Taking big steps is never easy, it never was and will never be. The earlier you recognize it, the sooner you learn how to dare to do stuff that is a bit challenging and maybe not be what you are used to. Exchange students take these steps every day and they can't wait to get new challenges to try and experience. Do we like all of them? Definitely not, but we do them anyway because that is who we are and actually, no matter how strange it might sound, what we want to do. We want to take a year of our lives to challenge ourselves to do something unexplored. Something rare. Something amazing!
To be honest, I actually don't remember when I decided that I wanted to go on an exchange year. I remember that I went to an information meeting in September, and that that was when the whole process started, but I don't remember any specific details. I remember the bigger picture, so most of the things that happened from the day I decided that I wanted to go on an exchange year until this very day, but I've forgotten most of the details. Before I went on my exchange year, I thought that details would be something that I would like to remember, but to be honest, the smallest details doesn't matter at all. Something that I do remember though, and has played a big part in my exchange year so far is the EF Pre-Ambassador program. Is that the punchline of this post? No, but that's where it all started...
It was at the end of March when I first got information about the EF Pre-Ambassador Program. I got some information from the local EF office in Stockholm, and I thought that this is something I want to do. Something I want to be a part of. So of course I signed up for it, and I was so thrilled about what was about to come. I was already involved in the EF community because I had signed up for an exchange year through them, but I took a decision to be a bigger part of the community. I quickly came in contact with other exchange students from other countries than Sweden, kind of fulfilling the purpose of exchange students, getting connections all over the world. This was my very first opportunity to share my experience with other people, equally interested is exchange years as I was. Nothing held me back, and I rapidly started making connections all over the world. I realized that this was an excellent way to meet new people, to share my point of view and understand others' points of view. I think I was a bit late into the program, or not late, but I came into the program after the first webinar. For those who don't know what a webinar is, it's a platform where you can do seminars over the internet. It is an easy way to reach out with your presentation, with both pictures and sound to a lot of people. To a lot of eager, soon-to-be exchange students. When I first watched the webinar I was confused, what am I doing? I didn't understand what it meant to be a Pre-Ambassador, and I watched the webinar over and over again to try to figure it out all by myself. I struggled for a long time, and every time I thought I understood it, I once again had no idea what I was doing. But then it hit me, why am I doing this all by myself? Why am I trying to find an answer to something I don't understand without using my contacts, the contacts I've made through this program. I didn't join the program to seek for answers all by myself. I contacted the one leading the program, Michèle, and I'm telling you, if she's not THE queen, I don't know who is...
Michèle showed me in the right direction. The right way. Maybe also the easy way. The thing is, she showed me the way. Helped me understand without telling the answer. She convinced me to stay, to fight and to not give up. She gave me all the tools I needed. She inspired me! I wouldn't say that I owe her anything, but I'm definitely grateful for what she did for me. To be honest, I'm not sure how well I would have done without her haha :)
The Pre-Ambassador program was just a preparation for the In-Country Ambassador Program, that's at least how I see it. We were given tools that would help us share our story, our vision and our experiences. We were taught to embrace it, everything, and learn from it, both the good but especially the bad. I don't think I understood it at the time, I didn't get it all. But now. Now everything's so much clearer thanks to the program. Both of the programs have taught me a lot, and thanks to them, I've grown as a person.
So now, as a part of the In-Country Student Ambassador Program, I watch monthly webinars trying to learn as much as possible. We also get monthly projects, which is where we get the opportunity to share our story with other people. It's keeping me busy, trying to get as much out of my exchange year as possible. So I have more than one commitment at the moment. The ambassador program, my life, and my social media. I will really try to do my best at updating here, but I can't promise anything :)
I wouldn't say that the main task for ambassadors is to make advertisement for their organisation. You don't do it just because you want your organisation to grow bigger and bigger, you're committed to the ambassador program because you want to share your story and inspire people to do something they have never dreamed of doing. It doesn't necessary apply to exchange years, but you want to inspire people and show them that doing new things will make you grow tremendously. Would I say that every exchange student would be a good ambassador? Definitely not, but I think most of them would be. The best inspirational sources are the ones that know what they are talking about. Someone you can turn to with questions and know that you'll get an answer back, and I believe that most exchange students have answers to peoples' questions. That's really the person I try to be, the one with the answers. I think that you get some kind of extra responsibility when you go on an exchange year, or I at least feel a responsibility to share my story, tell people about what I do, ups and downs throughout my year, and be there for people who have questions. They have questions, and I have answers, or thoughts that can help them. But don't take this the wrong way. I'm not doing this because I feel some kind of obligation to share my story, but because I want to. I'm doing it because I want to, but I feel an extra responsibility to share my story at the same time. Do you understand what I mean? I hope you do :)
Because of the ambassador program, we get monthly projects to do. This month is about giving thanks, so I will post something every day on my story (on my exchange year account) where I appreciate something or simply share a memory from my year, basically showing something I'm grateful for. I've already started, but since I'm going on the whole month, there's a bunch of days left :) Also, keep an eye out for my EF State Pride video! I think I'm done with it soon, which means that I soon will post it!! I'm so excited!
Hugs to you guys!!/ Louise