Anyone participating in an international exchange program has heard the classic advice: “Get involved. Stay busy. Immerse yourself. ” But many struggle with HOW to achieve those things. Friis, a current participant on CCI Greenheart’s F-1 High School Program from Germany, provided a great example and insight on ways to get immersed in a host community.

By: Sarah Tolman, F-1 High School Academic Program Manager

Friis is studying at Groton Dunstable High School in Groton, Massachusetts. The location was appealing to him because Massachusetts is a popular destination for Germans and he had heard great things about Boston, which is not too far from Groton by car. You’ll be surprised to hear that even three months into the program, Friis still hasn’t visited Boston! This is because he managed to get busy, and I mean really busy, from the start of his time in the U.S. He shared that this is a great way to combat homesickness, stating that, when you have a packed schedule, “you don’t think about things you don’t have, you do not tend to miss such a lot of things. If you don’t have time to think on something, you will probably feel better.”

Friis elaborated on how he got involved so early on in the year. For him, the key was joining the football team. Of course every student’s involvement should depend on what they are interested in, and Friis loved sports in Germany, so he knew he wanted to play sports in the U.S. He didn’t, however, want to play a sport with which he had a lot of practice, such as soccer. Instead, he chose to go out of his comfort zone and try something new. “When I came over here, I only had a really, really small knowledge about football. From my point of view, football is kind of a different language sometimes, so it was kind of confusing for me at the first time.” Hearing Friis talk about his experience on the football team, it was very clear that he didn’t regret stepping out of that comfort zone and giving the team a try.

“With football, people are so supportive and really friendly, and when you participate in the sport there’s a lot of emotions, so that connects you too, so it’s a really close community.”

Even though he was a bit unsure at first, Friis felt very welcomed in all aspects of his program: into the school community, onto the football team, and into his host family. Over the next several months, he’s looking forward to trips to Boston (finally finding a time to fit it in!), New York, and to celebrating the holidays in America. Friis also can’t wait to don his cap and gown and walk across the stage at high school graduation!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Friis expressed his gratitude to have the opportunity to have a home in the U.S., and already feels that he is on track to accomplishing his main goal for the program: to have a “permanent connection” in the U.S.

Why not follow Friis’ lead, immerse yourself in an entirely new culture, and find yourself a new, welcoming second home?! Apply for CCI Greenheart’s F-1 High School Academic Program.