By Isobel Reardon
Is international exchange as extraordinary as all it is hyped up to be? Yes, it most definitely is! That is, of course, if you do it RIGHT. Here are some tips to ensure your time abroad is an unforgettable success:
Leave no room for pre-departure stress
There is no denying that studying abroad is one hell of a big deal for an undergraduate. So, why put more pressure on yourself by failing to prepare well. After all, who wants to arrive at their room after 24 hours’ worth of traveling only to realise that you forgot to pre-order a bedding and bathroom pack – using scarves as pillows and trench coats in place of a blanket will not make the cut long I can promise you. Leading up to departure, there are many things to consider: host university enrolment, accommodation, funds, extra travel plans, suitcase essentials, travel documents (please don’t forget these). Cut yourself some slack and organise these way in advance. Your future self will praise you for your efforts!
Join a university society
Once you have settled in, it is time to put yourself out there. One way of doing this is to join a university society. This could be a sporting society such as touch football or badminton, or more recreational such as baking or chess. You would be surprised the endless number of opportunities your university will have on offer. These will generally be prefaced during fresher’s week so definitely make sure to head to campus and immerse yourself in this! Joining a society has SO many benefits. Initially, it will give you something to do with your spare time. In the long run, it will also help you to make and maintain friendships, particularly with people local to the city/country you are studying in – this is always a bonus!
Go with the flow
An important mindset to have whilst on an exchange is to see it as an opportunity for independency, exploration, discovery and personal development. Therefore, you should allow yourself to go with the flow. And by this I mean, befriend people you wouldn’t normally be friends with and take opportunities as soon as they present themselves. Immerse yourself in food and culture! The people you meet along the way will help you to achieve this. But, if you are wanting a more organised approach, make sure to check out the university’s student union as there will be plenty of trips and activities offered through this!
Look after yourself
Arguably the most significant thing to remember whilst exchanging is to look after your mind and body. As corny as this sounds, it is extremely relevant. You are so far from home and you are experiencing an array of new things. Your body is sure to freak out at least a little. Yes, you will be partying it up with your dorm mates (a little more than you’re used to). But, when you have the chance, and you aren’t travelling, try to maintain a good routine. Eat well (well, as well as you can) and exercise when possible. Try to keep a journal and write in this frequently – you will be surprised the number of things you forget when you look back at your entries. And most importantly, keep in contact with your friends and family back home – they will be missing you like crazy!
Reap the rewards
While you are having the experience of a lifetime, you are also building your world skills and giving yourself the competitive edge you need for job applications. So, make sure your employers are aware of this and don’t be afraid to show it off!