Congratulations! You are about to have the most transformative year of your life thus far. A sense of humor is going to be essential, and sometimes you’ll have to laugh through the tears. That’s okay - value it all. When you get back, believe it or not, you will miss both the good times and the bad. The intensity of emotions on exchange is practically unparalleled in regular life, so ride the waves and keep things in perspective. Learn from your reactions. The way that an experience or interaction makes you feel can tell you a lot, and now is the perfect time to do a ridiculous and indulgent amount of self-analysis. This profound self-awareness may only become apparent when you get back and realize that you are confident in who you are because at last you are starting to discover who you are.
Maintain a good relationship with your host family and the AFS staff. Though you may disagree with them sometimes, respect is essential because a) they are older and wiser (even if it doesn’t seem like it all of the time) and b) they are making a sacrifice to host you. Though it is a stereotype that Americans say “thank you” all the time, embrace that and do whatever else you can to express your gratitude to all who make your year amazing. Open your eyes to beauty - recognize kindness when it happens (it will, a lot) and reflect that kindness back to others. Remember that you are representing so much more than just yourself, and do not get frustrated or short with people because you may be the only American they meet. Stay in shape and get outside. Exercise and sunshine are the best happy pills. Likewise, stay busy. One experience leads to another and friendships multiply so try not to turn down opportunities. Above all, enjoy yourself! Surrendering to the unknown is the best choice that you could possibly make.
And in addition to all this, you may even be lucky enough to come home with some practical skills, like stilt walking :)