Exchange student expectation versus reality: is it worth it to decide to study abroad?

To commit to an exchange program abroad is not always as easy. Things do not always go the way you expect.

I talked to some exchange students at the University of Birmingham to find out what they hope to get out of their exchange experience.

Photo by: Bailey McIntyre

“Getting to experience studying in a different country while also meeting new people,” said Uruguayan third-year economics student Nico Anido when asked why he had chosen to do an exchange program as a part of his program.

As a person that uses English as a second language, Andino also noted how studying abroad inspired him to challenge himself with “speaking a different language every day.” In addition, Andino is dedicated to pushing himself out his “comfort zone.”

Fellow Laurier exchange student Ashley Leue also stressed the importance of taking the time to learn about new cities and their unique culture.

“I wish to be more independent while also exploring different cultures and seeing how different people around the world live,” said Leue.

Another main point Leue had for choosing an English school in Britain for her exchange is the availability to learn more history throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

I wish to be more independent while also exploring different cultures and seeing how different people around the world live

Ashley Leue, exchange student

Leue revealed that Edinburgh, Scotland was her favorite location that she had visited so far due to its architecture and scenery.

Andino favored Krakow, Poland as he was able to travel there with a friend and enjoy the city’s culture, history, and beauty.

Being away from home for so long can be challenging, no matter how fun the experience is.

When asked what the most challenging part of this experience has been so far, Leue noted the loneliness she had experienced. “Being away from my family and friends is hard. But also trying to meet the expectation of what this experience was going to be in my head and trying to see so many places.”

“Walking all the way to the laundry building,” Andino joked when asked the same question.

“The weather is definitely the hardest. Walking under pouring rain for thirty minutes to class can be so draining.”

Anido also touched on the fact that being best friends with your new roommates can be a blessing but isn’t always easy.

“It’s a daily struggle of loving spending time with your roommates, but also trying to find that perfect balance of being with them while also being alone and being comfortable with that.”

What students hope to get out of an exchange and what can happen in reality can differ.

Either way, the experience can be life-changing – just make sure you bring an umbrella.

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