I have lived in 4 different countries and travelled to countless others all over the world. Yet going on exchange is such a unique experience, nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I went to Montreal, Canada. I had actually been to Canada four times previously, but this was my first time living there.
Perhaps the biggest difference was living away from home, in a completely different country to my parents. The freedom that came with it was unbeatable. But perhaps the best aspect, and my favourite part, was learning to actually enjoy the city and not get holed into studying the whole time. I was literally thrown into this new city, knowing absolutely no one, which forced me to explore and open up to anyone and everyone. The breadth and depth of friendships I made in just four months is something special.
Going on exchange is also important for truly understanding how good life is back home. It allowed me to acknowledge what I take for granted, things I never would have been able to had I not gone on exchange. Living in Canada made me realize how good life is in Australia. Something small like the weather has such a big impact on everyday life. One of my favourite moments was when some of the Australian exchange students were longing for the hot tub in our residence to be fixed. They said to the employee that we’d need it when it’s winter. To which the employee said, you’re not even going to be here for winter! To the locals, winter really started in January. Well, we assumed anything below 15 degrees is winter. And it’s true; people really do become depressed because there is no sun in the winter.
Probably the best part of exchange is the freedom to not worry about university work as much as you would back home. Obviously passing is essential, but not having to stress over each assignment allowed me to be more spontaneous and enjoy the beauty of the city. Yet I also realized, that university was an important aspect of my exchange, even if I didn’t go there to challenge myself academically. There’s something really unique about travelling for “work”, but not having the same kind of stress as a proper job.
If I could give advice, it would be to make friends with anyone and everyone you can initially. As the semester goes on, you may not hang out with everyone you met at the start. In my first week in Montreal, pretty much the only people I met were Australian exchange students. I had to really be conscious to not hang out with them and actually make friends with people from all over the world. It was hard, but that was part of the challenge and I am definitely glad I did, because now I have local Canadian friends who I can go visit anytime. If I only stuck in my comfort zone and hung out with Australian people, I would not have such an opportunity.
This post has been made anonymous at the request of the author.