The BCSC foreign exchange program is a unique experience for the exchange student, host family, and the city as a whole. Junior Ugne Pukaite was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and is spending a year in Columbus. Her experience has been excellent, even with the obvious chance of challenges.
“I never really thought about being an exchange student but it crossed my mind a couple of times before,” Pukaite said.
The language barrier seemed like an obvious obstacle, but students in Lithuania begin studying English in second grade. Pukaite was confident in her English when she traveled to the United States. Instead, she had a variety of other concerns.
“The thought of leaving my family and friends for a year was not terrifying at first, but as the time went on, I started thinking and doubting myself more and more. I am a very shy person and this experience forced me to come out of my shell,” Pukaite said.
When Pukaite got involved in the exchange program, she greatly anticipated going to a new place.
“The excitement I felt after I found out where I am going and who I am going to live with was unutterable,” Pukaite said, “One of the best days of my life.”
Pukaite highlighted a variety of positive aspects of the exchange experience. However, she particularly mentioned it as an overall life-changing experience.
“You hop on the airplane and leave everything behind as a one person and return home as a completely different human being,” Pukaite said.
Every host family is different throughout the program. This gives each exchange student an opportunity for a different experience.
“The experience depends on a lot of things. For instance, your host families. We had a pretty hard time figuring out the different lifestyle and we had a lot of differences,” Pukaite said. “You just work them out and deal with them.”
Despite all of the positives Pukaite has experienced, she has noticed one large consequence of participating in this international program.
“Being an exchange student is letting your heart be divided into million small pieces and let them be taken to every corner of the world. You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will be elsewhere,” Pukaite said. “You will feel happiness and pain at the same time. This is the price you have to pay for love and knowing people from more than one place.”