Exchange is not a year in the life, it’s a life in one year





There are only a handful of students who are perfectly fluent in French. One of whom is high school senior Ben Applegate. In the past year, Applegate has achieved things that most would only dream of.

Instead of coming back in the fall of 2013 to start his junior year with the rest of his class, Applegate headed overseas to Belgium.

“I was drawn to Belgium,” Applegate said. “For someone unsure of what culture they want to experience on an exchange, Belgium offered me more than enough to choose from.”

In order to go on his exchange, he went through the Rotary program and there were certain requirements he needed to fulfill while he was abroad.

“I was expected to give multiple presentations to Rotary clubs describing my life and my experiences both before I left and while I was there,” Applegate said.

Most students leaving for an exchange programs would be apprehensive about leaving for a year. But according to Applegate, it was not so much of an issue as he had been away before. He, of course, did feel homesick and dealt with the culture shock of being in a place so different than Granville.

“I remember the day I left with dreamlike clarity, almost as if I was in a trance.”  Applegate said. “The feeling of ‘being there’ didn’t hit me until months after I had arrived.”

Leaving home was not the hardest part of the whole experience; coming back was.

“I think what it comes down to is saying goodbye to a life that you built for yourself, not one that you had because you had grown up in a certain place and were expected to be a certain way,” Applegate said.

After being gone for so long he had become so used to a certain way of life and culture, and coming back was very different.

“I had to re-integrate myself into a culture that had become, over the course of ten months, very foreign to me,” Applegate remarked.

Between leaving home and leaving the life he had created on his own, he had an incredible time experiencing Europe. Because Belgium hosts hundreds of students every year, he was able to get exposure to multiple cultures at once. He became close with many of the other students and people he met.

“While I was in Belgium, I stayed with 3 different host families. Each were incredibly welcoming and I consider them as much family as my biological family,” said Applegate. “The other exchange students in Belgium also offered me a type of family that’s difficult to find elsewhere. They are all such incredible, inspiring people.”

His advice for those wanting to do an exchange program: “Many people ask me how hard it was to be away, but at the end of the day, the things I gained from exchange far outweigh the negative parts of my year. A year in a life is no time at all, and even if it isn’t the greatest or most incredible year for someone, it is definitely the most rewarding. Exchange is not a year in a life, it’s a life in a year.”