Doing an exchange semester is one of the best things you can do. It’s a fun, eye-opening, liberating and exciting experience that you will never forget. During your months away you get to study and party (maybe the latter more than the first) in a whole new country, embrace a new culture and make friends all over the world.
Not only do you get to experience all this, but you get to learn about yourself. Trying new things, testing your limits and being totally independent, but, there’s also a lot of bullshitting yourself going on. Here are some of the lies that are very common among exchange students.
- “We’re the only once experiencing this”
I remember my first day at Uni during my exchange; looking around at all the other exchange students and feeling like these are my people now. During our months together we got very close and become a family of sorts, a family of 200 people. Saying over and over again how lucky we were to have been in this particular group, this particular semester. We were the best exchange group ever (and don’t get me wrong, we were). But, we’re not the only once feeling like this. Our experience was amazing, and I am forever grateful for having the opportunity of meeting all these people. But I can also bet that everyone doing an exchange semester feels the same way about their peers.
- “No one will ever have as great of an experience as we did”
Nope, not true. Most people going on exchange semester will have just as great of an experience, in their own unique way. I remember after I left Hong Kong, I was still part of our Uni’s facebook group for exchange students. It felt so weird seeing how new people were writing the same things we had written just a few months earlier, and how they were doing the same things, becoming an exchange family and having the same experience. It hit me that even though my experience was mine, new people are having the same one every semester. And they’re having just as great of a time.
- “We’ll always keep in touch”
Probably not. Sad as it is, when doing an exchange you meet hundreds of new people (which is great!!) but odds are you won’t keep in touch with all of them. Some of the people you meet might become you new best friends, and some you might travel with again, go visit in their home countries or skype with daily. But most likely you will keep in touch with most people via social media, and a lot of people you probably won’t see ever again. It is sad, but reality is, that once exchange is over and everyone goes back home, you return to reality and connections will be limited to social media.
But, the bright side is, even if you’re not in contact with people daily, you do know them, and you can always write someone a message and get back in touch. This is great especially when traveling, if you happen to be in a country you know someone in, send them a message and ask for tips on what to do, a couch to sleep on of if they wanna meet for coffee. Reunions are great!
- “People back home love to listen to my stories”
Not really. Maybe once in a while, but even though you love talking about it, very few people love listening to it. After a while, people will dread any story that starts with “well, when I was in….” Try variating your stories, or tell when asked.
- “This is not the time to be cheap, I can afford to splurge a little”
University is expensive for most people, and whether you’re taking loans or living off your parent, few can splurge for an entire semester. Going abroad doesn’t mean you can spend money left and right, prioritize. But, I would say an exchange semester is a good time to not hold your budget too tight, enjoy your time! It might hurt when you get back, but you’ve got X months before you have to worry about that!
- “I’m pretty much a local now”
Even though it feels nice thinking “no one can tell I’m not a local”, this is probably not true. Maybe if you’re in a country fairly similar to your own, but when changing cultures completely, you’re most likely the only one thinking you’re a local. You might be able to fool some people, but whether you’re blending in like a local or not, it’s ok. People have been traveling throughout history and there is nothing wrong with being a guest in a new country!