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On an exchange, you can’t retreat

  • Name: Shelly DeLeon
  • Destination: Andujar, Spain
  • When: Year, 1998-1999
  • Hometown: Seattle, Washington
  • Organization:
San Miguel Church

San Miguel Church, Andujar, Spain - Image by asmythie via Flickr


“Definitely do an exchange. It’s worth the money.  It’s worth the time. It’s worth the effort.  Nothing, no experience in the United States, not even going to live in rural town wherever they speak purely Spanish–it’s not the same experience, because you’re still in your home country.

“When you go on an exchange you can’t retreat.

You’re there and you have to deal with everything.  And I think that’s something that we don’t learn on our home turf.

That’s maybe why I felt so strong.  I had learned how to deal with things face on.

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“I can’t think of any good reason for somebody not to go on an exchange. I really can’t.  It just shows so much about yourself.  It teaches you so much about yourself, and you get the added benefit of learning about someplace else.  I think we don’t know enough about other places and other people.  I don’t think we know enough about ourselves, especially not when you’re in high school.

“High school is very self-absorbing, and exchange is also self-absorbing, but that can’t be the only thing you look at, because your issues aren’t necessarily personal.  They’re dealing with the toilet.  They’re dealing with how they do laundry.  They’re dealing with everything.

Everything that you ever knew to be true about your personal habits is proven to you to be not.

You learn that not everybody recycles.  That red doesn’t always mean the hot water is gonna turn on that way.  You learn that you aren’t the one who has to sweep up.  But maybe you’re the one who has to wipe the tables.

You take on a different role. And you — it’s still you.  It’s just parts of you that nobody ever asked you to exercise before.”

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