It’s about that time of year where everyone is thinking about exchange. The study abroad fair just took place and you’ve seen dozens of different places where you’d like to go. Hopefully you made it along to the Study Abroad fair to soak up all the knowledge there but if you missed it don’t fear, Study Abroad ambassadors are here.
So, you want to go on exchange. Congrats. You just made the best decision of your life. Now all that’s left is to take of the easy questions (spoilers, some of them aren’t so easy).
How did you pick a University to go to?
When it comes to picking which University to go to I would advise a Head-then-heart strategy. First, go to the Study abroad website and check out the list of universities that are compatible with your degree. Depending on what you’re studying you may have dozens of options or only few. Make out a list of all your options on an excel file or sheet of paper. Now, filter your options own using the criteria that is important to you. This can be things like location, climate, language, academic reputation, student life, cost and work load. Once you apply some of these filters you’ll get a better idea of exactly what you want and what options you have available. Ideally you’ll have the university of your dreams as the only option but things are never that simple. You’ll probably have a group of 2 or 3 that are impossible to choose from. Here comes the heart bit. You’ve done all the logical work before so now all you need to do is follow that gut-feeling. Trust your instinct, it has never failed me yet. Here’s a Ryan Gosling GIF for illustration purposes:
What about course requirements?
Ah, the bane of every study abroad application. Every exchange student I talked to had more issues with these than anything else. Good organisation here is key to avoid complications down the line. Go look at your course requirements online and if necessary contact your study adviser to arrange an appointment to discuss your plans for going abroad. They will be able to give you insight as to what courses you need to take as well as suggesting some things you might have overlooked. Keep in mind that universities abroad don’t line up perfectly with UofG with regards to courses. Once you know which courses you need to take, look through their website to see if they offer what you’re looking for (this is probably the most time consuming part of the entire process). Spreadsheet 100% requiered, comparing courses had me like:
What was going abroad actually like?
The million dollar question. There are as many answers as there are exchange students in the world. The thing we all agree on is that it is intense. You are stepping into an entirely new world when you go on exchange. You have the possibility to reinvent yourself and to discover a new country, language and history. You will discover food, culture, sports and make new friends. You will be euphoric, sad, angry and lethargic. This question really needs to be broken down into multiple parts as it contains so much information that a paragraph is not enough. One thing I can promise though is that exchange will make you grow as a person and broaden your horizons.
How to deal with being away from Family/Friends?
Indeed. Going abroad can be quite challenging with regards to friends and family. There are a few important things to keep in mind here though.
Keep yourself busy. Luckily, you’ll be in a new country with an infinite amount of places to see and things to do. Homesickness hits the hardest in the quiet times, so try to keep those to a minimum. Write out a bucket list and whenever you find yourself in a lull, use that opportunity to discover something new. In a way this is a blessing in disguise, as your homesickness becomes a driving factor for your exchange. Anyway, you are abroad to explore so you’re killing two birds with one stone here 😉
Skype will be your best friend this time of need. Technology really is a blessing. It makes life so much easier knowing that friendly faces are only a button press away. The fun part here is that due to time zones, you can always chat early in the morning or late at night, catching everyone when they’re free!
If you are not too far away (or too strapped for cash) you can always consider a trip home for the holidays. While I’ll be staying abroad for Christmas I know plenty of students who are heading home for a few weeks. It can make life a lot easier knowing that instead of being away from home for a year, you’ll only be away for 4-5 months at a time.
And finally, talk about it to your exchange student buddies. Everyone is in the same boat here. All of them are away from their families too so it’s nice to have someone who completely understands what you’re going through. I can tell you from experience, a cup of coffee and a good complaining session can do the world of good 😀
What if I’m in a relationship?
A hard situation indeed. I am far from a relationship expert and think that people should usually think for themselves when it comes to this. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself. Depending on the answer you’ll know whether exchange will make or break your relationship
-What do I want from my exchange?
-How much do I value physicality in my relationship?
-Do I see myself with this person long-term?
-How much do I trust my significant other? How much do they trust me?
-Is it too long to be away? (Follow-up: can they visit me?)
-Are you willing to have a virtual relationship while abroad?
-Can you commit the time and emotion for someone who isn’t physically with you?
Now, these are all hard questions and there is no right or wrong answer. Really take the time to think about it and don’t feel guilty any of your emotions. This is deeply personal and at the end of the day it comes down to the other person and you. Family and friends can give you advice until the cows come home, but you really need to look inside yourself to know the thing to do.
As always, I’m happy to help with any questions or queries you may have about exchange, feel free to drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
That Irish/French boi on exchange,