The Exchange Timeline: A Comprehensive Guide to What You Will Think and Feel

Claire B., Bachelor of Journalism
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I wanted to write a blog post that I thought would be helpful for future exchange students to read, but I didn’t want to write a “What I Wish I Knew”, “Highlights Of My Exchange” or “What I Have Learnt” blog, so instead I am going to tell you the cycle of emotions you will feel whilst on exchange.

 

1. “I’m sorry… what? Could you just slow down and write that all down for me because I have no idea what you just said” – when you arrive on exchange people like to bombard you with information (verbal and paper form). They usually speak like you have a mild idea of what you are doing (which you don’t) and deliver all 10 steps to settling in at once, instead of 1 at a time.

2. “Hmmm how do I make friends?” – so you arrive and you are entirely disorientated, confused and tired but you have to make friends otherwise you are going to be alone and miserable for the next 6 months… but you haven’t had to make new friends since starting year 8. It’s okay, take a breath and say hi… and if necessary acting entirely desperate usually gets sympathy invites.

3. Homesickness – for some this may happen earlier than others, its usually worse when special occasions roll around and can even come in waves but it’s important to remember that this is an amazing opportunity and once you get home again, you’ll be asking yourself “why did I want to come back to my boring life where I have no money or job?” So make the most of it!

4. “Assignments? You mean this isn’t a holiday” – it may not affect your GPA but you do still have to do work to pass… shocking right?

5. Everyone in your last week of exchange: “Bet you are looking forward to going home!” You: “I’m happy sad… happy to see everyone back home, but sad to say goodbye to those I have met” – you create a life for yourself on exchange, a mini family and support network. You achieve so much and it seems heartbreaking to leave it all behind, but you know that on the other end of the ridiculously long flight home (because you live in Australia that is basically in the middle of nowhere and near nothing) there are a group of people that love you.

 

It begins…

Prepared
adjective

1. made ready or fit or suitable beforehand
2. having made preparations
3. equipped or prepared with necessary intellectual resources

As I am sitting here on my day of departure, I am looking at this definition and realising this does not apply to me. Being a typical young male, I left my run a little late with organising flights, visa and my accommodation for my semester abroad in Maastricht. I packed this morning, organised my flights roughly 4 weeks ago and applied for my visa weeks ago – and I have known about my exchange for months. But despite having majority of it organised now, I still feel like I don’t meet the definition of prepared.

So as I stumble my way through the strategic marketing course in the Netherlands using the PBL learning system, I hope you guys can learn and laugh with me. The first joke is on me – I have roughly 29 hours of travel to get there thanks to my late run. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions for what I should do on my travels.

Lesson one: If you’re going international, be prepared as early as possible!