On a Serious Note: What I Wish I Could Tell Everyone

9:40 PM

Normally I try to keep my blog pretty cheery, definitely playing up the good stuff, but there's something I feel like I need to say to people I interact with, and anyone who's ever around a foreign exchange student. Its not easy to say this to someone's face and writing has always come easier to me than making a speech. So here are some things I wish I could tell people about being an exchange student, my experience in particular.
1) Being an exchange student isn't easy.
A lot of the time, its really really hard. Not only do you have to adjust to a new culture, climate and daily routine, but you have to do so without your family and friends by your side. Which leads me to
2) I'm sorry for crying.
Most of the time, it's nobody's fault. Sometimes the combination of being so far from home mixed with the pressure of trying to ensure that my host family and classmates like me is really overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like no one really likes me here and that everyone is forgetting me back in New York. Crying doesn't solve anything, but sometimes it's good to let it out.
3) Please don't judge a book by its cover.
Especially when that book is me and the cover is a first impression. It's been said that exchange makes people talk in all clichés, and this one holds so true. It's not fair to hold a grudge against someone because of what your friend said about them or because of what country they're from. Which leads into
4) Exchange students have feelings too.
Lately I've been dealing with a lot of problems at school. People talk about me behind my back, others overhear and then they tell me. I've been told that I'm a freak, weird, uncommunicative, mean, scary and that I make people cry. It may be the global nature of teenage girls to be catty, but that's not an excuse. As hard as I try to laugh the insults off, they still hurt. A lot. Especially because many of them come from people I don't even know. These people know only my name and where I'm from, yet they find it necessary to criticize and hurt me. I wish I knew why.
5) I can tell when you're talking about me.
If you're looking right at me, and saying something, its pretty obvious. Please just tell me if you have a problem. I'd rather have someone let me know what's wrong rather than having to wonder about what
 the heck you just said and why on earth you're suddenly laughing at me. Leading off of this
6) Don't be scared of me!
I don't bite and even if I did I've gotten all my necessary vaccines. I love having conversations with new people or people I've talked to before. I love talking in general. And finally
7) I'm a normal teenager.
I stress about grades and school. I talk to my friends about cute guys. I worry far too much about the future rather than living in the present.
I still love Malaysia, I just had to get that off my chest.


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15 comments

  1. I read it , I understand you . In school , people just can't stop judging , that is problem you're facing . But then , you just need to be strong , you'll be fine soon , Hannah ! Incase you're wondering who am I , I'm the fat malay prefect who you sits beside during canteen . Stay strong Hannah xx

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  2. I'm so sorry for what happened to you in school :( I still feel bad about it. Yes, people can be so mean sometimes but stay strong,okay? Hoping to see you after the exams.

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  3. Oh Hannah...I feel for you. Be strong, I believe those who are hurting you are not a reflection of Malaysian teenagers at large. We are known to be warm, hospitable and genuinely welcome visitors to our country. It's sad that you had the misfortune of interacting with the nasty ones. It takes all sorts of characters to build society. Ignore the ones who are malicious and build a bond with those who are sincere. I truly hope that the small numbers will not spoil your stay in our beautiful country.

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  4. People back home won't forget you! Some of us, who don't even know you, admire you and are cheering for you!

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  5. they're just jealous that's all

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  6. As a parent of a fast growing teenage sons and daughter. I can certainly feel your anxieties or pain especially leaving home and trying to fit in a very alien surrounding. it's just too much to conform and blend in without being able to stay true to oneself. So, just stay true and be yourself and take things a bit more lightly is the only way to go.

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  7. Be strong, Hannah! We love you. :-)

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  8. Reading your musings is something I really enjoy. It's interesting to see your perspective of my country from your point of view. Please try to update as often as you can. You have a a lot of fans!

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  9. Hi Hannah .. Of course i feel you girl.. Being an exchange student will never be easy. As a former exchange too (mine to japan) ..

    Living in a world that sometimes never make sense to you culturally and where languages are sometimes gibberish will sometimes hurt..

    But stay strong girl.. You will always face people that are judgemental and just keep true to yourself.. Ignore the critics and losers too.. They are truly jealous.. Hahaha.. I trust that u'll find some that were true friends though.. I do. And they will last forever ..

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  10. Hey Hannah,
    Over in Sarajevo I've had some of these experiences as well. Just keep trekking, know that you're not alone in your frustrations or emotions, and that all the exchange kids are with you at one time or another :) I sincerely hope things turn out for the best.

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  11. ignore them....they just jealous...seriously

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  12. Be strong young girl..! It happen anywhere everywhere, and it's normal when people don't like us when we're different. It's okay darl, it's part of being a teenagers..We can't make everyone like us, but we should appreciate those who loves us..! Cheers darl : D

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  13. To be honest...this scenario is typical in girl schools...anyway, no worries...you'll be fine...

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  14. Hye hannah, im not sleeping ton8 browsing ur blog, very wonderful writing... i think its a culture here talking about people behind da target, but it doesnt mean they hate you, maybe they shy to talk directly to you, believe me!! just be urself, do what u want, talk a lot, share your bravery and dont think to much about gossip or bad thing around....still a lot thing u can enjoy here rather think about why people act like this whatsoever.. what u can do to improve is speak slowly, because american accent is so different than what we learn here....if they can understand easily what you trying to say, i believe much things would be easier...

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  15. Hey Hannah. I was a AFS KL-YES student to Minnesota, US a few years back, and I know exactly how you feel. I was treated the same way you did, maybe worse since I was the only Asian in my high school. Many kids stereotyped me and talked a lot behind my back. I cried for days thinking about how badly the others treated me but in the end, I stood up for myself and chose not to care because the only thing we can do is to stay strong, and live our lives in the moment without thinking too much about others' opinions. Wished we can meet but my busy college schedule prevented me from volunteering with AFS these day. Oh well. Have fun while you're still in Malaysia! As Billy Joe Armstrong from Greenday said it, I hope you had the time of your life. :)

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