Moving to another country (or sometimes even another continent) definitely impacts you in a large way, especially when you are still learning how to be an independent woman. Most of us would think that such an experience merely allows one to see great things and meet great people *yawn*. While this is true, there are actually a bunch of other reasons – specifically 6 – why every girl in university should be going on exchange ASAP.
1. Expand Your Network
Going on academic exchange is a straight goof-proof path to making foreign friends. You get to meet fellow students in the classes that interest you most, meaning you are bound to have similar interests with those around you. If you are lucky, you will meet friends that want to travel to all the same places as you. And you know what they say: friends that travel together, stay together. A student I know from Spain went on exchange in France and believes that going on exchange is “an experience where you meet a lot of people [from] all around the world [from] different cultures” (Carmen Navarro). You will also have the opportunity to connect with the professors at your host university – you never know when you might need a reference. Do not forget about the interesting people you can meet while you are out shopping, travelling, or partying!
TIP: Offer up your social media accounts and get your new-found friends to add themselves, this way you can stay in contact no matter what!
2. It Is Not as Expensive as You May Think
Little known fact: depending on which university you attend while on exchange, you may be able to receive free tuition! Yes – FREE. If your university does not offer this, do not fear, there are other ways to fit a semester abroad into a university student’s budget. Making a financial plan and sticking to it is the key to ensuring you can afford an awesome time abroad. This involves being proactive and researching information about all of the costs that are included. Being honest with yourself and not forgetting to allot money for things like shopping, weekend trips, food and drinks are also important to remember.
TIP: We all know feminine hygiene products are disgustingly expensive, so do not forget to include these items into your budget. But, if you go on exchange in Scotland, lucky you! Scotland is one of the first countries to have made all feminine hygiene products FREE!
3. It Will Look Great on Your Resumé
Keep in mind that the main reason you are on exchange is for academics and that there are important transferable workplace skills that manifest themselves due to this experience, making you an attractive candidate to future employers. Adaptability is a big one here: being able to move out of your home country, cope with a language barrier, learn about a new currency, new customs, and so much more. This frames you as someone who can succeed in any workplace environment. Other important skills that crop up are organizational skills, independent work skills, and networking skills.
TIP: Keep a journal or a blog to document your experiences so when you return home, you have a great resource at your disposal that you can use to reflect on the skills you may have gained.
4. Perspective Overload
Surprise! People do not live the way you do in every country and going on exchange only makes this more obvious. Everything will be different: the language, the architecture, the currency, the time, the lifestyle, priorities, and even the essay formatting rules! By remaining open-minded and appreciating these differences, you may change the way you think about life in a broad sense. For instance, my priorities in life have definitely changed, adding travelling nearer to the top of my list and going to the gym every day to the bottom. A friend of mine from Mexico who was on exchange in Scotland said that exchange “helps you to be more open-minded [and] to realize that the world out there is bigger than you thought” (Elizabeth Juárez).
TIP: Make a conscious effort to stay open-minded and ‘go with the flow’ – you can submerge yourself into the culture easily this way allowing you to learn the absolute most!
5. You Will See Amazingly Beautiful Things
Even if you do not have the time or the funds to do any extra travelling while you are on exchange – you are still in a new country and have so much to take advantage of! It is always fun trying the local specialties and finding new favourite foods: in Scotland, deep-fried Mars bars are among these – YUM. There are new stores, new landmarks and there is likely to be a deep and extremely rich history waiting for you. The architecture, churches, and streets are some of the common everyday things that are beautiful enough for you to miss once you are gone.
TIP: Take as many photos as possible (even of the foods you eat) so you can look back and remember what you liked most!
6. Encourages Mindfulness & Motivation to Complete Your Degree
By going on exchange and having the time of your life while studying and working towards your degree, you will find yourself feeling grateful. Grateful for the opportunities that have come your way, all the new things you have been able to learn, and your progress as a young woman. These realizations have helped me personally propel my studies forward and have given me a new sense of direction as I work towards graduating. Going on exchange will, without a doubt, inspire you to create new goals and complete your current ones, all while encouraging personal growth.
TIP: Try jotting down some goals before going on exchange. Remember your reasons for going and keep in mind one of the most important ones is working towards your degree!
Written by Ana Mota