Highlights of my exchange year, and of my life

Panagiotis, Greenheart Exchange FLEX student from Greece, at the Washington State Capitol

Every year, Greenheart and our community of Host Families welcome hundreds of international exchange students to the USA. And we love seeing how the cultural exchange experience impacts students, the hosting families, and the local communities. What’s different about our cultures? And just as important, what’s the same about daily lives here versus there? Here’s Panagiotis to tell us what his exchange year has been like.

My name is Panagiotis but in the USA I go by Peter, it is easier in my daily communication. I am a FLEX finalist from Greece and I am living currently in Yakima, Washington.

Coming to the USA I experienced many types of culture shocks. Firstly, it was a little difficult for me to adjust on the lunch and dinner hours. In Greece I would eat lunch at 1:30pm and dinner after 8pm.  Now in the USA I eat lunch at school at 12pm and dinner approximately at 6pm. In addition, in Greece I could go and hang out with my friends. We would mostly walk around our town, talk and laugh until 12am. Here, the opportunities for a teenager are limited. Everything is so far away and having a car is a necessity.

My favourite activity in the USA is volunteering. Mostly through the private catholic school that I attend I have done many volunteering activities with my Christian Service Class. For example, we make blankets to donate to homeless people and on Thanksgiving we had a pie fundraiser and we made almost 50 apple pies. One unique volunteering opportunity was with the Warehouse Company Theatre of Yakima. After 8 hours of training, teenagers from the Yakima High Schools had the chance to teach readers theatre in Yakima Elementary schools. For two weeks we went 4 days per week and we taught 4th and 5th Graders about a play and on the last the kids performed the play holding their scripts. It was an amazing teaching experience and I was able to teach something that I love, which is theatre.

Another once in a lifetime experience was being a Senate page in the Capitol Hill in Olympia. I was able to work and perform errands for senators and help in other tasks throughout the Washington Capitol Hill. At the same time, for two hours every day I had page school and I gained a lot of useful knowledge about the American governmental system. Our biggest assignment was to create a bill with a partner and then on Thursday we had to present our bill in a mock committee hearing and then our classmates would vote if the bill would pass or not pass. I definitely recommend being a page in any state Capitol. It was one of the highlights not only of my exchange year, but of my life.

In the USA the school sports are very important. They play a crucial part in the teenage life. One ‘only-in-the-USA’ experience would be the football games. At that time I felt that I was inside a film. It was just a unique vibe that I will never forget.

To future exchange students I advise you to just live every moment on its fullest!

Thank you!

If you’d like to host an exchange student like Panagiotis, please visit HostwithGreenheart.org to learn more.