Meet Maud from the Netherlands, our Student Ambassador for the month of May.
1) Tell us about your high school exchange year.
I attended Maumelle High School, located in central Arkansas. There’s about 1,200-1,300 students that go there, and this year there were six exchange students as well. My favorite things about American High School are the sports and extracurricular activities. There are so many classes and different things you can do on campus, where at home I don't have a lot of options, especially no when it comes to sports. The options are endless and the teachers have huge respect for foreign exchange students. I love how open they are to me.
2) How does life in the Netherlands compare to life in Arkansas?
I grew up in the center of Amsterdam with my older sister and my mom and dad. My sister used to play volleyball when we were younger and I loved watching her games. When I saw that Maumelle High had a volleyball team I thought ‘this is my chance.' So on the first day at Maumelle High I went out of my comfort zone and tried out for volleyball, a sport I had never played before. It was the best decision I could have made. I met my two best friends there, and they introduced me to their church youth group and showed me what it meant to have school spirit!
I went from living with one older sister to living with a young married couple and an Italian exchange sister. I have become more open-minded from being around so many new cultures at once. It wasn’t just an American exchange year, it was an Italian one too.
3) Why did you decide you wanted to go on an exchange year?
A girl from my school was in Vermont for her exchange year and at the same time a girl I grew up with ran into my parents and told them that she was going to spend a year in Idaho. The more information I read and the more blogs and social media accounts I found, the more I realized I wanted to go on an exchange year with EF. I went to the interview in December still unsure about spending a year away from home, but I walked out more confident than ever. I knew this was the right decision for me.
4) Why did you want to become an EF Exchange Year Ambassador? What kind of things do you do as an Ambassador?
The Student Ambassador Program for me has been a way to connect with other leaders and learn about not just ourselves, but also how to help others who are going through the same experiences as an exchange student. I became an Ambassador because I wanted Arkansas to be more well known. I wanted to learn how to share my positivity and show how amazing unknown places can be. My favorite part of being an Ambassador is knowing that I’m not alone and I can help others feel safe and welcome. I can help others by sharing my story, which to me is perfect, because I don’t ever want to stop sharing this wonderful year.
5) What advice would you give current or future exchange students?
Find as much information on it as you can. Blogs, social media accounts, brochures and more. There are plenty of people at EF that are there for you. Just be bold and contact someone with all the questions you have. If you’re thinking about it, but still doubting yourself or your English skills, just go to a meeting and ask all your questions! If I were to talk to myself a year ago with what I know now, I would say not to doubt myself so much; as long as you have faith you’ll get there, and it’s all worth it. If you’re scared to go, don’t worry, so was I, and I think most exchange students are at some point, but there’s a great group of friends with you every step of the way!
Maud and her American Volleyball team.
After Maud returns home to the Netherlands, she hopes to continue her journey by transitioning from a Student Ambassador to a Returnee Ambassador (like Malin from Sweden). Check out all the ways you can stay involved by learning more about the EF Ambassador Program.