The Importance of Being an Exchange Student
Artwork created by PAX high school student depicting the experiences during an exchange year in the USA
Zahratul's visual exploration of what it's like to be an exchange student

Indonesian visually explores essence of exchange

I spent my spring break drawing a picture that shows the importance of being an exchange student, which is not a simple thing. It’s a challenge given to people to play a role in bringing peace to the world by exploring differences. Knowing people’s perspectives around the world helps us realize that everyone on earth is similar even though we look different. Look at the globe! Get closer—it’s not only a globe, it’s a puzzle of our earth.

A puzzle is a game or a histrionic that people need to solve, but not all people are interested in solving it. Exchange students are challenged by the puzzle of our world. The black color with random flags means the neutrality or the unity of some countries to solve the puzzle of our earth.

Do you see the only purple color? Everyone recognizes the roller coaster. As exchange students, our lives are like a roller coaster. Before we ride it, we need to be brave and take a risk during the one-year journey. Ups and downs make us more mature than we were before. The starting and ending points of the roller coaster are similar. We’re from one of hundreds of countries around the world. We start from one country and then explore the world during a year. Then we go back to where we started with other feelings and lots of changes.

Under the earth, there is a book with a chain, lock, and part of the word “problem.” Do you see all the words underneath—culture, habits, religions, etc.? Most people think these things are problems. In fact, they are not; they are just differences. As exchange students, it’s time for us to bring peace to the main organ of our body, our brain, to unlock it and start tolerating each other and be open-minded to differences. The key is the peace that we feel in our heart which builds a connection to our brain.

From her goggles and her outfit, the person looking at the earth is clearly an adventurer. Exchange students are adventurers who experience, explore, and go to another side of the world that we aren’t used to. For what? Do you see the map in her goggles? Is it the same with the puzzle of the earth? It is not! The puzzle shows the Asian, Australian, and American continents, but the goggles show the American, European, and African continents. What does it mean? It means to see people’s perspectives around the world. She holds and sees one side, but she tries to see another side. This world has millions of perspectives.

Most of my art work is the sky. Is the sky similar in every country? Yes, it is the same, but we look at it from different angles and at different times. The sky is infinite, and the people who live under it have infinite ways of thinking. People look at you from different places on earth and see you differently. The sky is like us. We look different and unique from different angles, but in fact we are similar because we are human.

—Zahratul (YES, Indonesia), hosted by the Fiechter family (IN)