Madison'S HIGH SCHOOL EXCHANGE TO austria
I left for my exchange on the 6thof February 2018 from sunny New Zealand at 30Cto Austria, which was -15C and had a thick blanket of snow on the runway to start my 10-month exchange.
I originally was going to do 3 months but decided that would be too much of a holiday and started thinking about doing a semester, but when I looked at the difference of a semester and an academic year I decided to just jump in the deep end and do a year exchange in Austria having no idea how to speak German and only ever been as far as Australia with my family.
One of the hardest parts of my exchange was at the Auckland airport saying goodbye to my family knowing I wouldn’t see them in person for the next 10-months but once I walked off my plane in Austria and met my host family I knew I was going to be fine.
I had both a host mother and father as well as a host sister (13) and brother (22). I couldn’t have asked for a better family. My host parents both worked as full time artists, which is something I love and I was able to oversee them working and learn new skills to put towards my own art. I lived in a small village where everyone knows everyone and I went to school everyday by train to a small city.
I was amazed at how different school in Austria was compared to school in New Zealand. An example is that school either ends or has a 2-hour break where everyone goes home to have their lunch. It was easy to fit into a new school, everyone, teachers and students were so welcoming to me and were so excited to learn about New Zealand and teach me German and about Austria as well as where I had to go, what I needed to eat, and of course the Austrian slang. School was fun a lot of the time but sometimes it would get a bit boring. An example is when local students are studying for a test, which isn’t so much fun for the exchange student. But you get that at every school so it was nothing big.
Learning German was very difficult. I spoke English with my friends at school but when home with my host family we would try speak more German and school also helped because I would be listening to the teachers and students speak German the whole school day which in the beginning was very tiring but after a while you get better at following along.
I have so many highlights from my exchange from the people, the culture and their country. While I was there I managed to get lots of traveling in and out of Austria done and was able to see lots of what their country has to offer. In the winter I learnt how to ski, which I did with my host mother and sister almost every weekend in winter as I was living just 20 minutes away from the ski slopes. In summer I did lots of hiking with my host family and their friends from the village I was living in. While I was on exchange I was also lucky enough to go to Venice in Italy with my host family for a week and spent a week in Nice, France with my French class from school where we got to learn French in the morning and sightsee in the afternoon.
Those 10 months on exchange flew by so fast, it was hard to believe I was gone that long. Once my exchange ended my parents came over to stay with me and my host family for a week so we could show them Austria and where I have been the last months before heading off to do a big tour around Europe where I met even more people.
I still keep in contact with my host family through messaging and Skype as they are now a big part of my life. I also still keep in contact with the friends I have made.
I could not have had a better final year of high school, my exchange has not only taught me lots but also built up my confidence, which wasn’t very strong before I left.
Maddison from the Waikato went to Austria on a 10-month exchange from February to December 2018
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