Going to study abroad for a short period of time as an exchange student can be exhilarating. But how do you prepare for the experience, and what should you expect?
Taking a detour in the middle of your studies to go abroad for a semester, can be a very interesting proposition. You get to continue your studies while also experiencing a new culture in a different country and meeting many new people all at once. Depending on if you’ve ever been outside your country for long periods before or not, this experience can also take on a whole new meaning.
Preparing for the Experience
Once you’ve decided you want to experience life as an exchange student, you need to make sure that you are confident in your choice and stick with it. After acceptance, all that’s left to do is to get prepared for what’s to come. You may have gotten used or even become fully comfortable in your place of studies so far, but a change of scenery could really be beneficial for pretty much anyone. Make sure you have your goals in order, because while yes the exchange experience is about living a different life of sorts for a couple of months, there is also studying involved do not forget. Be certain to prepare well enough to adjust to a new study environment and not to leave your studies in the background completely. Perhaps also researching about the culture, language and the overall feel of the place you’re going to is also a great way to prepare. Knowing how to say hi and bye in the language of the place, knowing what gestures could possibly be considered offensive and also just getting a general sense of what people and places are like beforehand can be truly helpful in the long run. One of the best ways to get about this is to talk to someone who has already been an exchange student in that country. They can tell you all about how to adjust yourself to best fit in and also have a great and memorable time while you’re there. Keep in mind that opening a bank account for the stay, learning travel options and routes, where to buy groceries can all be part of the exchange experience as well.
What to Expect Once You’re There
During the first week of studies, there’s usually some sort of orientation program that will introduce you and all the other exchange students to the facilities you’ll be studying in, some of the professors, the cafeteria, and more. Here you’ll be able to gauge all your fellow exchange students as well typically coming in from a lot of different countries. Additionally, there are most likely going to be hangouts early on with those same students in order to get to know each other better. Depending on a couple of factors, you might even share a living space with another student whom you have never met before. This could either be very exciting or a little anxiety-inducing to you, but it can definitely be a positive if you try to make it so.
Ideally, if you’ve spent your entire life in your country of birth, this will offer a whole new perspective which is much needed in that scenario. Go out, do not miss any events that the exchange students organize because that’s what the experience is all about. There will be a lot of activities outside in which you can go with other exchange students to visit places all over the country you’re studying in, and maybe even further. Perhaps a football game in a huge arena nearby, a visit to an important historical museum, or a walk around the city with a tour guide to tell you all the important spots with historic importance, these are all great opportunities for you to get involved early on and create new bonds with people you’d likely have never met otherwise. Without entirely forgetting about your studies as well, try to engage in new conversations, visit as many places as you can, and know that you can expect an incredible experience filled with unforgettable days.
By the end you can expect to have gotten to meet a lot of new friends, developed a good sense of what it’s like to live in a completely new space, experienced a whole new culture, and have a newfound and great understanding of your own identity.
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