I initially sat down to write a generic post about ‘my top tips for exchange’. This is important, but as I’ve watched all my friends leave Lund over the past few weeks to travel and then head back to their homes, it hit me what this experience has really done for all of us. Exchange has made us richer. Yes, I said richer. Of course, this is not in a monetary sense or in the form of a physical object worth its weight in gold. Let me tell you, exchange and all the travel you will do in your spare time will leave you broke. More than broke. You’ll most likely be adding on to your HECS debt back home and who knows when that’ll be paid back! But yes, exchange has made us richer. Let me tell you why.
It challenges you and takes you out of your comfort zone.
The only way to conquer a fear is to face it head on. Throwing yourself in the deep end by going on exchange challenges you in so many ways. When you go on exchange, you don’t know anyone else going to the same University as you (for the most part). You say goodbye to your friends and family and the familiarity of your hometown, hop on the plane and land in a new place with butterflies in your stomach, heavy bags and an uncertainty of what’s the come. It’s scary. But at the same time, it’s a rush like no other. You’re in a new place with new possibilities. You are forced to rely on yourself, figure things out and ask questions to everyone or anyone when stuck (trust me, this will happen… a lot!). There might be a language barrier, a cultural barrier, different names for different things, but you find a way to communicate what you mean or what you need. It’s a skill you build over time and something you can’t learn from your degree.
You meet new and interesting people from all over.
The plus side of going on exchange to a university town, like I currently am in Lund, Sweden, is that there are hundreds of new exchange students in the same position. All are open to meeting new people. And of course there are ‘the locals’ who are just as open to making new friends and to hear about your home country. You learn so much about so many different people- their backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles and more. Without even realizing they enrich your life and make you a better you. Not to mention you now have friends across the globe to visit on your next adventure!
You create memories that last a lifetime.
Travel is an investment. Money can buy you physical things, but over time they become less important. Experiences create memories that last a lifetime. Memories that you will look back on and smile no matter how long down the track. And when on exchange, there will be plenty of memories to look back on! The group of people you met on your second day of orientation that are now your close friends, the trip you took to see the Northern Lights in -25 degree weather and countless cheap nation meals and club nights are things you will never forget.
It gives you life experience.
Travel is the only thing you can spend all your money on that will make you richer. It gives you life experience. ‘Life experience’ sounds like something you should have as an adult after study and once in a full time job, but I think travel and what comes with it is the doorway to getting this experience. Exchange and the travel that do during exchange are experiences that education can’t give you and something someone can’t take away from you.
I started with saying I was initially going to write my tips for exchange, so here are my top five (just for good measure):
- Go on exchange for a year. Seriously, just do it. One semester will be over before you know it!
- Choose somewhere completely different to back home. It doesn’t have to be a country where absolutely no English is spoken or it snows all year round, but pick a place that has that ‘something’ that makes it different, such as an emphasis on student life.
- If going to Lund University, join a nation and work at the nation! Joining a nation is a given and something every student will do, but working at a nation is optional. I found it to be a great way to meet new people, especially from Sweden, and of course a lot of fun.
- 4. Buy a bike ASAP. Unless you want to spend four times the amount on public transport to back home (I’m not even kidding), buy a bike. In Lund especially, bikes are everywhere and are the cheapest and best form of transport. It’s also the best way to get home when the buses stop running (yes, after a night out!).
- Really think about what you pack. Don’t pack as you would for a holiday, you need to consider all weather conditions. It won’t be cold forever so pack summer clothes and things you would wear for nights out back home.
Travel and going on exchange is a good investment, so stop thinking about it and just say yes. Do more, see more, be more!