Living, working and studying in another country has always been top of my bucket list. As much as I love to travel there’s one thing I love to do more, and that’s living in another place and experiencing it like a local. If anyone at uni is thinking of doing an exchange through their university, I could not encourage you more. It’s the next step from traveling. It’s packing up your life, saying goodbye to all your loved ones and moving to another country for six months.
Applying can be a pain in the butt. Especially if you are going to a country literally on the other side of the world, the time difference makes it impossible to contact your host university, you have to some how find a place to live in a country you’ve never been to before (well in my case) and in most cases, you don’t even speak the language. However, don’t let this scare you off, and if you are half way though this process, keep going! It is all worth it in the end.
I have previously written about why I chose Denmark, more why others chose Denmark for me, in my last post. I’ve come to learn that it’s not necessarily what country you choose to go to, you’ll have fun anywhere. It’s the experience, the people you meet and hell, you’re in another country! For me, I know I wanted to go to Europe, having been to the UK and dazzled in Europe, and knew I wanted to experience this more, I also wanted it to be a country who’s first language isn’t English, just because, well, a challenge. I wanted to feel, every day I woke up, left my room, went to uni, ordered a coffee, sat on the train and went for a walk, that I was in another country. And Denmark did all that. Everything about it made me feel like I was out of Australia, the language, the architecture, the way people dressed and looked and the climate of most things.
If you are having trouble deciding what country to pick, I would recommend making a list of the things you want out of a place, ask people where they have been on their travels and loved and what they loved about the place.
Deciding where to live was one of the hardest parts of my exchange, like I said I had never been to Denmark and didn’t speak a word of the language, so finding a house was hard. At first I didn’t want to live on campus, after being talked out of it by someone who had previously done an exchange to the same university I was heading too. I had met a girl from home university doing the same exchange as me, and we decided to try and get an apartment in the heart of Copenhagen. One ‘problem’ with my host university was it’s a 20 minuet train ride from the central station, and we convinced ourselves this just wasn’t good enough. We wanted a local coffee shop, a cute town house and access to bars at the ready. We spend hours, days, even weeks looking for the perfect apartment. Impossible. We send hundreds of emails and got denied every single time. We got over it by the end, and the last day you could apply for campus accommodation we submitted our application, admitting defeat. Looking back, numerous times after one too many games of beer pong, we reflected how it was for the better. Living on campus gave me gave me, for the first time, the feeling of being a university student and having a ‘collage’ experience. Living in a dorm gave me the opportunity to meet all my friends, see them daily, took communal meals and have party after party, something I would have missed out on if I have lived off campus. And you know what; I found my local coffee shop I wasted hours and money in, and made it to one too many bars.
Leaving for your exchange can be quite daunting, but also one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. Theres something about leaving everything behind and starting again. Once you arrive, I recommend one rule I stuck to; never say no to an invite in the first few weeks. If someone invites you to a party, go, if someone asks to sit with you at lunch, sit with them, if someone asks you to borrow a pencil, let them bloody borrow it. You’ll make so many new friends this way, and people will see you as an outgoing and positive person. If your host university has a introduction course to their uni, defiantly attend it. I was hesitant about it, but so glad I did in the end. I met all my friends during this course, and made friends with exchange students from all over campus that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
I love traveling and being away from home, and had spent a year away from seeing my friends and family before this, however it could be a hard time for some people not used to living out of home. One of my friends struggled a little and missed her family from time to time. To help, we cooked together, watched movies, and spent many hours chatting on the couch. Yeah, you miss you’re friends now again, but you make new ones. The friends you make on your exchange become your temporary family.
Exchange was one of the best experiences of my life, and I wouldn’t change a second of it. I could write and write about how much I loved it, but I’m sure you’ve already got bored and given up reading.
If you have any more questions, feel free to contact.