I think this is an important blog to write because I’m aware of the large numbers of Glasgow students living at home who sometimes don’t feel as involved in all the opportunities the university has to offer as the students who live next to uni.
I am well-acquainted with that feeling of uncertainty where you’re wondering if you should apply to study abroad but are daunted by the prospect of living away from home for the first time in a foreign country. Yes, it’s a big step. However, as a big supporter of the whole exchange thing – and a fan of a good old pro/con list – I’m going to provide you with the pros column for your own “Should I go on exchange?” personal debate.
It’s good to do things that scare you.
I included this GIF in the first blog I posted from Iceland because I felt it accurately represented how I felt for a little bit during my first night here:
But that feeling quickly disappeared. I have now been here for 8 months and half of me can hardly believe it’s been that long and the other half just really wants to play with my dog and have someone else make me a cup of tea. Living at home you probably have certain luxuries that you don’t even think of as luxuries which brings me to my next point.
It’s an excellent chance to test out your independence.
When you live at home with parents or siblings or other extended family, there’s always people around to do things for each other. If you’re sick someone can go get you medicine or call the doctor for you. If you’ve had an exhausting day at work or uni sometimes you go home at the end of the day to a home-cooked meal which is well beyond what you could have managed to cook at your level of tiredness.
By living far away from your family, probably in a different time zone (which Iceland only sometimes is, slightly confusing I know), you have to be prepared for these situations all on your own. For Iceland specifically, I recommend taking some painkillers, cold and flu medicine, or other basic things with you because medicine is expensive and hard to access here. You generally have to be prescribed things or go to a pharmacy; unlike in the UK, you can’t just pick up Paracetamol or own-brand meds at the supermarket.Take some cup-a-soup with you too. They’re lightweight, cheap, and provide a meal when you’re ill or tired and really can’t do anything else.
There’s also the more fun side of stretching your legs into independence. You don’t have to let someone know where you are, when you’ll be home, what your plans are, etc. My parents aren’t overly strict in the first place, but it’s nice to have more freedom anyway.
It’s likely you’ll be better supported by the frameworks set up for exchange students than if you were just moving into the city for the first time on your own.
Here, you can sign up to have an Icelandic buddy, which I didn’t feel the need to make use of but it’s good to know you have a person you can go to if necessary. The staff at the International Office are always quick to respond and really helpful as well, with anything from providing documentation to finding out where your nearest doctor is.
International societies such as the Erasmus Student Network will also be used to fielding questions from visiting students, so you can go to them to get the answers to most questions you might have. I mean things like, where do I get cheap kitchenware? Where can I get this random thing that I need but have no idea where I would buy this, even in my own country? They’ll probably know. And you look a lot less stupid asking some of these questions in a foreign country, than you would have done if you were asking them 10 miles from where you grew up.
Also extremely important to note, for Erasmus exchanges there is the additional financial support. Considering many people live at home because of financial constraints, this could be an influential factor in being able to study abroad.
If you’re living at home, there’s a good chance you’ve never lived elsewhere. And travel is good for you.
This is the case for me anyway. I know a lot of people will at least move house once, or maybe even move to a different city or country; before this exchange I had done none of the above. I don’t know about any of you reading this, but staying in the same place for 19 years can give you a serious case of itchy feet, or “wanderlust” for you hipsters out there (sorry, hipsters). I have definitely traveled before, and honestly I’ve traveled quite a bit, but it’s an entirely different thing living in a new place versus spending a holiday there.
There’s also nothing quite like going on exchange and meeting people from all over the world to get you in the mood to travel. It’s not just about the place that you’re spending your year or semester abroad, you get to experience so many cultures through the friends you make. The students on exchange at Reykjavik University are primarily from Europe, but even within Europe there are so many places I had never considered going before, or never even heard of, that I now cannot wait to see.
For every new place you go and person you meet, you grow and change a little bit. Studying abroad has been the most amazing opportunity to develop and grow as a person and just generally gain some perspective. I don’t want to get too cheesy, but I’ve definitely fulfilled some dreams that I didn’t even know I had before moving abroad – walking around ice caves and sitting about on a glacier, for example.
On that note, have some motivation to be brave and take the leap to study abroad, courtesy of Shia LaBeouf:
If you have any questions about doing an exchange or about studying abroad in Iceland, you can email me (Jen) at firstname.lastname@example.org.