just normal doubts about India."

Says Gaurav Shah aged 18 who went to Brazil for a year's exchange programme, " I had great host families who really cared for me and friends who I feel I have known since childhood. What is important is to be a good guest. To appreciate the food that has been cooked when you have not liked it or constantly check whether you have made your bed, or make sure that you are on time, no matter what. The funny part was when the first time I went to a disco my eyes were closing by midnight and we fimally ended up leaving the place at 6 in the morning. For any other Brazilian that’s normal and no big deal. For me, it was cool and great fun!"

Parinaaz Kapadia aged 18 who also went to Brazil continues, " This experience taught me how to take care of myself. I saw how big the world is and I was truly fascinated. Also I picked up Portugese in the process. In the beginning since no one spoke English I had to use my hands and facial expressions o show them what I needed. Simple mistakes in the language caused embarrasing situations like saying ' I am an asshole 'instead of ' I would like a glass of water. Believe me, I just wanted to die…."

Akshay Navle who went to the USA cannot get over his year in the worlds most advanced country. "It was an experience that really opened my eyes up for me. I am now truly inspired in everything I do what with having a taste of all the technology that was on hand… The children there were very friendly though they didn’t now too much about India. For example they once asked me if we have cars in India. When I yes that we do his next question was… "So that means that roads do exist there".

Sometimes going on an exchange program does involve losing a year in your own country in your academic studies. But this is not called losing a year as it is gaining a year filled with the wildest dreams that one imagine. Does one miss there own parents and friends?? Believe me, one doesn’t have the time for that. And if you have problems, believe you me, either a counsellor or even other exchange students help you deal with all these problems… And the email is the best way to stay in touch with your parents and friends back home…



Be polite to everyone all the time.

Act enthusiastic about everything even if you are actually bored to death.

Eat all the food offered to you and say that you love it. Lie, it wouldn’t be counted as a sin.

Pretend to be trying to be paying attention in school. If you couldn’t be the teachers pet at your own school back home, it’s just a second chance.

Use your money wisely. There’s no mum and dad there who you can just turn to.

Be as alert as possible all the time. No country is as slow as India is.

Share whatever you have. You wouldn’t like to be known as Uncle Scrooge.

Carry some of your own Indian food or spices wherever you are. There is no food like our Hindustani food.

Write home often. You wouldn’t believe how much your Dad misses you.

Try to travel as much as possible. When will you get the opportunity again??

Take some gifts back home. Just to show that you missed them too.

Be very friendly. It will do you no harm.

Be open-minded. Everyone has their point of view.

Be yourself. Everyone should love you for what you are.


Dont be late. Never break your deadline . It can ruin everything.

Never say no to an invitation. You might never get invited anywhere else.

Dont tell anyone how much money you have with you during the exchange programme. Not even your best friend.

Dont ever get into a fight. Think about it . How many people are going to take your side.

Sex and drugs....will lead to the next flight home.

Dont be aggressive or use foul language in anything you say. No one will listen to you.

Do not be over generous. No exchange student can afford it.

Dont be rude to your host brothers or sisters. After all whose house is it?

Dont be careless. This is a time to show how responsible you are.

Whatever you do DONT lose your passport. You will be in hell if you do.

Dont be lazy. Make your bed even without being told.

Try not to get too attached to your family and friends. It will be difficult to leave in the end.

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