Being a highschool student and traveling from your country to a country that you’ve only seen movies about, and live with a host family and experience their culture, may be perceived as daunting to some people. But what they need to know is that an exchange student is aided with several resources and connected with organizations who are there to make sure that your transition to a new country is done smoothly. And one of those amazing resources provided to exchange students is their placement organization that hosts them. I was placed in North Carolina, Angier with Borderless Friends Forever (BFF).
BFF made sure that I had no problems and I was able to adjust in a new environment easily. They recognized the challenges and uncertainties an exchange student may face and made sure that we were able to overcome these challenges by monthly phone calls to ask us about how our year was going so far, how were we adjusting with our host families, talked to us about cultural shocks and also answered any questions we had. BFF also organized several exchange student meet-ups and events during the year for us to connect with other exchange students from all over the world. These BFF meet ups were a great place to make friends, learn about each other’s culture and just have fun.
BFF meetups were my favorite and I would look forward to all of them. I actually met my now best friend, an exchange student from France in our first BFF meet up. One of my favorite BFF events was the Halloween Party they had organized for us and our host families. I had gone there dressed as the Red Riding Hood. It was a great event where we were able to have so much fun and at the same time experience the American holiday.
BFF also motivated their students to give back to the community that hosted them. They had arranged a volunteering event for me and another exchange student friend of mine. Our community advisor also volunteered with us. We went to a cafe in Raleigh called, A Place at the Table, a pay-what-you-want restaurant. We were assigned different tasks from serving to washing dishes. In conclusion, it was a great experience and I got to learn so much. I felt fortunate enough to help them with a great cause and also see how they were making a difference in their community by making healthy food accessible to all, regardless of means. It was a different yet amazing experience to be a server for the first time and it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. A Place At The Table was one of my favorite places that I had volunteered at and I am thankful for BFF for providing me with that opportunity.
And lastly one of my most memorable trips during my exchange year would be the enrichment weekend at Raleigh that my placement organization had organized for YES/FLEX students. During this weekend YES/FLEX exchange students hosted by the BFF organization from all over the United States came together in Raleigh and explored the city. This was a great way to meet more people from different parts of the world and hear their stories. During the weekend we visited the Capitol and the legislative buildings and the local museums in Raleigh. We also got to hear from changemakers and state and local leaders about leadership and governance. We also visited the LGBTQ+ center at Raleigh where we got to hear them speak about how to be an ally to the community as well talk to them about their personal experiences. During this weekend we were not only able to explore Raleigh but also learn about its history and cultural significance. And what made the weekend most memorable was spending it with some of my closest friends and experiencing the enrichment together.
Some of my most fond memories are the ones made in BFF meetups and events and I am thankful for BFF for always finding ways to connect exchange students together. I am grateful for my placement organization and for how it always made sure that my exchange year was successful and I was able to experience the American culture to its fullest.