Guest Column: My Experience as an Exchange Student in the U.S.

Have you ever wondered how US and COD looks through the eyes of someone who grew up on another continent? Gain an insight into what the US looks like through the foreigner’s eyes.


Hi. My name is Hana Hulic and I come from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I am studying Mass Media and Communication here at COD as a part of the CCI program.

CCI program or College Community Initiative program is a Department of State funded program, where students from countries around the world are placed on Community College campuses to study for a year. The idea behind the  program is cultural exchange and better understanding of others, as well as sharing knowledge, and enjoying, with a tacit responsibility of paying forward, which is exciting to look forward to!

It’s no secret- cable television in Bosnia and Herzegovina emits channels with – a lot – of American TV shows. Things like Oprah show, Jackie Chan, Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Anne Hathaway movies, are things that became a part of our culture as well. Malcom in the Middle, NAVY CIS, Psych, Mythbusters, Storage Wars, many other TV shows or American entertainment became a part of Bosnian and Herzegovinian everyday lives. I don’t know if it’s just me who grew up that way. One thing is sure – the media has influenced who I am today. 

Now it is my turn to influence the media. I found out about the scholarship when it popped up on my Facebook feed last March. I applied and apparently my candidature was interesting enough to get me where I am today. I am grateful to all the people who made that happen. I was neither scared nor hesitant, and neither should you be, if you get a chance to study abroad. It is a marvelous opportunity.

We arrived in the U.S. on Aug. 1, 2021. Changing two airplanes and going back and forth through time-zones left me feeling like it might have been a day that passed, or it might have been three. My thoughts were: “Who are going to be my friends? With whom am I going to share a room?”

When I arrived, I was the first of four people to an empty apartment. Even though it was clean, I cleaned a little bit more. That was when I discovered that everyday cleaning products contain bleach, and they smell like they could kill you. The smell of what that friendly-looking dispenser contained might have been the smell that I was trying to get out.

After settling in an apartment, I ate a blueberry muffin and looked through the balcony door.

It was sunset, and I stepped outside on the wooden balcony floor. Outside on the sidewalk there was a parent and a child walking. The child was saying something in their perfect, native English. “Now, it begins,” I thought. “The era of hearing English from old people and young children, which is very amiable.” 

My roommate arrived at 1 a.m. I said, “hello” and offered her some Bosnian biscuits topped with chocolate, surely more crumbled than when they were just picked up from the grocery store rack two sunsets prior. She wholeheartedly accepted, which made me think, “this is going to be a good relationship.”

All exchange students quarantined for one week, during which we took English placement tests, and started having English classes on Zoom. There was a lot of homework. We would usually write or rewrite stories, watch videos, fill in exercises, do research, presentations or film videos. 

The College of DuPage campus was hard to navigate at first, but art on the walls made everything a little easier. I don’t know if they have all been students here, but some of those artists went to COD. The fun fact about the college campus is that you can use a tunnel and come from the MAC building to the main library, and even further. Then you already know where you can get from the library. It is so fun knowing that you can go so far away! Sometimes it takes really long, though. Imagine if they put electric scooters all over the campus. Fun! And a safety hazard!

In the  days that  followed, I met other people from the program, and we went on many planned outings. The Chicago Bulls game was an incredible experience. It was an exciting game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls, in which the home team unfortunately lost by 11 points. During the breaks, the production team would play music from the viral dances, and then zoom in on the people in the audience who were digging it the most.

Another notable memory is the Blue Man Group show. We got seats in the fourth row.  Personally, I find their abilities to catch something with their mouth unusual, but the fact that they could have done it so many times in a row is too much to grasp. In a positive way, of course. How about that little figurine actor constructed from marshmallows thrown into his mouth? Crazy right? For those of you who don’t know what the Blue Man Group is about- It is a group of percussionists who happen to know many other tricks as well – including painting!

Also, a fun visit was one to the Shedd Aquarium. As you enter into endless blueness you will get insight into what kind of creatures live in many different bodies of water. If you’re lucky, like some of us were, you might see a show with dolphins performing tricks. You can see sharks, penguins and many types of coral. The Shedd Aquarium was built in 1929 and opened in 1930. It is built in Neo-classicist style. Besides flora and fauna, what’s interesting to see are decorative elements in brass of sea-shells and seahorses.

I have been in the United States for seven months, and there are three months left. I hope I use them well.

You can follow what she shares from her life on Instagram: @hanahulic