3 elements of exchange: during and after
Time. “The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.” If you are fortunate, for the majority of the time, time goes quickly and during your university exchange it will fly even quicker.
The place, the people and the course are three elements that come together to create the exchange experience. You will hopefully have prepped as much as you can to organise accommodation and travel to the place, you will have waved goodbye to your current network of friends and family (and be prepared to meet many new people) and you will be all set to commence study at your host institution.
Whether you are currently on an exchange or dreaming of being back abroad, here are some ‘during and after’ tips to make the most of the adventure and to overcome any returner blues.
You might be a little daunted at the prospect of being in a new country but keep in mind how much time and money you have invested into organising the venture. A top way to settle in is to explore your surroundings, perhaps starting with the area around your accommodation.
By following a ‘start as you mean to go on’ mantra, you can enjoy absorbing yourself in your temporary home by arriving with an open mind and putting mishaps into perspective.
If boredom creeps in, discover what events are happening nearby and take advantage of sampling unique cultural experiences which you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do.
If you’re missing living in your exchange location, make plans to go back, perhaps after the following term or in a few months.
Remain in your exploratory mood and try to discover hidden gems in your own city, be that where you study or where you originally come from. You’ll be surprised at what you can discover and it is the perfect opportunity to visit those landmarks which you’ve always put off.
You are bound to meet hundreds of people during your study abroad from all walks of life. Make an effort to meet and stay in touch with as many of your new friends as possible. Disagreements are bound to happen at times but try not to let these overshadow your experience.
Try to be weary of the mind-sets of others; people might react differently when they are abroad in comparison to being at home and this should be respected.
The good thing about having friends across the globe is the opportunity to reunite with them and explore more of the world in the future. As well as meeting people who reside in your temporary country, you will probably meet people from all over the world who are in the same boat as you. Get out, network and find those friends for life!
To those who were upset at departing, I said it was not the end, but just the end of the beginning - the beginning of friendships, relationships and more. Stay in touch and organise reunions in your own countries.
It is enriching to experience an exchange from another point of view by being the ‘host’. Get involved with your university’s study abroad programme and help to organise events for incoming students; it will almost feel like you are still on exchange and you might make even more international friends for life.
Learning in a new culture is an exceptional experience; this is probably going to be the only time you can do so while paying what you normally would back home, so attend lecturers and tutorials, alongside sports team and societies if you can fit them in to your schedule.
You may be informed before your studies commence that the workload will be significantly heavier than it is back home, with the content of each class being more demanding. Make sure you know how to enrol in your required classes and seek help if you are unsure about any of the work.
There might be a chance of studying modules which your home university does not offer. Check that you are permitted to study these courses and, by doing so, you will have a unique edge by the end of your final degree.
As you approach the end of your course, the hard work is likely to build up. Utilise the skills you learnt abroad and put them into practice during your dissertation and other work.
Use your abroad exchange to your advantage by including it in your CV and share the experience with others on your course - if anyone will listen that is!
The memories of exchange live on, as does the effect that it has on your mindset. If you’re thinking about going on exchange, do it. If you’re currently on exchange, make the most of it. Time flies.
To read all of George’s university exchange blog posts click here and you can follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeWardUK.