I remember the day I got an e-mail from my Student Exchange Coordinators saying that I had been placed with a family in the city of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and that I was going to be a part of this family with a mum, dad and younger brother and younger sister. I was super excited because I am the youngest here in Australia and I have ALWAYS wanted to be the oldest!
I e-mailed them as soon as I had the chance and we made a few international phone calls as well to get to know each other. After that, we skyped about 2 times before I disembarked from Australia to the Netherlands when I was 15. I had a stopover in Dubai and all I remember is walking through the terminals walking past guards, fully clothed with big guns for protection, this was the first time I was exposed to anything like this, so I quickly moved along to find my gate, sat down and got comfortable with my Harry Potter book while I called mum explaining that I was starving but too scared to walk anywhere!
When I landed in the Netherlands, I was scared to go through customs so I chose to go through a different gate which then impacted the fact that I walked straight past my host family that came to pick me up! I tried calling them, but my phone wasn’t working, so I curled up, sat down next to the information desk waiting for someone to come and claim me. Once all the drama of ‘lost Sam’ was sorted, I was on my way to where I called home for the next 5 months. I skyped mum as soon as I was there letting her know that I was safe and sound and I was off exploring town with my new brother and sister.
The first few months, keeping in contact with family and friends was hard – adjusting to time zones, my new school and learning a new language. Communication was always over Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype which was easy and convenient especially when I had a terrible Nokia phone that didn’t want to pick up any signal in the foreign country and no laptop besides the family computer which was limited when all 5 of us needed to use it!
Click here to see Charlotte’s initial experience communicating while abroad.