Should I Participate in an Exchange Program?

I’ve been back in Hungary for 2 weeks and I kind of had time to think through this whole year. I asked several questions from myself and one was, “Was this year worth it?” It’s a question which seems easy to answer but after doing a little deep thinking I came up with an in depth review of my year studying in California.

If you and your family are considering in applying for an exchange program but don’t know wether it’s worth it or not, well here is my opinion after completing a high school year in Los Angeles.

This year definitely changed me in many ways. The fact that I was away from my family was sometimes hard but in an exchange program it’s good, because it makes you responsible. Before I had gone to Los Angeles my parents always did everything for me. They made food for me, they drove me everywhere, and they also helped with all my problems. In LA I was living with a host family but honestly they didn’t really care about me. I was pretty much on my own and I had to learn how to be responsible. Being more responsible made me feel really proud of myself and I felt like i’m an adult, it was awesome!

Gaining responsibility was one of the most useful things however I also changed in many other ways. American, or Californian culture to be more specific is very different than in my country Hungary. Everything is more laid back, people are really nice to each other, easy going and funny. In Hungary everything is pretty much the opposite. People are rude to each other, always depressed, and they want bad for other people. I realized this when I came back. It’s really sad but it made me feel disappointed in my country. I also feel like I assimilated with the culture in California and i’m different from other people in Hungary which in my opinion is amazing because i’m able to think differently from other people.

My favorite thing from this year was the adventures. Los Angeles is such an interesting city and it seems like it’s full with surprises and adventures. Getting the full high school experience included parties as well which I had only seen in movies before. I made so many friends it’s unreal. I didn’t have a driving license so I could have a car which made me take the bus everywhere. Looking back to it, it wasn’t a bad thing because I was able to explore the city.

My host parents didn’t restrict me from going out so I felt free. It was a wonderful feeling. I could go anywhere with anyone at any time. It felt like I’m finally living life.

If you have the chance to participate in an exchange program but you don’t know if you should go, I really encourage you to go. It doesn’t matter what city or country you go to, it will be a lot of fun. Not a lot of people can allow themselves to send their children to a program like this so you should appreciate this great opportunity and take it.

I had couple friends who didn’t want to go but their parents sent them. They actually ended up leaving the program in couple months. If this is the case with you my advice is be open for new things and view this as a gift. It’s an opportunity in your life that you will never have again.

If you have any other questions about my experience you can leave a comment and I will be happy to answer. Also if you want me to write a blog post about a specific topic I will be happy to do that as well.

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Foreign vs American Student’s Work Ethic

This is my 3rd week back in Los Angeles and it’s crazy how fast time is passing. I haven’t really had a lot of time to write this blog because I joined track and my whole daily schedule changed and now I don’t really have a lot of free time.

But anyways. As I came back I see things differently and I started understanding things that I had not before. I met a lot of new people, both foreign and americans, and now I got an idea how people think here.

So I was in my Honors Algebra 2 class with my Korean friend and we were talking about schools in Europe, Korea and America. We compared them but what we also did was talk about the students. We noticed that no one is doing their work in our class except us. We were already done with all the assignments and the homework as well by the way.

So he explained how most students are in Korea and what he said is that most of them are working hard and trying to achieve good grades in school. What’s interesting is that it’s kind of similar in Hungary too. Of course there are students everywhere who don’t care about school and never do their work but here in America that number of students is way too much.

What I experienced in my classes so far is that actually a very little amount of students work and try to succeed. Most of my classmates are getting bad grades and they don’t even care. It’s really interesting how school is not even that hard here but they still don’t want to do their work.

And of course there are other students too who are doing really well in school so if you are one of those don’t think I say every American is lazy. This is just something I’ve experienced. Another thing is that I’m attending a public high school at the moment (a pretty good one by the way) and next year I will be going to a private high school and things might be different there. But as of right now this is my opinion and what I’ve experienced.

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Why American Education is Better than European

The United States is well known for it’s great universities. The best universities of the world are in America. But what about high schools and education in general?

I’ve been studying in California for almost 4 months now. I already got used to the system,  so now i’m able to compare it to education in Europe. Most of the countries in Europe has a similar system except few countries like the UK and Spain.  The system that we have in Hungary and what most European countries have is completely different than in the US.

Fist of all, there is a huge difference between the number of classes. In Hungary, high school is 4 years (same as in America), but throughout the 4 years you must take the same classes. For example you will have 4 years of History, Mathematics, Hungarian Language, English, PE… So in total you take about 15 classes each year. Your schedule changes every day and you have from 5 to 7 classes a day. In America you have to take 6 classes each day for a year and you have the same classes every day. Also you can choose what kind of classes you take whereas in Hungary you have absolutely no ability to customise your schedule. They just give you a schedule and that’s it.

Another different thing is the classes you can take. In America you have a bunch of options. You can take electives like photography, film making, business, architecture and a lot more. You can take art classes like drawing, choir and theatre. There are several science classes and of course regular classes too. If you are into sports you can take a sport as your 6th period. In Hungary you don’t have these options. We don’t have sports in the schools, just a PE class. We don’t really have electives either. I think it’s a great thing that students in America have the option to try out a variety of things throughout their high school studies because this is how they will know what they want to do later in their life. In Hungary most seniors have no idea what they will do and what they want to be. Surprisingly here in America when I asked people about what they want to do, everyone could give me an answer. The sad thing is that i’m not sure what I want to do and this is the proof that the americans are more prepared.

Finally the graduation process is two different worlds. In America you have to collect credits. To be more specific 220 credits which are divided into sections. Here is a table which shows how many credits you have to collect for each class.

English 40 credits
Mathematics 30 credits (40 for UC and CSU)
Social Science 30 credits
Science 20 credits
World Language/Fine Arts 10 credits (30 for UC and CSU)
Visual and Performing Arts 10 credits
Physical Education/Health 20 credits
Electives 60 credits

So you earn 5 credits every semester in each class. Another thing you have to pass is the CAHSEE exam,. It’s the California High School Exit Exam. It consists of 2 sections, the Mathematics and the English. It’s only in California but in different states i’m sure they have different tests. You also need 60 hours of community or volunteer service. That’s all, it’s not hard. I actually took the CAHSEE this week and it was pretty easy even for me and don’t forget that English is not my first language. Graduating in Hungary and most European countries are really hard. You need to  take a huge test in your senior year basically covering all the topics you have covered in the past 4 years. It’s not hard to pass it, but if you want to get a good score then it’s crazy hard.

My opinion is that the American education system is a lot better and more useful. It prepares you a lot better for life and college too. You get to take part in lots of events and you will live a more interesting life. The thing most americans don’t realize is that they live in like the best part of the world. They want to move to Europe but what they don’t know is that America’s education is one of the best. At least it’s better than European. Education in Asia is a different story and i’m not going to go in that but i’ve heard about it from my Asian friends.

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Field Trip to Newport Beach

Last Saturday there was the first field trip for the exchange students. It was to the Newport Beach and we also stopped to visit UC Irvine on the way. It was an unforgettable trip for me for several reasons which i’m about to share with you.

So one of my dream came true on this field trip because we actually went with a real american yellow school bus. It was just like in the movies and it was amazing how one of my childhood dreams came true, going with an american school bus. Of course I was sitting in the back with my friends because the cool kid sit in the back. 🙂 The trip there was around 2.5 hours but it actually passed really quickly.

On the way we stopped at UC Irvine. We walked around the campus and a student who graduated from my high school and now goes there showed us around. It was my first time being in a university and all I can say it was a beautiful campus, they even had a starbucks. After Uc Irvine we continued our trip to Newport Beach.

Newport Beach is a completely different area than the Valley (where I live) and it really felt like a whole new different world. There were lots of palm trees, the beach and pretty beach houses. It’s a different type of lifestyle because I’m always busy, i’m going somewhere all the time but there it’s all about relaxing.

We spent most of the time at the port area and that’s were we had lunch. It was a really nice port with really cool things. There was even a ferris wheel at the port and we went on it several times. One thing I also enjoyed was the arcade where we could play games and win tickets.

Newport Port
Newport Port

I went on the beach too with my group of friends but unfortunately we couldn’t go in the ocean. It was still great walking on the beach. One thing I noticed that the water was beautiful, it was so clean compared to Santa Monica, where it’s a lot dirtier.

Newport Beach
Newport Beach

Overall it was an amazing day, it was great to spend time with the other exchange students because in school most of the time I’m with my american friends. It was also really nice seeing the beach because for me it’s hard to get to the beach, since I don’t have a car yet. I hope there will be more field trips like this in the future.

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My First Test

This week I had my first History test, actually like a small test. It was supposed to be on Monday but it got canceled because of a tragic event that has shocked the whole school.

Well honestly I got lucky that it was canceled because I had no idea we are writing a test. For some reason I never know if we have to do something for history class because the teacher never tells us and the other students just ask me “hey, have you done the homework?” and I don’t even know what they are talking about. I always pay attention to the lesson, so it doesn’t make any sense.

So I was so happy I had another day to study and it was a long chapter which was hard as well. So Tuesday when we got the test I was really nervous just like whenever I write a test cause I always want to get the best grade possible. I thought this time i’m going to get a bad grade due to the complicity of this chapter.

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When I received my paper I started laughing cause it was hilarious how easy it was. I finished it in 30 seconds because in Hungary, tests are completely different. I’m used to really hard and long tests. So I thought the test went pretty well except there were 2 questions I was not sure about.

I got the results today and it turned out I got 2 mistakes and I only received a “B”. I was really disappointed. But then there was a class work yesterday where I got 100% so my average is an “A” in History. I’m going to try my best in school and get the best grades possible but it’s really hard because I’m very busy all the time.

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Exchange Program Confirmed

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Today I finally received my confirmation email from Educatius that everything was ok with my application and they accepted me.

Honestly I’ve never thought that this dream would come true for me. It was a really long process choosing the city, the school, writing the test, filling out the papers and going through medical examination. Choosing the school took the most time and to be honest it was a pain in the ass, but at the end I found a school in Los Angeles, California that met my requirements.

I can’t thank my family enough for this opportunity and I feel like this is the first step achieving my goal, getting into one of the top 10 universities in America.

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