Exchange programme might be the best experience you will ever have in your whole life. New place, new people, new school, new culture, probably new language and new foods. Not to mention if you get there with a scholarship, it’s like free travelling. But even if you go on an exchange not with the full scholarships, it’s still worth it because it’s an experience that you can’t buy.
Everyone can go abroad, as long as they have enough money. But it’s a totally different thing if you go abroad on an exchange programme. Being in an exchange programme means you are not only responsible to study abroad for your own good, but it means leaving to come back with something greater than what you already have, and in the meantime you are also responsible to keep your country’s good image. So here is the list of who you should be held accountable to if you go on an exchange programme: yourself, your country, the institution that sends you abroad, the institution that sponsors you (if you happen to get a scholarship), and the host country.
Seems like a lot of pressure, doesn’t it? It does put some pressure on our shoulders especially due to the noble goals that most of the exchange programmes want to achieve: to create world’s peace and to shape the world’s future leaders. But it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the process of getting to the goals. We can still enjoy every single minute of our exchange moments without having to forget the very first reason why we go there.
These are what you should do to enjoy your exchange moments in a good way:
1. Obey the rules.
If you go on an exchange programme, it is impossible for you not to chance upon dozens of rules you need to obey. But be positive. Those rules are made to keep us safe, especially in a place far away where we have to live alone by ourselves. The institution that sends us abroad will be responsible to make sure that nothing bad will happen to us, and that’s why they need to make those rules. We can do so many things during our exchange time as long as we keep ourselves safe and healthy, and we don’t break the law. Sometimes it might be hard to restrain ourselves from doing something we used to do back home, but we have to. For example, we might be excellent drivers in Indonesia, but who knows what rules are used in the US or the UK, so it’s better for us not to drive at all.
2. Be active!
This kind of experience might happen only once in your lifetime, so make the best of it! Join as many activities as you can, forget about being shy! Get involved with the community to get to know their way of life better. Make as many friends as possible, even if it means you are the one who have to go to them first. You have a very limited time in the programme and it will be such a waste if you just sit there and be quiet, afraid of doing anything for the first time. Move, at least try to do it!
Yes, we have to spend our exchange time wisely. Yes, we have to be active all the time. But don’t ever forget the key to everything: just be you! The institution that sends you on this exchange programme has chosen you, so there’s got to be something special in you that makes them want to show it to the host country. Be proud of it. There’s this quote I learned from my host family that best represents this whole situation: “no matter what you do, whether it’s good or bad, people will always have something to say about you. So don’t be afraid of being judged”. If what people say hurts you, then you just leave it right there and stay strong, but sometimes you also need to be open to criticisms so you can be better from time to time.
4. Learn something that you know can hardly be found in your country.
It doesn’t always have to be something new. If you find something new and you’re interested about it, then it’s good, go for it! (as long as it isn’t dangerous, and it is allowed according to the rules you need to obey). But sometimes you’ll find that the things you’re not really into when you’re in your home country can amuse you even more in the host country cause they have another way to make it seems more interesting to you, then you MUST learn it. The best example I can provide you here is about choosing what subjects you want to learn at school. When you go to a US public school, you’ll find out that there is a class on American History. You know you’ll learn it in general at your school in Indonesia, but learning it directly in the country where it comes from will make you see things from two different perspectives. Isn’t that what we are always looking for?
5. Have targets!
In the beginning of the programme you really should have some targets you want to achieve in a period of time. That way you can keep your whole journey in this exchange programme on track. For example, you’re on an exchange programme to Spain, and at first you can barely speak Spanish. It is important for you to have targets, like you will already be able to have conversation in Spanish confidently in 3 months, you won’t have to use English anymore, and by the end of your exchange programme you’re fluent in Spanish. These targets will keep you motivated.
Those are the things I can suggest to you about enjoying your exchange moments in a good way based on my personal experience. Have a great exchange moment!