Finding out that your student housing is only 20 minutes from the German border. Then finding out that there is a bus that goes to and from Germany half-hourly because people do their grocery shopping there as it is cheaper than in France. Learning all the French vocabulary needed to study geology. Watching Cavani score in a Paris-Saint-Germain match. One day realising that your group of friends comprise of: A United Statesman, several Canadians, a Spaniard, several Russians, several Finnish, a Bulgarian, an Englishwoman, a Dutchman, a Taiwanese, a Mexican, and an Irishwoman. Knowing that you don’t care. Realising that you have seen less Australians than the number of months you have spent overseas. Seeing the Dachau Concentration Camp kiln. Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, the pimpingest place on earth. Swimming in Lake Zurich. Going to Vienna because you used to watch Inspector Rex when you were younger – and for no other reason. Eating a ‘Kommissar Rex’ sandwich while in Vienna (it was a ham roll, just like the show). Finding out that the three girls that you have been talking to in a bar are actually 16 and in high school, because that’s the legal age in Austria. Playing a game of pool with them. Seeing international friends from high school who came to Australia on exchange when you were all 15. Visiting Camp Nou in Barcelona, and stepping onto the pitch. Eating Paella, Poutine, Escargot, Schnitzel, Moules-Frites, Belgium Waffles, Reese’s Pieces and Pide au Fromage, all in their countries of origin. Being confused at the Canadian landscape, because it was covered in 5 feet of snow the last time you went. Somehow becoming really good friends with some Scotsmen in Montreal, and finding out that they are going to Toronto at the exact same time as you. Nearly being pick-pocketed in Barcelona by a random guy who starts grinding you in the street. Drinking too much and magically finding a bunch of locals to hang out with until the trains start again at 4am. Do this in several countries. Befriending a group of English girls in Toronto and finding out that they will be in San Francisco at the same time as you. Going to San Diego, because that’s where Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was set – and for no other reason. Visiting Niagra Falls. Going aboard an aircraft carrier. Getting sick because you wanted to try all of the different fast food places in the US. Finally seeing your brother in San Francisco, the last of your family to do so, after eight years. Finally, coming home and enjoying the little things, like the fact that you don’t always have to cook tea and wash your clothes anymore.
If you had told me before I left, that these were all things that I would experience while on exchange, I may not have believed you. However, I would have been very, very excited to go.
I had no idea what my time in France was going to be like. All I knew was that I would be living in Strasbourg and studying geology. I knew no one, I knew nothing of the city, I didn’t know where I was going to stay or where to buy groceries. How to open a bank account, where to get insurance or a mobile phone and a million other things. These were all unknown to me. But I went because I wanted to experience something new.
If the only thing holding you back is that you are a little bit worried about how you’ll sort these things out, that makes you the perfect candidate. Too many people are quick to find excuses to avoid doing something, rather than saying, “yea, sounds like a good experience, what are the things that I’ll need to consider”. So say ‘Yes!’ to what will be one of the best journeys of your life!
And I say from personal knowledge, you will experience A LOT of new things.