So you already know that student exchange will be the best time of your goddamn life, but here are six of the lesser talked about things you should know before doing a student exchange program.
No matter how many amazing things you did, you will always look back on your student exchange and think you could have done more. I got to go to endless parties, awesome cities, live in the snow, eat a lifetime of fast food, binge drink too much alcohol and much, much more. However, I always seem to look back and think ‘hey I should have done this’ or ‘I wish I did that.’ Make the most of every single moment you have, because once it’s gone you will miss even the smallest things. You will miss that shitty dining hall food, you will miss those long ass road trips from state to state, you will miss that time you stood in the rain watching your football team lose for hours and you will even miss those silly dorm meetings.
You will put on weight (especially if you are heading to the USA). For me the weight came fast but I was too busy enjoying myself to notice properly until it hit me that I was almost 10kg heavier and my clothes barely fit. I blame a combination of alcohol, burger addiction, cereal that tastes like lollies, midnight snacks, cookie dough and very affordable tubs of Ben and Jerry’s for this.
You will party… a lot! For me, this was especially true as I was in a small town where there wasn’t much else to do on weekends because any major cities were at least 1.5 hours drive away. I never seemed to get sick of pre drinking with my friends before heading to the nearest bar/ club/ party for a good time. I almost even miss the hangovers and Netflix binges that would always occur the next day.
You will meet amazing people. It’s crazy how easily you can form such close friendships with people, and live this whole other life away from home for a semester, only to have to say goodbye to them and not know if or when you will see them again. I met so many amazing people on exchange- in class, in orientation, in my dorm and I even met some of my best friends in a bar.
You will change. It may not be a major noticeable change, but you will come home feeling at least a little bit different. For me, the weight gain and post- exchange depression hit me hard, knowing that I could never relive all the amazing adventures I had experienced, and that none of my friends back home understood what I was going through – apart from the ones who had also studied abroad. I came home with a heavy case of wanderlust, which left me feeling restless if I knew I was going to stay in the same place for too long. It felt like I had changed and had all these crazy experiences, but everything at home was virtually the same.
You will come home broke. Undertaking a student exchange program is often quite costly as there are many expenses to consider. You will have to pay for visas, flights, accommodation (which is often expensive in dorms), food, transport, and everything else that seems to pop up. If you are anything like me you won’t skimp on anything and will be living like you are on a permanent holiday. I figured I may as well take advantage of it all while I could and then start saving for the next adventure once I arrived home. Starbucks? Why not. Chipotle? Well I can’t get it at home. Forever 21?… You get the idea.