So in Part 1 I covered travel, friends, and being open-minded, next is………
4. NEW STUFF!!
As obvious as this may sound, exchange is the best place to start something new. There’s a mentality that comes with exchange, and it essentially dictates that you have a fresh start, and can do something you might have been too nervous/embarrassed/unmotivated to do before. I have a friend who learned to skateboard, play the guitar, and box while he was in Germany. It’s not like Germany is huge on any of these things, it’s just that he saw exchange as an opportunity to try something novel. One of my regrets is that I never took up any new hobbies, if you don’t count collecting coasters.
The best thing is that you bring it back with you. You come back to Melbourne, or Toronto, or wherever, and all of a sudden there’s a million different things to do. Want to learn Gaelic? Bugger it, why not! Since arriving back here, I’ve had as many ‘firsts’ as I had in the three years beforehand. First music festival, first paintball game, first Spanish lesson, other stuff that may seem trivial, but really makes you feel like you’re taking advantage of the time you’ve got.
Buuuuut: Please don’t scream YOLO and think that home-made bungee cords are safe. (And just don’t scream YOLO in genereal)
This is really just an aggregation of the last four points. The great thing about exchange and the chance to essentially live a new life, is that you might learn a lot about other cultures and people, but ultimately it’s yourself you’ll learn the most about. And as I’ve said previously, it might not be instantaneous, and it might take the lessons a while to sink in, but when they do, they generally lead to progress of some sort.
A friend of mine took off on exchange to the USA, and wrote a blog entry shortly before she returned. In it, she mentioned that she wasn’t sure how people would react to the person she’d become, but she was ultimately pretty satisfied with what she’d learnt, and what she’d done overseas. It’s that kind of feeling that generally accompanies the end of an exchange, and it feels pretty damn good.
I can’t say I was totally happy with the person I was at times overseas, but in hindsight, I certainly feel like the lessons I learnt have helped me a lot in the last year, and I don’t think there’s much I would change from my time on exchange.
Buuuuuut: Don’t go into exchange expecting your life to change just because you’re in a new country. There has to be an attitude change as well.
Now I’m not saying that it’s impossible to have a crappy time whilst studying abroad. I have a friend who completed a 4-month exchange in France, and just didn’t enjoy it that much. That was more just a case of bad luck, and though they’re one of the friendliest and most bubbly people I’ve met overseas, things just didn’t work for them. I have another friend who was a little more withdrawn, and seemed to feel uncomfortable most of the time. But I can also tell you that neither of them would regret doing those semesters in another country.
So that’s that! If you’ve got questions, feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them! Or refer you to someone who can.