The Footnotes

THE STUDENT LIFE

American college exchange stories

The application, the exchange and the lessons.

3 tips to nailing an exchange application… 

  1. Know how badly you want to go on exchange

The application process is grueling and if it is not something that you are 100% serious and committed to, then the process will be a lot more painful than it needs to be. Research some of your potential partner universities and where you generally want to end up (country specific) and get so excited about it that every milestone you achieve in terms of the process you can tick off as getting you one step closer to your goal.

  1. Make best friends with your exchange advisor

They will literally become the most contacted person in your email list. Make sure you are always polite and so so grateful for their help, because when your advisor isn’t on your side, finding the information you need just became a lot harder.

  1. Consider your preferences for more than reputation

When I, personally, first started looking into exchange, I was only interested in going to the universities with big names or that I’d heard about from Gossip Girl. In reality, choose somewhere you think will be a good fit for your degree (make sure you have all your subjects approved before you leave), but also gives you the best opportunity to travel and experience different things.

 

4 Do’s while living in Northern Arizona…

  1. Do: Sign up for every and all school trips available

People may think it’s lame, but paying a little bit of extra money for a guide to take you somewhere who know’s exactly what he’s doing is always worth it, especially when its a 45km hike through a Native American reservation on the south rim of the Grand Canyon (see: Havasu Falls). People you never expected to become friends with will become your family and you will have seen things you could never have done by yourself.

  1. Do: Pack clothes for every kind of weather

After traveling through California for 10 days prior to starting university, I can now say I probably overpacked on shorts and bikinis, considering it was meant to be snowing in Flagstaff by November. Make sure you pack at least one pair of thermals and lots of layers that can get you through the weather up’s and the down’s of a semester at an elevation of 2,000 metres.

  1. Do: Go to a country concert

I was skeptical at first.. holding my personal music taste in fairly high regard. But if you do one thing in Arizona, make it attending a country concert. Sitting on the lawn at the back of a stadium at dusk, amongst a crowd full of cowboy hats & boots is the most surreal and unifying experience. I have never enjoyed a concert so much where I didn’t know a single word to a single song.

  1. Do: Make friends with Americans and International students

Yes you have come to America to be a part of the American culture, but the best advice I have heard since I arrived here is that every person is going to offer you something different, don’t ride anyone off. And while that cute American boy you met can take you to your first frat party, he is probably not interested in exploring a country he has lived in his whole life. You need both kinds of people to complete your exchange experience, so keep an open mind.

5 things I have learnt so far studying abroad…

From the generation that made travel blogging into a career, we all think it will be easy right? From Sydney to Arizona, living in a foreign country for six months is the adventure of a lifetime, but what if its not quite what everyone says it is?

  1. Things will go wrong

Since I landed in the United States two months ago, my car has broken down in an In N Out Burger carpark in West Hollywood in 35 degree heat for six hours, I have lost my keys to my apartment when my phone was dead at 2am, I have most recently lost my wallet containing all my credit, debit and ID cards. As much as these sound like the most horrible experiences in the world, which briefly they are, they have taught me that I can figure things out on my own, to take responsibility when things do go wrong and to learn to be slightly less absent minded when I put my wallet down somewhere.

  1. Some things are (temporarily) worth missing people so much that it hurts

That blubbering mess that you turn into a 1am on Skype when you’re exhausted from a big weekend and you don’t think that anything is worth missing your family, boyfriend or puppy this much… go to sleep, wake up, have a good breakfast and a coffee and continue living, because I guarantee that the break down you have once a month for the 6 months you’re away will be worth the Grand Canyon at sunrise, Disneyland with your girlfriends and dancing till your legs are sore at a country festival with people that you never thought would be your best friends. I am constantly being reassured nothing is changing at home and to enjoy every second of being away while it lasts, because it will be over before you know it.

  1. Going on exchange will give you an edge in whatever field you choose

Try hard at school, even if you’re not required to get good grades to transfer back to your home university. Learning the in’s and out’s of your degree or your field in another country is invaluable, and having a semester abroad looks amazing on a resume. People may not acknowledge how difficult it can be navigating your way in another country but the amount that you grow as a person can never be a bad thing.

  1. Traveling and living overseas are very different things

After backpacking through Europe for four months on the typical Australian gap year program I can honestly say living overseas is a very different experience to traveling. Living out of a bag is never ideal and having a home (and shower) to come back to with a non travel sized bottle of shampoo and conditioner can be the most comforting thing in the world, even if it is a dorm bunk bed. Living in a college town means that you will make friends that have cars, you will find a local coffee shop (even if it is the campus Starbucks), you will have a gym that when you’ve been road tripping and binging on burgers all weekend can ease your guilt just a little bit, even if you only walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill.

  1. You will appreciate home like you wouldn’t believe

“The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back” – Wendy Wunder

It is honestly magic how a place you thought you couldn’t wait to get out of before you leave can be the most inviting place in the world when you’re away. As mundane as home may seem when you’re there, it all makes a little more sense when you’re not. The independence and experiences that you can have at college will be once in a lifetime, but when it’s over I won’t be complaining when I’m eating a home cooked meal with Disney Channel on in the background.

 

American college exchange stories
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