5 Tips for Adjusting to an American High School

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Starting a new school as an exchange visitor can be intimidating.  You have left behind familiar surroundings and your circle of friends at home, and you’re nervous about meeting new people.  Well, good news!  Most exchange students find that Americans live up to their friendly reputation.  Getting to know your new classmates will make your exchange experience richer and more rewarding, and it just plain feels good.  Making real friends can take time and a bit of effort, but is so worth it!  Here are 5 tips for adjusting to an American high school, and some great advice from past exchange students:

1. Play a Sport

Participating in a school sport is a great way to make friends.  As soon as you get to your new high school, look for a team to be a part of!  Most schools will have teams for beginners where you can learn as you go.  Give it a try!  You will have plenty of time to talk to your teammates during practices, and before and after games.

2. Join a Club

If sports aren’t your thing, clubs are another great option.  Find something that interests you.  You will automatically have something to talk about with your classmates.  Share your love of travel, language, food or drama.

3. Observe and Ask Questions

When you aren’t sure what you should be doing in a class, don’t be afraid to speak up.  When you have a question, don’t be shy – ask!  Your classmates and teachers would love to help you get adjusted and become more comfortable.

4. Look for an International Group

International groups are another great resource.  Make American friends that are interested in your home country.  They will have so many questions for you.

5. Be Outgoing, Share your Culture

Put yourself out there!  Smile, be friendly and talk to people!  This is the fastest way to get used to your new high school and start making friends.  As an exchange visitor, you are already being extremely brave.  Don’t stop there – be proud of yourself and get the most out of this experience!

Tips on making friends and adjusting to an American high school from past exchange students:

“The best way to make friends is to ask them to help you. My Host Mom told me this first and it worked!”  – Suzana, Slovakia

“I should have joined some activities as soon as I came, rather than staying at home watching TV or talking on my cell phone.”  – Anne-Lise, Belgium

“I wish I had made more American friends, rather than friends just with other exchange students.”  – Silvia, Brazil

“Once I really started talking to my host mother about my day, my country, my thoughts … she really started talking a lot to me.”  – Catalina, Colombia

“When you first start a class, go up to the teacher and introduce yourself as an exchange student. Often the teacher does not know that she has someone from another country in her class.”  – Lucy, Mexico

“If you are having problems with a class, talk to the teacher and ask for help.”  – Keiko, Japan

“Smile a lot and be friendly to people.  You have to be the one who makes friends.”  – Juniko, Japan

“In the beginning, I had really bad culture shock!  I was comparing everything to home.  I joined the drama club and made a lot of friends, not on the first day but it wasn’t too long before I was being invited to go out with friends, and I was having lots of fun.  My coordinator told me “always remember that nothing is better or worse, just different.  Don’t compare your family, your school, your country or your friends” … that was the best advice. Soon I was seeing things with a different mind and I loved that I could live a different life for ten months.”  – Aurelie, Belgium

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