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Exchange to Pace University, New York – by Ella Dunstan

Deciding to go on an exchange is one of the most exciting, life changing and lets face it, downright scary things you can do as a university student. You make new friends, connections, learn things about yourself you never would have at home and have an overseas experience you just can’t get from travelling. This is the second exchange program I’ve done and the second time around is no less exciting or scary. The initial excitement is consuming, people are constantly asking if you’re excited which of course you are but what you never let on is how deep down you’re actually kind of terrified, all sorts of worrying and unhelpful thoughts are spinning through your head – what if I don’t make friends? What if I can’t find somewhere to live? What if my roommate turns out to be horrible? But despite all this, the excitement of exploring a new place takes over and the last few weeks before leaving home wiz by in a blur of farewell catch ups and last minute packing stress, and the next thing you know, you’re on a plane about to begin the horrible 13.5 hour flight to your destination. You arrive sleep deprived, a little disorientated and dying to pass out for a few hours before getting up to explore. Travelling around before getting to the real life part of exchange is great fun, meeting other travellers, getting tips about the place you’ll be living in and spending way too much money on boozy nights out. Eventually the time comes to make you way to your new university and all those scary thoughts you had before leaving come rushing back. If you’re one of the lucky ones to have your accommodation sorted by the host university and live on campus, the rest of us are incredible envious. If, like me you have to find somewhere to live independently, this is by far the most terrifying part of exchange. You spend hours on the internet looking at real estate sites, room share sites, visiting potential houses and after a day or two you’re feeling horribly discouraged and starting to panic about being homeless or blowing all your money on an apartment you can’t afford. Eventually though, you’ll find somewhere suitable with nice housemates who welcome you and a sense of relief you’ve never experienced before washes over you, you’re not going to be living in the streets after all. Living with roommates who know the town/city makes adjusting and making friends much easier, suddenly you have friends before classes have even started. Orientation begins and while meeting new people and exploring campus is fun, the administration side of things is downright boring. Classes start and initially you feel overwhelmed with the new style of teaching, different expectations of students and you get lost trying to find classrooms more times than you’re willing to admit, but eventually you get into the swing of things, make more friends, get to know and love your new university and home town and begin living this amazing exchange experience the other students have told you about.

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