I have now reached the end of my exchange and it’s time to reflect on what was probably be a unique year for me.
Well I could always go back and live in Vancouver or many other interesting places in the world which attract me, but I don’t think I will ever be in a position where I am sharing the desire to explore the area with so many people. I think this is what makes exchange so special.
I could work in some far exotic place, but realistically I would be on my own. In September I arrived with hundreds of other exchange students fresh and excited to hike, ski, climb and explore British Columbia. Therefore it is infinitely easier to meet people and share these experiences with like minded people. A huge exchange community is formed over the course of the year which would not be possible in any other circumstance.
If I could offer any advice to a future exchange student it would be these three things.
Be organised for the inevitable things like studying and big trips you have planned so that you can make time for the spontaneous opportunities and the things that make you happy. I spent a reasonable amount of weekends in a computer lab when many of my friends were off exploring. This actually made it even harder to study because I knew everyone else was having fun. Viscous cycle and saps your motivation if you become flooded with work.
Enjoy the first month and meet as many people as you can:
The first month is probably for most students one of the best times of their year. Students are on a massive buzz, everything and everyone is new.
Eventually you slip into feeling at home and a routine which can fade that shiny magical feeling.
Understand exchange isn’t a holiday:
This one is hard to accept but it will hopefully mean you are happier in whatever foreign land. Judging by many exchange students online presence (probably myself included) it might seem that exchange is just a gap year. It isn’t. Don’t believe the meaningless void inspirational quotes people post overlaid on a lovely little flower or a beautiful woman cracking a yoga position in the Caribbean. You are going to need to work. You might even need to work harder than you do at Glasgow. You might have to work and deal with something which has happened in your personal life back home. It is not always an awful thing to lower your expectations. Especially if your expectations are you sitting on a beach with a cocktail in hand every night after kayaking through a glacial lake.