This post was written by Nour Bejaoui, an AFS student from Tunisia on exchange in Italy. Nour is one of the young deserving students who received the 2016 Investing in Africa’s Future Leaders scholarship to participate in a year-long school exchange program with AFS.

I can’t say that there’s only one important thing that I learned this year but a variety of things which came as a result of various positive and negative experiences through these nine months I spent in here.

At my arrival here I had many barriers to overcome before being able to call Italy home. First, there was the language barrier: I thought that was going to be the hardest thing but it turned out to be the easiest. Then came the integration into the society. Everyone was welcoming and helping me get used to being a normal part of the family, class and the whole society. It is in that moment that I realized that I had to make myself an effective member of this new environment and not just some person who was put in there to spend a certain amount of time in a different place then go back from where he came as if nothing happened.

Nour Bejaoui

I learned how to insert myself in a new society while adapting to the change of mentality, habits, customs and seeing things from new perspectives, and that opened my eyes to the diversity of issues around the world and the way of dealing with them. That makes me look at the big picture all the time and have a more clear perception of all the situations that I deal with.

The things that I’ve learned and the changes that I’ve had on the psychological level are really important for me as they made me feel like home in a totally new country. Other exchange students that I met with once or twice now feel like family and we have created relationships, some of which will last a lifetime. That’s an important part of the #AFSeffect for me.

I really appreciate this experience for impacting my life deeply in a good way and I’m planning to reflect that effect on my surroundings so the change becomes global one person at a time. That way, one day we will live in a better world, with more understanding and less racism, stereotypes, and ignorance.