International Student Experience Essay

Reflections on the International Student Experience – from Antonia Reinnagel of Germany

Antonia is a German international student who recently attended Burnaby Central Secondary School. Here are her thoughts on her experience, in her own words…

To do an exchange year is to lay oneself bare, to be vulnerable by choice, but also to be brave by choice.

It is to find one’s home of heart and to leave one’s home of birth. It is to speak another tongue, to learn about your good and bad sides, strengths and weaknesses, without even meaning to. It is not only a journey of foot but a journey of mind and of heart and of self – it is not always easy, but maybe simpler than you think. There’s a lot of worrying, a lot of mistakes, embarrassments and “rainy days” (especially in Vancouver) that are waiting for you…and a bunch of strangers too.

But wait it out – you made it this far, you’re reading this so I think it´s safe to assume, that you are at least willing to think about taking this big step – you made it this far and I believe you can make it further still.

Those strangers may become your friends if you’re brave enough to meet them, those rainy days will become memories of shared hours, of hot chocolate and laughter and chatter if you’re hardy enough to see the light through a blanket of grey clouds.

Those embarrassments will become the stories you tell your best friends when you’re bored, and back home (and that time will come faster than you think) and your mistakes will become a steady guide that is wise beyond your own years.

German exchange student secondary school experience

You made it this far and I believe you can make it further still. There’s a lot of happiness, a lot of experiences, friends and sunny days waiting for you – and a whole city, a whole nation to travel in, to learn about.

An exchange year was nothing I really thought about before the beginning of 10th grade – not like some of my friends, who started talking about it way earlier – even that just didn’t get me excited about the idea. It’s not like I didn’t contemplate doing it once or twice – but I always ended up thinking that I wouldn’t want to go away for a year. Leaving my family and my pets, my home, and my relatives didn’t appeal to me at all. The world would go on without me here at home – things would change, things would happen without me – that’s simply how life works.

I would be on a different continent – too far to reach my home and too far to be reached.

No. I wouldn’t want to go. It wasn’t until much later right after my teacher brought in students that had already been away for one year to a different country that I finally pulled myself together and … contemplated again.

It took me a few days and researches before I felt ready to tell my parents – a precarious task since I knew they would be worrying way more than I would about my safety and wellbeing.

But my mind was made up at that point – once you’re in too deep, you won’t want to back out.

Antonia is a German international student who recently attended Burnaby Central Secondary School. Here are her thoughts on her experience, in her own words… Click To Tweet


International student experience essay germany high school student in burnaby

The idea of being on your own is too intriguing once you let yourself think about it – it’s the sense of freedom that got me, the unbreakable truth that you could be anyone you want to those people, the idea of calling a place home, a language your own that will only “belong” to you in that special way. Friends, decisions, steps taken all on my own, all by myself – basically everything that is scary about an exchange year is its biggest and most wooing upside.

All the worries you have now, that you are still home – they will poof into nothingness as soon as you arrive – at least that’s what they did for me.

And I’m not saying you won’t have problems – I had problems, my friends had problems, everyone has them, they’re the part of life that makes it a story worth telling. But you will have friends, you will have yourself, you will have your parents – you are never going to be completely on your own, there are people you can count on everywhere – it just a question of you meeting and trusting them.

So, I dare you – come and see for yourself.

I didn’t regret anything then and I still don’t – it was the best year of my life.

Your bravery will be rewarded if you choose this for you – give it your all, your best and it will give all the best back to you.

Be brave – everyone who sets his or her mind on this will eventually succeed, one way or another.

For everyone who will embark on this journey, you have my best wishes, and my respect.

Good luck, and have a great year. And when you come back … and your exchange year was the best year ever – just remember this:

“I told you from the beginning!”

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