Going on exchange was one of the craziest, scariest, but most exciting things I’ve done in my 20-something years. My year-long exchange was to the University of Birmingham, UK. As a duel citizen I took advantage of every opportunity I could. I visited more than 20 different cities in 13 countries. I found myself lost more than once, including one time in the middle of Austria, on the wrong side of a massive highway, with a flat phone, and sunset approaching.
I choose subjects that I always dreamed of doing, not just because they would look good on my transcript. Doing such subjects helped shaped the direction I want my career to go it. The workload wasn’t any heavier than home. The only struggle was that exams were closed book when I was used to open book. I’ve never memories so many cases in my life. I went to on trips that I usually would have passed over at home. I visited the Courts of Justice of the European Union, in Luxembourg. As a law student this was exciting enough, but in light of the UK referendum it turned out to be a massive opportunity. As a duel citizen I represented both Australia and the UK, and got to see the last moments of the UK’s involvement in the EU. I joined up to the running club and loved it. As a runner who hates the gym, joining the running club allowed me to exercise, see different parts of Birmingham, and make new friends.
Birmingham really isn’t as rough as people make it out to be. I took many walks along the canals and they were always so pretty and peaceful, no matter the time of year. There’s always something to do. My favourite was the German Christmas Markets. There’s something special about a white Christmas. The people are generous and kind. And like you, come from every corner of the world. I didn’t have a single Brummie lecturer or tutor. You quickly learn to listen well in lectures when the accents range from Liverpool to Dublin, and every place in between.
Making friends was so easy, but also hard at times. As an exchange student you naturally gravitate towards other exchange students. Having friends in both groups is a good thing. Exchange friends share your desire to travel and experience life in a new place. Local friends help to ground you in your host country, and are also a massive support when all your exchange friends leave you at the end of their exchange. I got a job in a café which provided me financial support and allowed me to make friends with the locals.
Going on exchange didn’t change me, but cemented in who I already was and made me a whole lot braver and more confident. The world really isn’t that big or scary when you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone. And trust me, you will be thrown out of it many times.