Thursday, May 31, 2012

Exchange Programs and Real Life

One of the biggest things I read about is how exchange programs get people ready for other opportunities, whether they're abroad or at home. This summer, I'll be living in Iowa working at a special needs camp (exact location classified: aren't you proud, Cat?). I've worked as a counselor before, and decided I'd love to spend another summer as a counselor. I get paid in smiles and sunshine, and I'll be making enough money to pay for my ticket to Swaziland - what more could I wish for?

Anyways, here's a "top five" list of sorts, of how having studied in Jordan (or anywhere abroad) will make camp easier. I guess it's kind of a "things-you-gain-from-exchange-that-can-help-you-elsewhere" list.

  1. Living with other people: While in Jordan, I lived with a host family and in an apartment building. After that, I have no qualms about living in a cabin with a bunch of other people. Can't leave my stuff in the bathroom? No problem. Very little privacy? No problem.
  2. Very little sleep, can't be tired during the day: In Jordan, we'd stay up late with the host families, as it was their summer, but then we had to wake up early to catch the bus for Arabic classes in the morning, and we couldn't allow ourselves to be tired during school. Running on very little sleep definitely won't be an issue at camp.
  3. Being away from home: I didn't really have any problems with homesickness in Jordan, so it's not that, it's just that after living in the Middle East for seven weeks, going to Iowa for ten weeks just doesn't seem like a big deal at all.
  4. New people: While studying abroad, everyone you meet is someone that you have virtually no connections to. They don't know you, or your friends, or your family. It's a strange/amazing situation that you end up, able to interact with new people like that. Camp? Same thing.
  5. Attitude: While on exchange, you've got to have an open mind and a smile on your face, whatever goes wrong. A good rule of thumb is that nothing's a real problem unless you decide it's a problem. Otherwise, it just remains an amusing challenge. The same mentality applies at camp. Both situations require an attitude made of open-mindedness, optimism, determination, and just going-with-the-flow.
There are plenty of other things gained from exchange that are not so easily put into words, but these are a few examples. I've gotten several messages from people going to Jordan with NSLI-Y American Councils, and it makes me so excited to see more people leaving for something that is so important to me. It's strange, while I know that my experiences in Jordan were unique, there's something nice about knowing that you're part of a community of people who have been in similar situations. I guess that's not just NSLI-Y Jordan though, that's a feeling that everyone who has ever studied abroad shares.

Well, now I'm just packing for my summer in the foreign, exotic land of Iowa. I'm pleasantly surprised though, that I'm just as excited for ten weeks working at camp as I was for seven weeks in Jordan. NSLI-Y made my summer really amazing, and now I'm looking forward to the chance to help make someone else's summer amazing.

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