Opportunity Of A Lifetime

Foreign exchange student recounts experiences in America


Photo Submitted By Alex Staufer

Alex Staufer poses for a photo with his American host family as they celebrate Thanksgiving on Nov. 25 (2021). “[Something different in Austria is] We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the form that America does,” Staufer said. He added that he enjoyed all the moments he got to spend with his American host family during his exchange year.

There are many different cultural experiences around the world and some people get the chance to travel abroad to experience them for themselves. Traveling to a different environment has a lot of challenges to it, but in the end, it can be worth it. 

Alexander Staufer took the opportunity to explore the world outside of Austria by being an exchange student in America for his junior year of high school last year. 

“I have always been interested in America ever since my first tour with the Vienna Boys Choir,” Staufer (12) said. “…This exchange year made it possible for me to experience how life as an American is.”

Being used to a certain way of life with school, friends and family leads to not having a lot of space for reinventing yourself. Having the chance to go to a place where no one knows who you are can give you relief to just be yourself without worrying about people liking you. 

“…This year gave me the chance to try new things and be fully who I actually am,” Staufer said. 

Since not every country has the same way of doing things, for someone new it can have many challenges that they have to face. Especially when it includes having to learn a different language to understand what people are saying. 

“It (learning English) was hard at the beginning, but then it got easier as time passed on,” Staufer said. “[I started learning] in middle school. It took me two to three years.”

Learning a language isn’t the only thing you face when going to a different country, especially with the added challenge of learning a different school system. It can be a big adjustment with the number of classes you have, what time everything is at and extracurriculars.

 “…It was an adjustment because in America I had seven subjects in one semester, now I have 15 through the whole year,” Staufer said. “…[In Austria] My hours are only 45 minutes and I don’t have A and B days, every weekday has its own schedule.”

After Staufer went back to Austria, he gained a lot of confidence in himself.  He recommended that everyone have an exchange year to not only learn about a different culture but also to learn about themselves as a person. 

“I would tell the person to engage 100 percent and to try everything out,” Staufer said. “This is a once in a lifetime experience and at the end, you don’t wanna regret that you didn’t try something out when you had the chance.”