Exchange will change your life. It was honestly one of the most terrifying, exciting, challenging and satisfying experiences I have ever had.
Terrifying – Exchange is terrifying. Unlike many students, I missed out on student accommodation for the semester exchange in Lund, Sweden. This meant that I arrived into the foreign city, no idea how to speak the language, hands full of luggage with nowhere to stay – a sticky situation at first. However, you quickly learn that these challenging and sometimes frightening experiences show you exactly what you are capable of. It took me 3 nights in a city center hostel to be lucky enough to find a beautiful Swedish landlord who rented me a room from for the semester; everything happens for a reason. I quickly discovered that I much preferred living in a spacious home sharing a kitchen with just 2 people, than many of my friends who shared tiny kitchens with 14 others! But whatever your circumstances, you learn to become adaptable and work with it, you simply have to, and you will definitely surprise yourself!
Exciting – Exchange is exciting. Although there are always going to be many initial nerves starting university in a foreign country, not knowing anyone let alone the language they are speaking! However, that was my favorite thing about it. I discovered throughout my experiences that throwing yourself head first into uncomfortable, unknown and sometimes, awkward situations, is the best thing you can do. The unexpected is exciting. Soak up every exciting moment – from meeting new friends to simply being by yourself and exploring a new city and culture in depth. Embrace every minute of it!
Challenging – Exchange is challenging. Suddenly you are all on your own, far far away from your comfort zone and those you have always been with and loved. YIPPEE!! These are the times where you will be most challenged; but these are also the times that are most important for your self-development. If you don’t jump into every experience given to you because you are comfortable with your life; 1. You will not develop your worldly mind, deep perspective and wild imagination and 2. You will never truly appreciate what you’ve got back at home, waiting for your return. Remember that when you are feeling homesick overseas, because it is guaranteed to happen at one point or another. Being away from home makes you realize just how special it is and how lucky you are, but also how important it is to explore what else is out there. FYI, long distance relationships are possible too and worked for me – a Skype call once a week and a message update every day did the trick. Although of course challenging at times, a positive mind and a healthy balance will get you through. As well as the home sick factor – exchange will confront you with numerous other challenges such as what to cook for dinner tonight?; What club should we go to?; And; Where should we travel this weekend? – It’s a hard life…
Satisfying – Exchange is satisfying. For me, I found working with students, who soon became great friends, from across the globe, such an incredible and priceless experience. I learnt more from the people I met than the physical work it-self and embraced their refreshing and motivational ideas, attitudes and observations derived from multi-cultural perspective. It really is amazing to consider the extent you as an individual can benefit from going on exchange and I promise you, you will leave satisfied, in your own unique way for whatever it is that your experience has to offer you, you will not be disappointed. Leave with an open-mind, no expectations and a good attitude; and you might just have the time of your life.