Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Things No One Tells You About Going on Exchange

Despite all the orientation, moving to a different country is stressful AF

So, my acceptance did not come until two weeks before I was supposed to leave, I got bronchitis and was only cleared to fly the day before I left (probably because the doctor pitied me). I got lost trying to find the university, and I didn’t have toilet paper when I arrived — and that’s really smooth compared to some of the other girls in my apartment!

You will get overwhelmed at some point

Just remember that everyone does, and everyone that came before you survived it, you will too!

If you don’t know how to budget, you’re about to learn the hard way 

Flights and accommodation are expensive, but so are other things you would never have considered. For example, a dozen eggs in Australia are close to $5. A pint of beer in Iceland could cost you up to $13. In Ireland, a load of laundry costs close to $9 Canadian, which led me to wash almost everything in the sink for 4 months. 

You might never see your abroad friends ever again

Sad? Yes. True? Maybe. 

You might not even make any close friendships

That’s okay too. Exchange is about being independent, and you wouldn’t feel pressured to hang out with people you don’t vibe with just because they were the first people you met.

Unless you get super involved in student clubs, you’ll probably know more exchange students than home students

Those are the ones that you’re introduced to, unless you go out of your way to meet people that are outside of the international bubble!

It’s not just a vacation from responsibilities 

Even if you are going travelling every weekend, you’re going to have to be in class and in your dorm room the other days of the week. 

You will still be involved in things at home

From your friends’ latest drama to the clubs you’re a part of, you won’t be in your own little world the whole time. 

The travel bug will never leave

Once you have had the opportunity to travel abroad, you will spend the rest of your life planning your next trip, or just reading random travel blogs. I am continually saving for my next adventure, wherever it may be.

Homesickness might happen, but it might not

Everyone is different and goes through different experiences. When I prepared for exchange everyone told me that I’d get homesick, but honestly, it didn’t happen. On the other hand, some people experience homesickness the ENTIRE time.  


Of course, you want to take advantage of being a $30 flight away from a new country (yes, seriously). But that also means planning flights, transportation to the airport, accommodation, managing money, cramming in all the sights and literally 100 other things. And if you’re organizing a group trip, well… good luck. 

It’s hard NOT to feel like you’re wasting your precious time

Why am I watching Netflix when I could be on a flight to another country? Cut yourself some slack, you deserve it. 

And it’s hard not to compare your experience to others

Jenny from France has already flown to 15 countries while I spend every weekend in the same city. Good for Jenny, but you obviously like what you’re doing, too! ​

You will come back a changed person

It might not be that all of your questions are answered — in fact, you probably have more questions than answers. But your experience will change you. Make the most of it!

Jenna Steadman

Wilfrid Laurier

4th year Psychology major at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo ON.
Madeline McInnis

Wilfrid Laurier '19

Madeline graduated from the BA+MA program at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2020. In her undergraduate degree, she majored in Film Studies and History with a specialization in film theory. She later completed her Master's of English degree, where she wrote her thesis on the construction of historical memory and realism in war films. If you're looking for a recommendation for a fountain pen or dotted notebook, she should be your first line of contact.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️