I went to France fall of 2010...most incredible semester of my life. My classes were pass/fail and my teachers were too polite to fail an American student. I consequently took advantage of the situation by traveling to 21 countries that year. I lived in hostels, met beautiful girls whom I'd never have a chance with in America, indulged in every vice, went to every concert I could, and everything from Oktoberfest in Berlin to snowboarding in the Alps. I'm not idealizing it either - it really was that incredible. If you have the chance to go on exchange...take it. Doesn't matter where. You'll love it.
Also, hostels aren't creepy. It's the perfect way for young people to travel. Some tips I picked up - bring flip flops for the showers, a padlock (or they'll charge you to lock up your stuff), and your own towel (some places provide one, others charge you). You can expect to get a shitty night of sleep (uncomfortable beds, people going in and out), but I am STILL facebook friends with dozens of people I've met in them. I won't ever do a hotel again unless I am traveling with a wife/girlfriend.