By Gul Mehra | Alumni’15 from Delhi | Hosted in Italy

“I first got connected to AFS when I went to Russia for a short-term class exchange, thinking that it was just another trip. Never did I realize what changes it would bring in my life within the coming year!

After having met so many exchange students during the class exchange, I decided that I would, at any cost go for a Year-Exchange. I wanted to get out of my nutshell, I wanted to explore the world and AFS gave me the perfect platform for it!

I left for Italy in September 2015, while my parents continued hosting students who were on short term programs. The next thing I know after I arrived in Italy was that I was totally in a different world. I was now in the mid of the forest in a warm and cozy house, far away from the chaos of Delhi. Initially, the silence of nature, was too much to handle, since I wanted people around me, to stop feeling lonely but, by the time it was the new year, I had embraced this place so well, that I could spend days with my host family, without being wanted to go out anywhere.

I learnt to set the bonfire, to cut the woods, to go for trekking in search of fruits, to wake up as early as 5:30 everyday, to walk more than I ever did in the past 15 years, and most importantly travel a lot every day, since my school was down the hills 60 km away.

I was lucky to be in a family where everyone had an artistic mind. I got an opportunity to attend so many events, and meet so many important personalities in Europe. It did, of course, help me make the right career choice after I came back to India.

The program did have a huge impact on my personality and my outlook towards the people, in general. I no longer needed a maid to serve me food or do my dishes. I had learned the fact that I am solely responsible for my actions and that no one else can solve my problems for me. The way I presented myself was different, the way I talked was different, I no longer judge people, I no longer care of who judged me as well. The most important thing that I learned was TO LOVE MYSELF. I literally started loving spending time with myself. I thus became independent and gained skills like decision making power, the confidence to be able to take a stand for myself, self-awareness and critical thinking.

I would totally recommend these exchange programs to everyone around me. This was the best decision that I took for myself, and I know what all it brings to you, thus, it is not something that should be missed by any chance. I can’t thank AFS enough for everything that it has given me!”