© WEP 2019
I embarked on my exchange experience wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at age 15 in November 2015. I was to spend three glorious and mind-boggling months in the snowy magnificence of eastern Canada. I had never travelled on a plane before, never been away from my family and never pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone. If I could say something to my younger self, it’d be “wise choice kiddo,” it is one of the proudest decisions of my life. Now, at age 18 and a new University student, I can’t imagine the person I would have become instead. The nostalgic fondness I possess is thanks to the gifts my exchange program snuck me under the table; independence, persistence, spontaneity, vision. I learnt to discard my introverted tendencies which held me back and to say yes to more. Passport documents, visas, forms galore, bring it on, I’ve seen it all now. I felt snow for the first time, I found comfort and happiness in a new home, I found out what it’s like to miss someone, what French sounds like. If I didn’t appreciate these things back then, I sure do now. My day-to-day in Canada included attending school, which played a massive role in making new friends and discovering what it’s like living as a Canadian teen. I was picked up by one of those big yellow school buses and loved every second of it, I even made friends with the bus driver, Ricki, as I was first on the route. My subjects included advanced science (I was a total klutz and asked to be moved to gym class). Ohhh good old gym class...when it was below freezing outside we ran laps in the corridors until we were trained enough to run 5km on the track outside. To be fair I’m not the most physically privileged but my suffering was worth the bragging rights. I attended the school semi-formal and had a blast listening to country music and learning how to line dance, which I never quite got the hang of honestly. Country music is still not my preferred genre but that’s one of the things I learnt to appreciate about the culture I was immersed in. The food, oh my gosh the food! Beaver tails make me salivate just thinking about them, pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, maple syrup frozen on snow, poutine! The list goes on and on and I was in food heaven. I had the opportunity to go skiing for the first time ever and I may or may not have taken a black diamond course and caused excruciating internal bruising on my knee, leaving me on crutches. Another life lesson: to know your limits and to be responsible. I could go on and on about my experiences but I feel they’re of greater value to my nostalgia than to potential exchange students. Hence, I’m giving advice to those who are considering becoming future exchange students, and maybe in particular those wanting to travel to the Great White North!
- Have a strong mental mindset. Travelling across the world on your own personal journey is not for the faint of heart, ask me, the 15 year old who broke down and cried in the middle of Vancouver Airport because she couldn’t find her ticket. Even if you’re timid and unsure, always know that if you reach out, someone will help you.
- Communication is key and you’ll find this is true in many aspects of life, being able to talk openly and freely with someone is quite cathartic and will most likely leave you feeling better. If you’re feeling isolated and alone, you’re only perpetuating it by wallowing in your sorrows, wishing you were somewhere else. Your host family has opened their arms to accept you like one of their own, take advantage of their kindness and talk to them!
- Push yourself! I cannot begin to express how worse off you’d be if you were too shy to introduce yourself to new people! Students at your school may be unaware of how to approach you too, so be that icebreaker! Australians have a cool aura about them that foreigners like, there’s something about being Australian that makes people think we’re mega cool, so take advantage of that too!
- Have photos of your home and memories in Australia to show your fellow classmates and host family. There’s nothing more interesting than learning about the new exchange kid from exotic Australia. I was asked if Australia was all beach, if we had Xbox here, are kangaroos just roaming the streets, do we have cities? The people around me were super intrigued to hear about me and my home. Also, bring some Australian money just to show too!
- Bring small gifts for your host family. It shows good etiquette to give your host family Australian gifts upon arrival. I didn’t buy much or go too out of my way, just simple novelties like an Aussie rules footy, a eucalyptus candle, Vegemite and other small souvenirs.
Dreaming of living overseas? Us too!
Get your full WEP student exchange application to us by 31 May 2019 and score WEP's Early Bird Special saving you $500 and bringing your dream that little bit closer!
That's $500 you can hang onto for extra gelato!
Our Early Bird Special is open to students in years 9 to 12 in Queensland and students in years 9 to 11 in Victoria and New South Wales. The discount applies to semester and year programs departing between January and March 2020 to any of the following countries:
Simply submit your full application online before midnight on 31 Mar 2019. To get your application in on time, get started ASAP by clicking here.
Don't miss out!
*WEP's Early Bird Special is not available in conjunction with any other offer or scholarship.
WEP is offering two lucky students a $1,000 discount on their semester or year WEP student exchange program departing between July and September 2019! This is available to all WEP’s countries. To enter our If Not Now, When Scholarship create a three to four-minute video showing us how you demonstrate three traits that are essential to stellar exchange students: open mindedness, enthusiasm and the desire to embrace every opportunity that comes your way! Please note, you can apply for the scholarship even if you haven’t started your student exchange application. This scholarship is open to students currently in years 9-11 in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. More more information and to apply, click here.
Everything here, in Norway, is great! I can't believe how fast this year is going and that I only have a month and a half left here. I had an amazing summer and did so many things, like a five day mountain hiking trip, a road trip around the south and west of Norway with my host family and I also visited an exchange friend in Germany for a week. In between all this I relaxed a lot! This year was the hottest summer Norway has had in years, so I did a lot of swimming in lakes and the fjord. I hung out with my friends and host family, played beach handball, explored a lot and also got to celebrate my first birthday in summer! Last weekend I met lots of new exchange students living around the Oslo area which was fun and I got to give them lots of advice. Recently I took part in a obstacle course race with my host sisters, which was challenging but so fun. This weekend I had a sleepover with five of my friends and had a great time. Now I've been back at school for four weeks and it's great to be back into the swing of things, even though I'm really busy with homework. It's so nice to be back at school and socialising everyday, I really love the Norwegian culture and the school system. Autumn is here and it's starting to get colder, but it's really nice and cosy to be inside with candles lit and watching movies with my host family. I absolutely love it here and feel so lucky to have this opportunity. This has been the best year of my life. Alyssa
Happy New Year, WEPPERS! What are your goals for #2018? What's on your inspiration board? Here, at WEP, we're 100% sure that this year is going to be a big one! We'll be sending students from Australia all over the world, including to our new destination, Estonia! (We can't have favourites, but if we could, Estonia would be up there!) Did you know that most of Estonia is covered by forest, public transport in Tallinn is free and literacy is second highest in the world? Go Estonia! WEP'll also be welcoming some brilliant students to Australia from all sorts of countries like Italy, Chile, Norway, France, Belgium and stacks more. Hosting one of these students is a fantastic way to discover a new culture and share yours. Start by checking out the profiles of students on our website and remember, there are many more students available! Anyway, to celebrate #2018 we're kicking off with a School Holiday Discount! Apply before February 14 and save $250 on your short term program departing in November to either Italy, France, Belgium or Canada! Nägemist! (That’s 'bye' in Estonian.)
Hello! My name is Lauren and almost three years ago I embarked on the most amazing journey of my life! When I jumped (out of excitement) off the plane in Ottawa, Canada, surrounded by snow and the crisp air, I knew it would be a life-changing experience. I lived in a little town known as Moose Creek (perfectly Canadian, eh?) for three months, with the most amazing host family ever. My host family, consisting of a Mum and Dad and three younger children has since become my second family whom I share a special bond with. It honestly couldn’t have been a better match! Looking back, it seems impossible to me to comprehend that three years ago I was meeting the people I now consider lifelong friends for the very first time. One of my favourite parts of exchange was attending school! I know it sounds crazy, but school is where I made some of my fondest memories. I attended a small country school, approximately a third of the size of my school here in Australia, so already a crazy new environment. It’s impossible for me to pinpoint my favourite experience from school, but I would have to say the time my friends and I ran like emus through the corridors would have been one of the best! Exchange isn’t an easy thing to do; it requires you to be open-minded and willing to adapt to new situations. However, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can vouch for it being worthwhile. Not only did I experience the most memorable experiences in Canada, like seeing Niagara Falls (still speechless), I also learned an incredible amount about myself and the world in which we live. I gained a lot of confidence and independence from my exchange which allowed me to return to Australia seeing the world as my oyster. I am forever thankful to my families in Australia and Canada, my friends and WEP, this experience would have never occurred had it not been for them. As for where I am now, I recently graduated high school and began attending university! I am studying a double degree in Law and Global Studies. I have since caught up with my host parents in New York, where they met my family from Australia and I recently returned from a trip back to Canada where I visited my host family once again and surprised all my friends from school. Whatever it was which encouraged me to take the leap and live overseas for three months, I will be forever grateful for. I wouldn’t trade my exchange experience for anything in the entire world and I hope if you are considering exchange, you take the leap and apply, I can guarantee you will have only the most amazing experience! If I had any piece of advice for future students, it would be go for as long as possible! My one and only regret is that I didn't go for longer!