My Study Abroad Experience
You’re going to hear this from just about anyone who’s ever gone on exchange, but going on exchange is one of the most fulfilling and exciting things you could do in your academic career and it’s guaranteed to be one of the best times of your life. Being completely immersed in another culture, surrounded by a whole new crowd of people that make up your program who come from all walks of life and completely different countries will rock your world. You’ll meet people who will become lifelong friends and while they may be spread across the globe it gives you an excuse to travel (and a place to stay).
I’ve spent the last four months living abroad in Prague, Czech Republic (that’s smack dab in the middle of Europe, under Poland and to the east of Germany). It was an unforgettable experience and I can say that Prague stole my heart in the first day I walked across the Charles Bridge and Prague immediately became my second home. One of my best friends (which I made on exchange) lives in Finland, which I had the opportunity to visit for two weeks after exchange. My other best friend lives in New York, New York and I’ll be sure to make a stop there soon. When you study abroad you are also living abroad, which is a completely different experience than just travelling for a handful of weeks. When you are living somewhere you make it your home and the people there your friends and create a long lasting bond with them and the place.
Living abroad provides its challenges for sure and isn’t always a walk in the park. Culture shock is a real thing and everyone reacts differently to it, but keep it in mind and don’t get stuck in a downward spiral of homesickness. You’ll be home soon enough, four months is not a very long time in the grand scheme of things and if you’re only ever focused on home then you won’t be able to enjoy your time abroad. However, during my first week at Charles University there was a professor who spoke to our group and explained that there were three zones in life: your comfort zone, the danger zone, and the learning zone which sat comfortably between the two. What he said was that if you were able to push yourself just far enough out of your comfort zone that you would really start to learn things, about yourself and the world around you. I can’t tell you how true that is. Whether it was going to the grocery store where no one spoke English or walking into a local bar where I clearly wasn’t a local and receiving the according stares, it pushed me out of my comfort zone but I learned a few key phrases in Czech and the locals would smile and I was rewarded with my groceries or a pint of the best beer in town.
I can’t encourage going on exchange strongly enough. You’ll never regret it and have memories and connections that will last you a lifetime.
Jaiden Dembo - FASS Connections Peer Mentor (2016)
World Literature Major