My exchange year was fun! It’s a life-changing experience you won’t regret!

Since 1985, Greenheart Exchange has placed over 25,000 international exchange students with host families in the USA. Greenheart provides a strong support system to our students and to our host families. Students come from a range of cultures and backgrounds, with more than 60 countries represented. Host Families often develop long-lasting relationships with their foreign exchange students and their families. Meet Giulia, from Germany, and learn about her U.S. exchange year with us:

Hi I’m Giulia! I became an exchange student to live and explore the American way of life! I wanted to become an exchange student for almost 5 years, but I wasn’t old enough to join the program. Then I became a student in an international A-level business high school in Germany, my home country, and I thought that the wait for a year abroad was worth it! Why? I got the chance to be independent and open-minded.

My placement was in Tennessee near Nashville and the only thing that I knew about the state was whiskey and country music but it’s so much more. I was living in a tornado alley. It sounds scary but we got out of school for a week only because of a heavy rain, which was pretty cool because I got to sleep more. Furthermore, I got the chance to see the beautiful countryside every morning to go to school. Tennessee has beautiful landscapes, and how could you enjoy the view better without country music? I honestly never really listened to country music but I kinda like it now. I wouldn’t say that it’s my favorite genre of music but once you are listening to “country roads” and “Tennessee whiskey” you’ll fall in love even more with the state.

The first time I went to the Broadway of Nashville was so much fun! We got stuck in traffic and we saw a lot of bachelorette parties. It was a Friday evening and all you can hear was music and people having fun.

I went to Nashville a couple of times and my favorite memories there are the Nashville backstage performances, where newcomers were singing their songs and there was one Saturday where Grammy nominee Greg Barnhill was performing. Another favorite event was when I went to my first concert with my host dad. We went to a OneRepublic concert! It was amazing! And I’m very grateful for my host dad, because of it.

Another favorite part of my year was the Friday night football games at my high school. Do you want to experience the high school spirit? Go to the ball games! It’s where you get ready with your friends and dress up for the week’s theme. The games are so much fun! Everyone will meet up, the tailgate is crowded, and it gets loud every time.

What is high school without prom? My host father is not only a teacher but also a lawyer and photographer, which is why we took the opportunity to do a photo shoot. It was a lot of fun, especially when we danced together on the dance floor.

Traditionally, there was also a father-daughter dance and I still remember when I asked my host dad the question, “May I have this dance?”. I didn’t know exactly how to slow dance, so I ended up stepping on his foot a few times, which made it even funnier and it became one of my best memories here. It was a night to remember.

Thank you to photographer Kyle Root @Kyle Root Cinema and Imaging – Huntsville and Decatur Wedding and Event Photographer ( for use of his photo.

What I liked about my exchange year was the road trips that I had. I went to Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Washington DC, New Jersey, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It’s a lot, but my host dad and I like to travel so we got that in common.

Louisiana was fun. We went there to be part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There were over 1 million people! We were lucky and got there early enough to be in the very front of a big parade to catch the beads. It was so much fun and I got to try Jambalaya, my favorite food in the United States.

I was recognized at my high school graduation with the seniors who received their diplomas.  I stayed overnight at the school with all the seniors to play games and win big prizes, something unique that my high school does every year following graduation.

Thank you to photographer Kyle Root @Kyle Root Cinema and Imaging – Huntsville and Decatur Wedding and Event Photographer ( for use of his photo.

As my exchange year comes to an end, my host family and I went to New York City and Washington, DC. We walked a lot! We took a bus tour, and walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Central Park, Chinatown, and more! NYC was busy and hot, but it was worth it. Everywhere I went just reminded me of TV shows like Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Friends, and movies like John Wick 2 and Spider-Man. The last day in “The Big Apple” was rainy. It was a way to experience the whole New Yorker lifestyle, right? I made a special effort to eat the famous strawberry cheesecake and a hot dog to accomplish my list for New York. It was delicious. DC was great, too! We took bike tours and saw monuments like the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the White House.

Thank you to host dad Shane MCNeill @ for use of his photo.

 My exchange year was fun.  With the many great memories, there are not-so-great things, too, just like in every country. If you want to become an exchange student, you should appreciate little things like watching your favorite TV show together, laughing together because someone burned food, or taking pictures of silly things. A program like this helps you realize how important friendships and family are and how to be on your own. It can be a challenge, especially if you have homesickness. Once you let your host family help to go through it, it will be a life-changing experience you won’t regret. I recommend writing a journal like I did. You’ll appreciate what you wrote, and it’s worth it even if it feels like a chore at the beginning. You will look back and remember when you first got to see your host parents at the airport to pick you up. You will see them holding your country’s flag and excitingly waiting for you.  In my case, they expected someone tall.  I’m not tall, haha.

Interested in hosting a Greenheart Exchange high-school student like Giulia? Visit to learn more, to Meet our Students, and to apply.