An International exchange is an experience, which is in the purest sense of the word, diverse. At different times I found myself studying with students from around the world, crossing the Sahara dessert on camelback, and hiking through the majestic Swiss Alps. Summarizing the entire 7-month journey is an impossible task, so I will attempt to stick to the most important elements of the trip.
First and foremost, the actual pedagogical aspect of the exchange was perfectly suited to complement experience. I completed my exchange at Maastricht University, which is known for its diverse student base and quality exchange programs. I selected subjects with an international focus, which gave me an academic understanding of the everyday realities of dealing with people from different cultures. Choosing your subject for exchange is important, and I would recommended that students do their homework on which courses are right for them prior to selection. For example, I choose a course for which I had not studied the required prerequisites, and had to abandoned it. It is far easier to research your courses in depth before selection, rather than change them on exchange. Trust me!
Secondly the other exchange students that you meet are wonderful. Typically, exchange students all live in a large complex together, which forms a fantastic sense of community. With everyone going through the same or similar experiences, good or bad, support is never far away. Being outgoing and willing to meet new people is important in the early stages of the exchange, and leads to friendships that last. My group cooked dinners together on rotation, and that ensured both a lowering of costs and fast friends.
Finally, the travel and other opportunities that exchange offers are enriching. I think it’s important to start exchange with a few other goals that you want to achieve in addition to typical study objectives. In my case these can be specific, like joining the handball team or improving my German language skills, or more abstract like networking with people across the world and gaining a better understanding of different cultures. These other goals certainly add depth to your experience and I would highly recommend thinking about what you would like to gain from your exchange. Travel can certainly be one of these objectives, and can be undertaken before, during, and after your exchange and is elevating in its own right, and I could write about it ad nauseam. Read any number of travel blogs to see why or talk to anyone who has been on exchange. These programs perfectly facilitate travel.
As a side note, I would also encourage people going on exchange to ensure that they are flexible and open to activities they have never thought of or considered. Its likely that some for the best things you may experience on one of these programs, is one of these things.
I have detailed just how broad and inspirational the exchange program is above. I would like to finish by simply encouraging anyone who is considering a program to take the plunge. DO IT!