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11 Ways to Have the Exchange of a Lifetime

Exchanges can be some of the most fun and exciting experiences of your university career, but not everyone comes away from exchange having had a good time. Having just finished an Erasmus exchange in Dijon, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you make the most of your time abroad and make it a semester to remember!

1. Do your research! I didn’t really know a lot about Dijon or the French buroratic system before I arrived. I got lucky with great friends and course mates who were able to help me out with getting myself organised when I arrived, but I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing worse than spending hours in a queue just to find out that you’ve turned up with the wrong papers, and the office is about to close for their 2 hour lunch break!

2. Go to as many parties as you can. Exchanges are about having a good time and making friends, and one of the easiest and best ways to do that is at parties! Your host university or local ESN group (Erasmus Student Network for European exchanges) is likely to be organising a lot of parties and events, especially at the beginning of the year, and even if you’re not the biggest party animal, going to a few can be a great way to kick start your time away!

3. Talk to strangers. You’re in a new country, surrounded by new people, everyone’s a stranger until you say hi. I know it can seem daunting to introduce yourself to a room full of new people, but just remember that everyone there is in the same boat, and as the old saying goes, a stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met!

4. Say yes! Do you fancy a beer? Yes! Do you want to take a trip? Yes! Shall we try a bungee jump? Yes! Of course we’ve all got budgets to consider, but if it’s in your power to do it, I’d recommend giving everything a go at least once! There’s nothing worse than looking back on an exchange and regretting that thing you almost did!

5. Hit the books…at least a little bit. Although a big part of any exchange is meeting new people and having a good time, most of us do have to at least pass the semester or risk paying back scholarships or having to repeat classes later. So in between the bungee jumping and crazy parties take a little time out to do some studying.

6. Take photos! Of course you’re going to be super busy meeting people and having experiences, but taking photos is one of the best ways to remember everything you’ve done. Some of my favourite pictures have come out of my exchange, and on those long cold Helsinki nights in mid-winter, it’s looking back on those great memories that will keep me warm.

7. Learn the local language! I came to France barely being able to order a café au lait, and hanging out in an international crowd who mainly speaks in English hasn’t pushed me to improve as much as I could have. But using my French in every-day life has been great, and even if it’s not so perfect, just trying my best usually got me a friendly smile and some kind encouragement from the locals.

8. Take trips and travel! Being in central Europe was an excellent opportunity for me to do some travelling, and wherever you go on exchange, there will always be some new and exciting places to visit. Whether it’s the local countryside or small towns, or whether you venture a bit further afield, travelling is a great way to see your host country and others around it, and often the perfect opportunity to bond with new friends.

9. Look on the bright side. Everyone feels down at some point on their exchange, whether it’s the weather, being away from home or coming across cultural differences you weren’t prepared for, it happens to us all. But although it can seem hard, try not to let it get you down too much. Sometimes just a skype with your best mate, listening to your favourite song or asking a new friend to go for a coffee and a chat can be just what you need to put things into perspective and help you to see the positive side of things.

10. Try the local food! Every country, every area and every town has its specialities, and getting to know the local delicacies in your area can be a great way to get to know your new country, city and bond with new friends.

11. Fall in love! According to the Independent a quarter of people who take part in the Erasmus exchange meet their long term partner while studying abroad and although I’m not saying you need to get married, you’re in a new country, with a whole gang of new people, why not make the most of it! 

All photos from www.pexels.com

Indipendent Newspaper: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/erasmus-scheme-how-students-who-are-part-of-the-cultural-exchange-programme-are-falling-in-love-left-9754194.html


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