Studying abroad in 2017-18? I’m jealous. I mean very. I wish I was about to go on exchange again – that year was the best of my life.
This post isn’t about me though, my wanderlust, or my inability to do the entirety of my degree on exchange. Maybe I should’ve been an international student… Anyways, the point is, this post is about making sure you don’t bottle it and bail out of the best opportunity available to you.
Studying abroad isn’t taken up by that many, particularly here in Sheffield. To this day, I’m amazed that there are so few applications each year. Hopefully with my work this year, numbers will go up. If they go down, then sorry team – but I can’t see any reason nearly significant enough to dissuade anyone from at least applying for an exchange program. Having said that, I know people who have, unfortunately, let their nerves and homesickness get the better of them, and have therefore given up the unreal opportunity initially granted to them when they were accepted onto the study abroad program. Just, do me a favour, don’t let that person be you. There’s a whole world out there – time to make it your oyster.
I think I was a little weird if I’m honest – most people are nervous about going on exchange. I wasn’t. I’m not saying that as a brag, I was just so excited to go that I didn’t have any. I’d pretty much predicated my coming to uni on the basis of doing exchange, though, so I guess I really am a special case. Either that, or I don’t quite understand the meaning of the word ‘nerves.’
Having said that, I know a number of people who did suffer from this strange feeling – be it the new environment, not knowing anyone, or total culture shock. Again, I think I’m just weird, ‘cos I got culture shock coming back (Australia to UK), and not the other way around. That’s not to say that I left hating England, I just fell in love with the country I travelled to. Perfectly normal, right?
What you have to remember when you’re nervous, is that realistically, everyone is. It’s like the whole ‘that spider is more scared of you than you are of it,’ thing. Let’s not mention Aussie spiders, though. In fact, 90% of the people who go on a semester abroad don’t know anyone. That’s the thing. You’re all in the same boat – it’s okay to feel nervous to begin with. It’s natural. Just remember there’s probably about 5 other people on your floor in the same situation, thinking over the same scenario, and wondering whether they should sack it off and call for help (hi Mum).
No offence, I’m sure she’s a lovely lady. BUT, talking to your mother at this point is probably the worst thing you can do. Now I’ve got love for mine (and the rest of my family), but this was fostered by me spending time away from them all. If you call your Mum at this point, she’ll sound encouraging, but she’ll tell you she misses you and she’ll drop everything to help you. While this sounds fantastic, it’s not gonna help you do what you need to, which (sorry) is to stick it out and go find some others who may, or may not, be feeling the same way. Either way, you need to socialise. As in, outside of your phone/computer screen. With real, tangible, physical people. My first night, I was wrecked. All I really wanted was to throw myself on the bed and sleep for the next 12 hours. In reality, when I got invited to an Aussie BBQ, (and later a flat party), I grabbed ½ hour of sleep, then jumped in at the deep end. Definitely worth it: solid, and 2 years on, memorable, night – would recommend.
In fact, this all ties into what I’ve preached before. Definitely sounding boring now, but you have to say ‘yes.’ At least once. If you’ve tried it before, then I’ll forgive ya, but I’m sure your experiences several thousand miles across the globe will at least vary a little from your previous expectations. Put it this way, I got offered sausages for tea my first night in Australia. Turns out, before I’d ever seen one (in the zoo, never mind the wild), I’d eaten the Australian national animal. Now, I have quite a taste for kangaroo, and the only regret I have about my year on exchange is that it hasn’t been a 3 year program. Trust me, take the plunge and leave all this talk of nerves in the biology lab. Enjoy your time on exchange , and don’t look back.
Besides, if there’s anything to be nervous about, it’s exam results coming out tomorrow. Good luck boys and girls xo