Route J-1

My Experience as a J-1 Exchange Visitor

Posted on Friday, March 10th, 2017 at 3:39 pm.

By Luuk Pessers, J-1 High School Student from the Netherlands

Young white man in t-shirt and sunglasses on a boat with the Statue of Liberty in the background

Luuk poses with the Statute of Liberty on a ferry cruise

Being an exchange student in the United States is an incredible opportunity. There is no better way to learn more about a culture than being in the middle of one. I believe it enriches your knowledge and English language skills, but above all that, it makes you a richer person.

Especially in the world today, where people are sometimes scared of other cultures, I think it’s very important that people connect with other cultures. Knowing more about other cultures means that you better understand the world.

Luuk and his host family at a Christmas tree farm.

I come from the city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. I have always liked the United States as a country, and it’s a place I’ve wanted to go to for a long time. It is an honor to be a part of the Exchange Visitor Program, and I am very thankful for my parents, my host family, my host school, the Department of State and everyone else who made this experience possible.

My exchange year started in August 2016, and it’s something I had been looking forward to for years. I was placed in Newberg, Oregon, a small but great city in the Portland Metropolitan area. I’ve been in the United States as an exchange student for about six months now, and I have experienced so many things and learned a lot about the country. First of all, the landscape here is gorgeous; I love looking out of my bedroom window and seeing mountains whereas I would only see buildings and trees back home. But being an exchange student goes way beyond different scenery.

Young white man standing behind a podium with an Apple MacBook giving a presentation

Luuk giving a presentation about the Netherlands

Second, as an exchange student, my goal is to learn more about the American culture and telling Americans more about my culture and where I’m from. For example, Dutch people tend to say exactly what they think while Americans usually prefer to keep their opinion to themselves. I believe this has changed the way I share my opinion about things now. It’s fascinating to compare the cultures with each other and talk about the differences and similarities. But that’s not just limited to comparing facts; people think differently and behave differently. For example, both Dutch and Americans people value it when you’re on time, and being late is seen as bad or disrespectful. Being able to explain how and why we do things the way we do gives others a better insight in my culture. In my time here, I have created a better understanding of the American culture and I like it. The fact that it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s inferior or superior to my own culture, it’s just different. And I respect and value these differences; I actually believe they are great. I have my own identity and so do all Americans.

I am looking forward to what else my exchange may bring to me. This has been an amazing experience so far, and I’m sure it can only get better.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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