Greenheart Exchange sponsors international high-school students every year to come to the U.S. to experience the world. Coming from a range of cultures and backgrounds, students attend a high school in the U.S. for a whole year or a semester while staying with carefully vetted host families. Together, they create memories and experiences for a lifetime! Greenheart provides a wealth of cultural exchange opportunities and ideas for our host families, communities, and students. We love witnessing the positive and life-long impact that an exchange has on a student, and how it helps them develop and grow personally and socially. That is the epitome of our mission!
As our students wrap up their time in the U.S., we love hearing from them – their photos, stories and favorite moments. We would like you to meet Julia from Poland and read about her cultural exchange in the U.S.:
Hi, I’m Julia- an exchange student from Poland. I’m spending the last two weeks of my exchange in Holland, Michigan. the exchange year was my biggest dream. I’m very grateful to my parents for making this dream come true. When I came to Michigan in August 2022, I was the happiest person in the world. My host family welcomed me at the airport with a big banner. From this moment I knew that this year would be the best in my life.
My host mom is 83 years old but nothing stopped her from showing me the American life. My high school here has about 2,500 students and a lot of opportunities. From the beginning of the school year I was involved in a lot of activities, especially sports. I tried to play volleyball and run in the Cross Country team. In the winter season, I played basketball and during spring, tennis.
For my regular class I selected Team Sport which is why I also played a lot of different sports, such as football, lacrosse, handball, hockey, soccer and frisbee. My high school is awesome. Teachers here are very friendly, helpful and understanding. In my opinion school here is easier than in Poland, and I really like this system of education. I wasn’t scared about missing work or upcoming tests because I was always prepared and had time to do it.
My host mom is a Greenheart Local Coordinator so I’ve met other exchange students from different countries. We had a lot of activities together that helped us build relationships.
With my host mom and hosted sister from Italy, I visited a lot of new places and states. We had amazing trips to Mackinac Island, Lansing, Detroit, Chicago, Frankenmuth, Florida and New York. The best memories are Disney World in Florida, Times Square, Vanderbilt Building and New Year Day spent in New York City. I’m very happy for discovering new lands.
I will always remember celebrating my 19th birthday in Chicago with my friends and host family at the Museum of Ice Cream, Willis Tower and a Polish restaurant, which was absolutely amazing.
Trying unlimited ice-cream during our stay there was incredible.
I’ve never been very good at cooking. When I came to the USA I wanted to show my host family traditional, polish dishes so I had to start. I’ve developed my culinary skills a lot making different kinds of pierogi, potato salad and apple pie. I usually help with making dinner and I really enjoy that.
The hardest part of my exchange year was Christmas. I missed my family, traditional food, the beauty and climate of Christmas at home. On Christmas Eve I wasn’t able to talk to my family. I was prepared. To feel better, I decided to do a Polish Christmas dinner in America. It was the best decision, because after that I wasn’t upset.
My parents had sent me some things from Poland and I cooked for three days to make everything perfect. I prepared Christmas borscht, dried fruit compote, pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms, potato salad, gingerbread cookies and apple pie. My host family thought that everything was delicious and I was happy that I could share my traditions with Americans.
My exchange year was absolutely amazing. I’ve made a lot of new friends, tried new things that I will never forget, built strong relationships with my host family and experienced the real American life and high school. Not everything is like in movies, but after 10 months I will go home stronger and more independent with ideas for my life.
My biggest advice for future exchange students is to try new things as much as possible, and not be shy. Don’t think about your home country and family a lot, and enjoy your time in the USA because time goes by fast.
Thank you Julia for sharing your experiences and such wise words.