Making the Most of Your Exchange Experience

Image by The-Lane-Team, Flickr

Image by The-Lane-Team, Flickr

Having the chance to study abroad is definitely going to be a highlight of your post-secondary life. However, some people end their exchange feeling as if their time was too short to do anything spectacular. Follow these few tips to help maximize your experience while on exchange.

Set goals

Don’t end your exchange feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing. Make a list of everything you want to do. It can be as simple as using the tube in London or as adventurous as bungee jumping in Singapore. You can also challenge yourself to become conversationally fluent in the local language. Be as creative as you want! Don’t expect to complete everything on your list, but you can rest assured knowing that you’ve had plenty of new experiences.

Immerse yourself in the culture

Take a stroll through the city’s old district, learn about the country’s history, visit temples and ancient sites, and order food in the local language. Learn and experience as much as you can in your new surroundings. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (this idiom works even better if you’re actually in Rome)! By the end of your exchange, you should feel like one of the locals.

Make local friends

Speaking to and learning from locals can help you make your stay better. They’ll help you find the best restaurants, bars, places to visit, places to avoid and other important information only locals would know about.

Try the local food

Don’t be tempted to just grab a hamburger at a nearby fast-food restaurant. Make sure you try the local delicacies. If you can’t afford expensive restaurants, street food allows you to taste the local flavours at cheap prices. However, just like street food vendors at home, it’s best to make sure you aren’t purchasing your food from a place that looks unsanitary.

Keep a journal

It will help you reflect on your experiences and make you appreciate your time there a little more. Better yet, start a blog or a vlog. It’s a great way to keep your family and friends overseas updated.

Pace yourself

Don’t get yourself sick because you wanted to try all of Germany’s ales. Getting sick or even injured abroad is really expensive. Take caution when trying new things and make smart decisions.

Be mentally prepared

Being on exchange requires a lot of open-mindedness and independence. Don’t be surprised if you experience some sort of a culture shock. Different cultures have different lifestyles and attitudes. Be sure to read up on social customs beforehand to prepare yourself. Also, being far away from family and friends can make you feel very lonely. Beat the homesickness by getting out of your room and exploring. If you really need to, call mom and dad but try not to dwell too much on how much you miss home. You don’t want to be sad for most of your exchange.

Enjoy the little things

Not everything has to be blood-pumping adventures or fancy excursions. Find the joy from all the little things your host country has to offer. It can be the melodic way in which people speak, the fact that fresh ramen is always available just around the corner or the picturesque view of the sunset from your window. You might even enjoy il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). Cherish every second because these are the things you’re going to miss most!

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