Five things you shouldn’t fear when you're going on exchange
Studying abroad? Get ready for a boozy semester or year in an exotic location. But that’s the thing: how do you pack up the life you’ve built for 20 years to start a new one? As humans, we’re afraid of what we don’t know. Yes, the unknown can be damn scary, but there are things you shouldn’t fret about when leaving home to study abroad.
“I’ll get too homesick.”
The reality is that you’ll experience homesickness at some point in your trip. You’ll be in a completely new country, and things will be different to what you’re used to. But is that really worth giving up an experience that’ll not only open doors in terms of employment, but offer valuable self-growth? Think of the adventures you’re going have and all the crazy (not-so-appropriate) stories you’ll tell for years. Sometimes all you need is a night to yourself, a rerun of Kath & Kim, and a phone call from Mum to feel OK again.
“What if my friends forget me?”
In the first few months after you return, you’ll have a better social life than you’ve had in your entire existence. You’ll catch up with absolutely everyone, and they’ll turn green with envy as you gloat about how you spent a weekend sailing the Greek islands before going to your Monday morning tute in Italy. And anyway, how could your friends forget about you with those obligatory Instagram posts you’ll be spamming them with? A semester or more abroad will in no way jeopardise your friendships, and if by some freak circumstance it does, maybe it was time for a spring clean anyway.
“I’m in a relationship.”
Ah, love and its many troubles. This is probably one of the more difficult barriers to overcome when going on an exchange. Being away from your partner for an extended period of time will undeniably put strain on your relationship. Hell, it might not even work out. But if you’re both willing to put in the hard yards, your time away will seem like nothing in the long run. You can only succeed or fail a long distance relationship, but you have to try to do so. Will you regret not going on exchange? Yes, you probably will. Call it a cliché, but if things are meant to be, they will be - whatever the circumstances.
“But what about my job?”
As a student, I can almost guarantee the job you have now isn’t your dream job. There will always be other forms of employment, and other ways to pay the bills and keep your Netflix running. However, there won’t always be the opportunity to live and study overseas. Sure, you can travel when you finish uni, but there’s no other cultural experience like actually living overseas. Plus, you never know, your employer might even offer you your former job if you’re lucky.
“I’ll miss out on something at home.”
There’s no doubt about it - you will miss out on things at home and your FOMO meter will probably explode. You’ll fear missing every social engagement ever, and this’ll lead to major homesickness and maybe even slight insanity. But you have to accept that, even at home, you’ll always miss out on something. Would you have even gone to the party that Johnny, who you haven’t seen since seventh grade, was throwing anyway? I can guarantee those parties won’t compare to the wine you’ll drink as you watch the sun set over the Spanish coast. You won’t miss anything at home that you haven’t already done, or will do, in the future.
So embrace the opportunities you get overseas and don’t hold back. Don’t be that old bloke passed out at the bar before midday, full of life regrets because he didn’t chase his exchange dreams. You’ve got this.
Bridget is a peach and avocado enthusiast and studies Journalism and International Relations at the University of South Australia.