An exchange year is not a year in my life, it is a life in a year

It wasn’t hard for me to leave Vienna, because I knew that a great time was waiting for me in the United States. My name is Ipek Caglar and I am an exchange student from Austria who lives in Norfolk right now.

Things started a bit rough in Virginia Beach…

When I first arrived in Virginia, I was living with a host mom in Virginia Beach. I was there for three months. The first couple months were okay, I had my problems, but I thought that’s something normal. It was not. When I arrived at her place in August there are a lot of unpacked stuff laying around the house because she moved in in February/March. She asked me if I could help her unpacking stuff and I said yes and took it as an opportunity to get to know her better. Then she started asking me for redoing furniture with her and I said yes again. Afterwards she started asking me for organizing the cabinets and I started feeling used. I worked more than going out and doing stuff. When school started, she still wanted me to work and when I told her I do not have time, or I rather want to hang out with friends she got mad. She did not want me to hang out with people she did not meet before. It was hard because she was working a lot and they did not have time all day. So, I was spending a lot of time home alone doing work. After I started hanging out with Lea (another exchange student from Germany) she started being mean to me. She did not want to pick me up from Lea’s place, started talking less to me and was passive aggressive. She was mad at me for no reason and was mad when she was texting me and wanted me to come home and when I was home, she pretended like nothing happened. I tried to talk to her indirectly than directly, but nothing changed, and I started being sad.

…but soon they got better!

I talked to my Liaison about it and the first time she did not take it seriously but then when I started feeling really uncomfortable at home and did not even wanted to go home, she started searching for a new host family.

Meanwhile Lea knew about everything I went through and was talking to her Liaison about it. She gave me her Liaison’s number, so I could talk about my problems with her. One day when I informed my host mom that I will babysit on Sunday (it was a family we both got to know) she got mad and told me that this was not an Airbnb and I had to respect her. I felt bad and started crying in school and called my Liaison, but she did not answer the phone, so I called Jeanette (Lea’s Liaison). I told her about everything and that I did not want to go home anymore, and she told me to pack my stuff and offered me to stay at her place. She said that if I want, I could stay permanently, and I said yes. That’s where my good experiences started!

Everything is great now in Norfolk

Since I came to Norfolk, I have a busy week plan which I enjoy. In Norfolk I have a host brother and two host sisters I always hang out with and we have so much fun together. In school I have a friend called Bridget and I love her. I got to know her trough my host brother and I am glad that my host sibling’s friends accepted me in their friend’s circle. Since I am in Norfolk I experienced so much and did a lot too. For Halloween we dressed up and went to a street party which was a lot of fun. On Thanksgiving we were at our Neighbors place and I enjoyed it. On Christmas my host parent’s friends had a fancy Christmas party where we were invited and on New Year’s, we had a party at our place, and it was 1920 themed. It was so much fun because everyone dressed up like it was the 1920s and the house was also decorated like the 20s. It was a huge party and so much fun that was my highlight of 2019 and 2020.

My personal experience so far

That is my experience so far and I enjoy my exchange year a lot. I am glad to be here, and I must admit that I wasn’t homesick once since I am in the United States. Sure, I miss my family and friends, but I know that my time here is limited and I want to make the best out of it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience. I had ups and downs but at the end everything turned out great. And my advice for everyone who is thinking about doing an exchange year is: Do it! Nobody’s exchange year is perfect everyone has their problems this is a part of being an exchange student, but you can solve every problem.