One of the things I often think about regarding my University experience is whether I should have taken advantage of the opportunity to travel and visit a different country through spending some time away as an exchange student. I wouldn’t say I regret my choice of not going but I think that for 90% of students out there going away for a semester or even a full academic year can be a life-changing experience and worth considering. Personally I decided to study in the UK as an international student so I was already in a different country than my own, for this reason I decided to stay put and not go abroad during my Degree. I had given this decision much thought when I was a student and I now want to give some of my thoughts about being an exchange student and why it can be such an invaluable experience.
The social value
I’ll mention this first since it is the thing that was talked about the most when I asked my friends who had been on an exchange about their experience abroad. There is no doubt about it, you will meet loads of new people both from the country you are travelling to, but also loads of other students who are in your same shoes and are away on exchange. The fact that you are away means that you will most likely know no one else and you will be forced to make friends and meet new people. I have talked to people who had the time of their life while on exchange.
Improve a foreign language
This applies to anyone who travels to a country where the spoken language is different to their own one. Living abroad for several months requires you to learn a few words in the local language, even if your courses are in English, in order to go about your day to day life, it will make it so much easier if you pick up the bare minimum needed in the local language. If you have been studying German, for example, and you go for a year abroad to a German University, that is the perfect chance for you to fine-tune your language skills and actually put them to a test with native speakers. And even if you have not been studying any foreign languages, you will definitely come back home speaking that language better than when you left.
Be more employable
With a workplace that is now dominated by Multinational Corporations, having a CV showing that you have been and lived in different countries can give your prospective employer the certainty that you are willing to adapt to different cultures, are open-minded and flexible. I wouldn’t be surprised if at your interview you were asked about your experience as an exchange student and what you learnt from it. Companies are genuinely interested in people with international experience and who are willing to perhaps relocate for business needs, these people are a great asset to a companies because they can move between different regional offices.
Visit a new country
An exchange is not just study, as you will have gathered. It is a great opportunity to visit a country that you may never have had otherwise. As a student you will be able to meet other local students who know the place inside out and will be able to show you around the best spots! You will be on exchange for a limited time so make sure you make the most of the time you have, Host institutions often organise guided trips especially for those students that are in a country in a study exchange and these are definitely opportunities to take advantage of.
There are many pros of going abroad during your Uni years, I believe many of them boil down to the fact that when you are a student there is less pressure on you and you have the freedom to drop everything and leave for several months. Freedom which you may not have later on in life and which you should seriously consider.