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Exchange Student Problems, Homesickness, Mid-Exchange, Study Abroad, Study Abroad 101

Why Christmas Might Be The Hardest Time To Be Abroad

To be honest, I am not a big fan of Christmas. In my family it is not really a big deal, plus I hate cold weather. Two reasons why I thought I wouldn´t have a lot of problems being in a tropical paradise around this time of year. I was excited to experience such a big event in a different country/culture, and I was excited for not having to spend it in the actual winter. But in reality I thought the time around Christmas to be much harder and in all honesty, it might have been the only time I actually felt homesick. Here are some reasons why Christmas for many students might be the hardest time to be abroad

#1 It´s a family thing

Like I mentioned, yes, Christmas is usually celebrated with family, and although I did not actively missed my family during my exchange as I was just too busy with other things, not spending Christmas with them did feel a little weird. Suddenly I felt nostalgic over all the drama that usually comes with the last days of December.

You don´t even have to be a family person to miss your family during Christmas, which would make it all the harder for those who do actively miss their family. Being with a new family that probably still feels too new to really feel the same comfort with as at home, not having this ´tradition´ to look forward to, which can make it a hard time of year

#2 It doesn´t feel like ´ Christmas´

Yes, you know it´s going to be different, but you still have this expectations of a feeling you always get, so when it´s 30 degrees warmer outside or your family doesn´t have a Christmas tree, it might not ‘feel´ like that celebration you usually love to much, and it´s hard to get into something when you are not ´feeling it´.

#3 It comes at the worst time of your exchange

Depending on when you leave for your exchange, Christmas usually comes in the middle of an exchange. This means you have probably already gotten used to your host country. Everything feels normal, to the degree it starts getting boring. Your host family starts to feel like real family, to the degree that you are starting to feel little annoyances with them.

In the Cultural Adjustment Cycle, you would commonly find yourself in stage 4 now, where you have overcome the initial adjustment and are now getting to know the deeper issues of a culture.

 

For those who have not seen it during their orientation camps, culture is often compared to an iceberg. There are a lof of obvious things that everyone can see. The way people dress, eat, etc. These things are strange at first, and you have to get used to them, but they are also quite easy to accept.
But any iceberg, as we all know, is much larger underwater than above the water, which means there are many many more things that we don´t see. Those things are not only harder to see, they also go way deeper into someone´s way of thinking. Eating might be a fairly easy thing to change, but things such as hand gestures might be so unconscious they are way harder to address.

And to continue the iceberg metaphor, icebergs are more likely to clash ´underwater´.

Without making this post too preachy; it is normal to have a little dip during this Christmas period. It is in fact part of your cultural assimilation (and means that you are on track). Believe me, I had a period where I hated everything about my host country. I wasn´t necessarily feeling homesick, but I was also not understanding the local culture which was extremely frustrating. But in the end, it passed, and without trying to claim I now ‘fully understand´ my host culture, bit by bit you will start accepting, understanding and appreciating it more.

But for now, good luck in these hard times and I wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

Note; These experiences are generalized and are not the same for everyone. If you are having a great time and are feeling none of these issues at all, I am really happy for you 🙂

Exchange, Study Abroad

How Can One Describe The Feeling Of Living Abroad?

“How does it feels like to live in a foreign country for a year?¨

“I don’t know, can you tell me”, is my answer because, as much as I want to see everyone what an exchange year is like, I just can’t describe what it feels like.

On one side, I feel really loved from my host family, that treated me like their daughter from the first day on.
The same I could say about my friends, that in this first months showed me that I belong to them and that they already don’t want me to go anymore.
Further, there is the joy about the little things I feel – sentences like ” It feels like you’ve always been here”, gestures like hugs or also when my friends are annoying me, because it shows to me, that they treat me like every other of their lifetime friends.

Of course, the excitement when I do something for the first time or get to know all the new things.
The proud, when I have to present something in school and they tell I did it well, when the people are surprised by me in a positive way or when I do something I before not even dared to dream about, like singing in French in front of the whole school, alone.

 

But to all of this, there are of course also the bad feelings.

The desperation, when I repeat something again and again and just can’t understand it, because of the language.
The listlessness, when just everything is growing over my head.
Of course, the homesickness and the thought, how it would be at home now, what I would be doing there, What my friends are doing, my family and if they miss me at all.

The lack of understanding when I just can’t comprehend the actions, that for the people here are normal.
All this I am feeling at the same time, but also sometimes more, some less, and to this, there belongs a much more, which is coming up in little moments and maybe also is affecting me.
Every day is different and every day I am feeling different, every day shows me another side of me and with that everday is a new experience I learn to appreciate.

I can’t really explain what it feels like doing an exchange year, living a year in a foreign country, leaving his family, getting to learn a new culture and all the other hundreds of things that belong to this, because this experience – and already now I am sure of this – is definitely unique and unexplainable.

 

This is a guest post written by Ronja Hildebrandt, a 16 year old German girl who did her exchange in Argentina

Exchange Student Problems, Study Abroad

Wait, Why Did I Choose To Go On Exchange Again?

It seemed like such a fun idea at the time. Going abroad, meeting all these new people, getting to ´start over´, learn about a new culture, travel. But in every exchange there comes a time when things start to get normal. Let´s face it, no exchange is a constant highlight, and even if it was you´d get to used to it you wouldn´t even notice anymore how much fun you are having. So when you are having a bad day, we all ask ourselves from time to time “Wait, why did I go on exchange again?”

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I know I asked myself so many times why I went on exchange, or why I picked the country I picked. I never really regretted it, or wanted to go home, but it just wasn´t what I had expected. It was harder to fit in than I had thought and getting close friends (besides other exchange students) wasn´t always easy. So why did I do it? Why would someone give up a good life, friends, family, for one year to go explore something completely unknown to them?

And even though I knew why I did it, I felt like I was letting people down, letting myself down, because I wasn´t always enjoying myself. I felt like I had to live up to this idea of a perfect exchange, being the perfect student, but it wasn´t the perfect year and I wasn´t the perfect student. It was so much harder than I thought and it made me realize how good my life was back home. I appreciated all the things I used to hate about my home country.

I missed my friends and family but most of all I missed being in a culture where people understood me and where I understood people. I realized how blessed people are who live in their home countries because they never run into awkward cultural situations where their intentions were good but they were interpreted in a different way.

Looking back I am proud I did it. Looking back I know how much fun it actually was, even though most of the times I didn´t even realize it. I see all these 16-year-old kids with their phones smoking and trying to be cool, and I remind myself that at that age I decided I wanted to do something more with my life. I wanted to learn a new language. I wanted to explore the world. And I still want these things, it makes perfect sense I would want that.

But it´s amazing that at such a young age I already knew what I wanted. Going on exchange only made that sense stronger. I see so many people in doubt of what they want, like or who they are. Not me. Not in the same way. The only thing I struggle with is to set my mind on where to go next, because I want to go everywhere (let´s face it, the struggle is real).

But to get back to the main question; if you are asking yourself “Why did I go on exchange?”, let me tell you why.

Because you want more from life. You are not the person that will always do the ‘ordinary´ thing, so don´t try to be! Trust me, I know how hard an exchange can be. Even though it might not feel like it AT ALL and you think you are the only exception to the rule, the more time passes, the more you will realize this is the year of your life. It will shape you in the way you act, the way you handle things, the decisions you will make. You have probably heard this so many times and you are probably thinking “Stop talking, you know nothing about my exchange¨ and you are right, but I do know about my exchange and I know I felt EXACTLY like that. I also know that my thoughts on my exchange changed drastically once I got home.

An exchange isn´t always fun, it´s not always easy, it´s not always glamorous, but it is ALWAYS worth it.

Exchange Example Stories, Study Abroad

Why You Shouldn´t Be Afraid To Put Yourself Out There

Going abroad is like being handed a fresh piece of life, smoking hot out of the oven, with a note attached to it; be alive. It’s easy to lock yourself up in your room, and chat to your loved ones at home without even uttering two words to anyone else. But that’s to live, not to be alive. You will have to (wo)man up, get yourself out there and introduce yourself. It’s embarrassing, but you might also find new friends, new lovers, new families.

I knew this, and I knew I had to make the most out of my single semester in Aberystwyth, Wales. I have never been the type to say no to pie. So during fresher’s week, when the clubs were all lined up to welcome new students with open arms, I decided to open mine as well and go for a hug, not just a handshake. I wanted to do sports, so I started collecting pamphlets and asked as many questions as I could. Of course, I was nervous. Would I manage to find “my kind” of people? Not everyone I met felt right; some jock guys didn’t even look at me twice, just handed me a pamphlet and continued to talk among themselves. But once two boys in white doboks grinned at me, and asked if I wanted to join the Tae Kwon-Do club, I knew I needn’t be nervous.

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To get new friends, you need to put your worries aside. “Will they understand what I say? Will I understand what they say? Do I look stupid trying to do a side kick?” There will always be bumps along the way. I often had to repeat myself, sometimes I just nodded and smiled and I definitely looked stupid doing a side kick. But you know what, so did everyone else!

My instructor Harriet gave me many push ups as punishment for showing up late, but she also gave me many compliments. I got punched twice in the eye by Rowan, but he apologized by buying me a drink at the pub. Chris knocked my brain’s out, but then he gave me a hug. I was not at all perfect, but I was cared for. I felt it during every practice, every time we met in the halls, every Friday when we went to the pub. They showed that they cared by asking how I felt that day, buying me drinks, inviting me out, and I will never forget how they announced me “Student of the year” during Christmas dinner, giving me a bottle of champagne. It was shared after our last session before the holidays, drunk from plastic cups and underneath a staircase where we huddled together to seek shelter from the Welsh rain.

There were others as well, people I met because I went out there and dared to take the first step. Just asking “can I sit here?” to someone I’d only met once, lead me to eat dinner with the computer science students Chis and Joe almost every day. Joanna and I (sadly) found a dead bird, and next thing I knew, we were having tea. I joined the Hiking Club, and met up with the members every Sunday in order to climb yet another one of the amazing mountains of Wales.

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As I said, I felt loved, and even more so during my last night in Wales, when people cried and threatened to kidnap me. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to leave, but I did. I had people at home whom I loved as well, but I knew I would miss those I left behind.

What I am trying to say is; if you just dare to put yourself out there, you will find people who care. It doesn’t matter if you’re abroad for a whole degree, a year or even just a semester. You will need someone besides those you left at home. Sure, you can call your friends, but you can’t hug someone through a phone or share a bottle of champagne in the rain with someone on Skype.

It is not enough to live

You have to be alive.

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This guest post was written by Ida Brennodden, a norwegian girl who studied in Wales for one semester. If you´d like to read more from her, make sure to check out her blog. 

Exchange Example Stories, Exchange Student Problems, First months of exchange, Host Family, Mid-Exchange, Study Abroad, Uncategorized

I hated my host family

This guest post will be shared anonymously, but I think it´s an good read for those who are experiencing problems with their host families.

Just for the record; I had two host families during my exchange year. And I hated both of them.
There was a difference, though.

It had always been my wish to go on an exchange, partially because of the ´living with a host family´ experience. It just seemed so exciting to me to have new brothers and sisters, that were different but you could do all sorts of fun stuff with. A family you can call your own family. One you can send letters and cards, and visit with your real family and then have a slightly weird and awkward family photo. Not that I don´t like my real family, au contraire, but the idea of cultural exchange + having a new family just seemed really exciting to me. We had even hosted students before, which had been hard sometimes but in the end always a lovely experience. I expected my experience as a host family would make my experience a little bit easier because I knew how hard it could be for the family as well and I promised myself I would do ANYTHING to make it work out with mine.

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When I arrived at my first host family I was extremely excited. It took a while for my exchange organisation to find me one, which was extremely nerve-wracking (you must understand this struggle). When I finally got to meet them it was the first time I had heard about them, and also the first time they heard about me, which was a little odd. When getting the news they were allowed to host an exchange student, they didn´t even know what gender I was going to be. I had a sister and a brother and our house, even though it was small, it was truly amazing. It seemed everything I had hoped for.

Yes the weeks passed by and these little things weird things came up all the time. They ignored the fact that I had already been learning a lot of the language. From all of the arriving exchange students, I was one of the most advanced when it came to language, yet whenever they had a chance they would remind me that I wasn´t good at all, that I couldn´t understand anything. And not as a joke, or as constructive criticism. They also tended to be confused on where I was actually from, even after one month and me repeatedly telling and explaining them. It sounds silly, but it feels so bad when people don´t know or don´t recognize where you are from. When you go on exchange you get so confronted with your nationality and your identity, and when people don´t see that it´s like you are some ghost. A weird ghost that doesn´t fit in there, but apparently also doesn´t have a clear home.

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There were more things, some of which are maybe better not shared on the internet, but all these little details made that I felt more and more uncomfortable. I cried so many times, and I didn´t even know why. I didn´t miss my family, I didn´t want to go home, I just didn´t feel comfortable with them. As days and days passed by, I realized I truly hated being with them.

So I changed families, something which I had sworn not to do. I felt terrible because I knew how bad my family felt whenever we had problems with an exchange student, and I didn´t want to hurt my host family. After all, they were kind enough to take me into their house, to share their lives with me! But somehow I could not stay there any longer.

When I arrived to my second family they also didn´t know what gender or nationality exchange student they were getting, but they were a little bit more understanding when I explained where I was from. Again, I had a brother and a sister. A sister whom I shared a room with. The material situation had definitely not improved. The house was smaller, and I had to share a room with my sister, but I didn´t care at all as I was just happy to have left the first family.

And with my new family everything went well. We had an amazing first month, they took me everywhere, I got to meet the rest of the family. Of course we had our problems, maybe even more problems than I had with the first family, but I felt like they were also trying to solve these issues, something I hadn´t felt with the first family. Months passed and I got into a huge fight with them. It was about something silly, as it always is, but I truly hated them at that moment. It was a different kind of hate though than I had felt with my first host family. It was the kind of hate you have when your mom tells you you can´t go to that concert in London because teenage girls aren´t supposed to travel to rock concerts alone kind of thing. It was as if they were my real family.

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I am writing this post for all exchange students who are struggling with their family and are thinking about changing. Remember that even with your real family you get annoyed, you get angry, you wish you could disown them at times. But they are your family, so you don´t. Looking back, I think my first family just wasn´t fit for being a host family. My second family was. And even though it wasn´t always easy and they maybe didn´t even feel like ´real´ family yet, I realized that the source of my annoyance was not a reason to change family, and you will never find the ‘perfect´ host family. All my friends who were sharing the most lovely photos of their happy family were the ones who eventually changed. When thinking of changing families, try to realize it is not all going to be perfect and think whether your annoyance is temporary, or it´s a longer standing issue. If so, try to talk to them first. Tell them you are uncomfortable or not yet used to the way they do things. A solution has to come from both sides. In case one of both sides is not willing to cooperate anymore, then think about changing families.

This guest post will be shared anonymously in order not to offend any of the families involved.

Study Abroad, university

The Cost of Higher Education Around the World

How do you quantify the value of college? Most students believe a bachelor’s degree is the necessary ticket to a middle-class life. That’s why tuition in the United States continues to rise at an exorbitant rate. Some students receive financial assistance from their families, and others earn full or partial scholarships. But for many, that prized diploma will come with the burden of student debt.

It doesn’t have to be that way. For high-school senior Ronald Nelson, value meant choosing a free ride from University of Alabama’s honors program rather than the shaky promise of “demonstrated financial need” assistance from the Ivy League. However, that’s not the only way to combine financial value with a high-quality education. If you like to travel, the answer may be to attend university in another country. Read on to discover the best educational values across the world.

 

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Europe 

For American students, the idea of attending college for free seems like a fantasy. Yet that is the reality for many countries in the European Union. Even better for Americans, many foreign schools offer classes and programs in English.

Germany, Finland and Norway are the leaders in offering tuition-free schooling. Other EU countries such as France and Slovenia offer much lower tuition fees than the United States. Sweden also provides a low-cost education, and its Ph.D. programs are completely free.

You may not need to learn the native language to study, but chances are you’ll pick it up over the course of your stay. Becoming bilingual is an added benefit to studying overseas. It will also make it easier to remain in the country to work after graduation, should you desire to take this path.

Europe and Central America offers a range of low-cost continued education options for students looking into international education options.

Austria – EU/EEA students benefit from two free semesters of study then pay just US$ 390 per semester. Students from the U.S. are charged a slightly higher fee of US $790 per semester.

Greece – Students from EU or EEA are able to study for free, while international students pay a very small fee of US $1,630 per year.

Czech Republic – Students are charged a fee of US $1,080 per semester unless you speak Czech, that is. If you speak the native tongue, any student is permitted to study in the country for free.

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Asia

Asian colleges and universities also offer more bang for your buck. According to Times Higher Education, top schools that have a similar average cost as their European counterparts include:

  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • China
  • Republic of Korea
  • Turkey
  • Taiwan
  • Israel

Students who study in Asia may have an easier time landing well-paying English teaching gigs after graduation. Even if you plan to return to the US after graduation, your exotic degree will communicate resilience, independence, creative thinking and a risk-taking spirit to potential employers.

Australia and New Zealand

Average tuition in these countries is twice as much as in Europe and Asia, but it’s still cheaper than the US. The fact that English is the national language makes it easier to live as well as study there, too. Nine schools including Australian National University, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne made it onto the Times Higher Education’s list of international school rankings.

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North and South America

It’s no surprise that average tuition costs are highest in the continent containing the US. However, Canada may be an attractive option for American students who don’t want to go too far from home. While Canadian universities don’t offer free tuition, the fees are less than half the cost of American universities in some cases. McGill University, University of Toronto and University of British Columbia are among the Canadian schools that offer economic value and access to a highly-ranked education.

As mentioned before, Central America offers a range of low-cost continued education options for students looking into international education options.

Additionally, South American offers many low-cost higher education options for those willing to look!

Argentina – Argentinian students enjoy their higher education completely free of charge while international students are charged a very small fee per year to study in the country. The Universidad de Buenos Aires ranked in the top 15 in a university ranking from Top Universities.

Making It Work for You

Whether your primary motivation is to see the world, save money or obtain a prestigious education, going to college in another country can give you all of these things and more. Of course, you’ll want to factor in additional expenses like cost of living, and make sure your international degree will be accepted by American employers.

But overall, studying abroad makes sense for adventurous, flexible-minded students who want to beat the student-debt trap suffered by so many graduates of American schools. Get out your passport, and start the application process today!

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This post was written by Savannah Hemmings, a personal stylist and lifestyle blogger that never stays in one place for too long. She has a long list of places to visit, and an entire world to experience. To learn more about Savannah and read more of her work, visit her blog, Sincerely Savannah!

 

Exchange, Study Abroad, Study Abroad 101

How To Make Local Friends Abroad

Making local friends ain’t always as easy as it sounds. When I went on exchange I told myself I was never going to spend time with any international students. After all, I was there for the culture, the local people. Why would I spend time with people from other countries?

Well, because international students get you much better. They know the struggle. Making local friends isn’t always easy, for a number of reasons.  But looking back, I honestly regret not putting in more effort to make local friends. So learn from my mistakes and get the most out of your exchange. It might be hard, but it certainly can be done, and having a group of local friends will make the process of feeling at home, fitting in and your entire exchange in general a whole lot easier (and more fun too).

1. Learn the local language

This might sound obvious, but it is a very important step towards making local friends. Even in countries where people tend to speak English as a second language, at some point they are going to talk their native language and when you don’t manage that language, you will feel excluded. In the beginning, people tend to adapt for you, translate things for you, but after a while it will be harder for them to keep adapting themselves for you.

Dedicating your first months abroad to learning the language will definitely pay off in the long run, trust me. I think learning the local language, at least a little bit, is a way to respect the people of the country you are staying in, and having local friends can actually help you a great deal to learn it! So ask people if they want to help you, tell them you are looking for conversational partners.

2. Join a sport/club/anything

Why not use your time abroad exploring things you have always wanted to do? Join a club, go play a new sport or try learning how to play a new instrument. Doing those things you will most likely meet new people. Not only that, these people will also already be interested in the same things as you! Meeting like-minded people on a regular basis is one of the best ways to meet new people, and it also gives you the opportunity to explore new hobbies and do things you have always wanted to do. Two birds, one stone!

3. Don’t expect it to be like other friendships

I have heard so many people about how the friendships are not the same, how you don’t have the same jokes, but guess what; building a friendship takes time! You can not expect to have the same kind of relationship with your new classmates as with your lifelong friends.

Even if you would spend the same amount of time with them, it wouldn’t be the same, because people are different and therefore the friendship is different. With some friends you cry while listening to Classic Rock music, others you punch in the stomach. Just because a new friendship is not the kind of friendship you are used to, doesn’t mean that it is not as good as all the other ones.

4. Ask for people to introduce you/take you somewhere

If you already know some people (whether it’s friends, classmates, host siblings or cousins), don’t be afraid to ask them if you can join them when they are going somewhere. Just try to meet as many people as possible, until you find someone who shares interests with you

5. Get out there

However logical this may sound, many people don’t actually do it. In order to meet new people you need to be outside. This will end up being a vicious circle. You stay inside because you don’t have friends, but by staying inside you won’t make any new friends, so you keep staying inside, locking yourself into your room with some new show on Netflix.

And yes, Netflix is amazing and in many ways your best friends, but it doesn’t hurt to sometimes close that laptop and get outside. Try going to a bar with someone you know, or just go for a walk in the park. You might actually meet people while doing so.

6. Always keep trying

Local people tend to have a life of their own, which means they don’t have as much necessity to meet with you as you do to meet them. It can be annoying or hard to keep asking people to hang out with you. But don’t give up! Don’t be afraid to take the initiative.

Just because they don’t always ask you out, doesn’t mean they don’t like spending time with you. They might feel uncomfortable asking you, since they don’t know you very well and they don’t want to bother you, while in fact for most exchange students it won’t be a bother at all. So make that call! What do you have to lose?

7. Remember nobody has a million close friends

That is right. You don´t need to be close friends with everybody. Sometimes just having that one person you get along with can be enough, so don´t be afraid to invest in one relationship instead of continuing to make new contacts. Although making new friends is never a bad thing, being abroad you only have a limited amount of time.

Depending if and when you are going to go to back home or to another country, you don´t have to invest in making as many contacts as possible, as long as you are enjoying yourself with one person or a small group, you are all set.

 

Study Abroad

10 things you will notice when you study in London

When I moved to London I didn’t really know what to expect. I am from a small village, so obviously moving to a city as big as London was a very big step for me. One year later I’m finally able to (sort of) find my way around in (small parts of) the city (thank god for Citymapper!) and I have discovered some things about studying in London.

1. You are going to be shocked by the rent prices

Your friends might complain about their rent, and you might smile in agreement about ‘the ridiculous price they are paying’, but really, on the inside, you laugh/cry (both at the same time probably). Because truth is, in London, you might be paying per week what they are paying per month. Oh, and their room will be about twice as big as yours. But then again, you live in London, so who’s really winning here?

2. The money that you are not spending on rent is probably going towards food

There is just so much good food in London. So. Much. It doesn’t even matter what cuisine you like, you can find everything in London. Famous food markets (like Borough market), take away, cafés, coffee shops… Of course, it’s London, so it all comes with a price. £5 for a burger seems legit when it’s the best burger you’ve ever had, right?

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3. You didn’t expect it to be that green

I think a lot of people don’t know that London actually is the greenest major city of Europe, and one of the greenest cities in the worlds. When people think of London, they tend to think about all the famous buildings. I, on the other hand, like to think about all the parks. Running in Regent’s park, relaxing in Hyde Park on a sunny day and photographing deer (yes, deer! in London!) in Richmond Park are all amongst the options you have, and there are many more.

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4. Deciding what to wear might be a challenge at times (okay, maybe every morning)

Be prepared for all the weather types London has to offer within one day. It’s sunny outside you say? Okay, but check again in one minute and it might be pouring down with rain. London is quite famous for its bipolar weather, and although it doesn’t rain as much as people might like to believe, it is good to be prepared. If you want to make it even harder on yourself, try to look cool as well.

5. You are going to walk so much more than you are doing now

This might be truer for Dutch people, because we are used to cycling everywhere we go, but I’ve heard from several (reliable, international) sources that they are walking more than they did before they moved to London. It’s probably because it’s the cheapest way to get around and a lot less risky than cycling. Of course, you can always take the tube as well…

6. You will realise the tube is the best invention ever

It really shows how important the tube network is for London when there is a tube strike. Which happened on my first day ever in London. The city will become quite chaotic, but don’t expect the tube to be totally stress free when the tube is running normally. If you do want to relax, just grab a free sauna by taking the central line during peak time (stripping down will not be appreciated, unfortunately). And while we’re at it, never ever assume taking the tube means you will not walk. Changing tube = walking. You have to get your exercise somehow, you lazy person.

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7. When you go out, there will be a lot of really drunk people

This really shows when the tube does not go anymore (which is after midnight), and you have to take the night bus. Again, this might be slightly different for other countries and cultures, but since I’m Dutch I’m quite used to social drinking. Which is, drinking because you like the drink, you like the people you’re with, and it’s fun. In England, you drink to drink. The general thought seems to be that you cannot have a good night out without getting totally hammered/wasted/pissed (whichever description you like the most). So, if you want to see proper drunk people, take a night bus in London.

8. You will meet people from all over the world

A lot of people in London, didn’t grow up in London (surprise, I know). But I never expected to meet so many people with so many different backgrounds. I do study at a very international university, which helps as well. Being ‘just British’ is considered quite boring. To illustrate this, next year I will live with a half French/half English girl, a half Chinese/half German girl from Hong Kong, a British Chinese girl and a British Indian girl. Talk about squad goals.

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9. If you went to state school, you might realise how cheap your education was

Before studying in London, I had not really met any people that went to boarding, private, public or international school. Now, I’ve met many. I once googled what these schools cost with a friend of mine, just for fun. Sometimes, it is even more than university, which is really quite expensive, so I was quite shocked about it, especially since my education was (mostly) free. Up to now, that is.

10. You will fall in love with the city

London just has so much to offer. When you live there, you really come to appreciate the city and I can honestly say it is only place where I could see myself living during different stadia in my life. Of course, I can’t say yet if I will actually end up living there for the rest of my life, but I do know that I will always love London. It will forever be ‘my’ city.

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This guest post was written by Anniek Stuut, a Dutch student who went to the United Kingdom for her high school exchange and then decided she loved it so much she wanted to do University in the wonderful city of London.

 

Exchange, Exchange Student Problems, Final months of exchange, Host Family, Study Abroad

Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of The Unknown

This is a guest post written by Monica Sanchez Hernandez


“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”- Andre Gide

We, as humans, get scared easily once we are taken out of our comfort zone, even the most adventurous ones. Getting into the unknown terrifies us. Our minds get filled up with a bunch of “what ifs” that most of the times stop us from doing something we really want to do. We are used to the easy stuff. The least we have to work to get something the better. But that is not really our fault. Society taught us that. We live in a world where shortcuts are allowed. Where the people that get to the top by simple and random luck are more known than the ones that work hard every day of their lives to achieve their goals. This goes to the hard workers, to the ones that don’t let their fear stop them from getting where they want.

August 16th from this past year, I left Spain for the United States. I packed my life in a suitcase and I left. It was easy at first, because it looked like I was only leaving for a few weeks. It was easy because something inside me was telling me that I would not really miss anything nor anyone. But that part of me was mistaken.

One of the most exciting parts of an exchange year during high school is when you get the information about your going-to-be host family. You have been waiting for months to know where are you going to be living for the next school year, to know who are you going to share your experience with. And it finally comes. You wake up and you see the e-mail that is going to change your life. That is it. Now you know you are leaving for sure. You can not stop thinking about how everything is going to be like. You try to look for as much information as you can get. And the day of your departure comes, and you have to leave. Leave your family, leave your friends, leave everything for a year. The only detail you are missing is that your life there will not stop just because you are not there. Your friends will do their own thing, your family will live without you for a year. Everything will change while you are on the other side of the world trying to start a new life that you will have to leave after a year.
There is something that I have been asking myself lately an that I can’t stop thinking about. What is easier, to leave the life that I had been building for the past 15 years of my life, or to create a new life in a year and to have to leave it forever?

It is the bitter-sweetness at the end of the year that really tells you that even though it was not easy, you made it, and the feeling that you get is awesome. At some times you may cry, thinking about how fast the year went by and how much you are going to miss everyone, but you feel happy and excited to go back to what you left behind the last year.

Wisconsin has been my home for this past nine months, and I can’t think of a better place to spend an exchange year. There is something about the people in this state that really makes it feel like home.

When I got here I did not know that I would end up changing my host family. I thought that everything would be easy, and that all that the experienced kids from the past years told me about missing home and missing your family, would not happen to me. But let me tell you something… it did, and it was hard. When things do not go as well as you expected them to go, you suddenly just want to hide under the bed and wait for somebody to fix it for you.

And that is the problem. You do not have anyone to fix things for you and you have to learn all of a sudden to fix them by yourself. Nobody gave me instructions on what to do when you do not really get along with your host family. I thought that if that happened my organization would tell my host family what I was feeling and I would be able to move on. But of course, it was not that easy. After a month and a half living with the host family that chose me I felt that things were not working out. Every day I felt more distant to them, and I did not know what to do.

When this happens, the best to do is communicate, to tell them what are you feeling and what you don’t like, but I did not know what to do. How do you tell somebody you barely know that you don’t like their life style? That you are having a hard time adjusting? And that you don’t like how they are? That went against all the manners that my parents raised me with. I could not do that. So I thought that my organization would help me solve the problem. That did not happen either. They did not give me any solution.

I panicked during all those days, and I did not know what to do. I was really unhappy with what was going on, and also frustrated that things were not going as wonderfully as all that I was expecting and that I had been dreaming of. I realized I did not have my mum close to give me the comfort and to help me through. I realized that I had to start growing up without her by my side. She would not be there my whole life to solve my problems for me.

While all that was going on, in my high school I met the other exchange student. She was a really nice girl, and at the end she became one of my best friends that helped me throughout my experience. Her host family invited me out , and after telling them what was going on and how I was feeling they decided to help me, and they found me another host family. I ended up living my the other exchange student’s host-grand-parents.

After a week waiting I finally was able to move to my new house, and no, it was not with the help of my organization. They did not even move a finger for me. It was with the help of who later became my host sister. She did everything that was in her hands to make me feel better.

It was really hard at first, but it was worth it. I ended up with a loving and caring host family that right now I would not know how to live without. Thanks to them I have been able to enjoy every minute of this experience. They have helped me grow and they gave me shelter when I needed it. And I can not be thankful enough for all that they have done. They have become my family.

I just want people to know that this can happen. And that it is nobody’s fault if you do not get along with your host family. Sometimes personalities are made to collide, and you can’t do anything about it. In these moments is when you can feel homesick, but no matter what, at the end everything is going to be alright. I am positive this taught me a lesson that I won’t ever forget.

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It is now that I am able to see the whole picture that I can proudly say that this year was by far one of the best of my life so far. I recommend this to anybody. Doing an exchange year you learn a lot of things that you would not be able to learn while you are sitting in a classroom in your home country. Plus you learn to communicate in a different language.

I have been through a lot of bad situations, but not everything about it is bad. Of course not. At the end, all the hard work and all the things that did not go as planned are paid off. You will go home with unbreakable friendships and memories hard to replace. And probably you find yourself debating because you no longer know where your home is since when you left your exchange country a part of your heart stayed there, but that is not always a bad thing.

Now I understand Andre Gide’s quote. I left sight of the shore to discover a new ocean. And that was the best thing I could have ever done. I can’t imagine my life without all the amazing people that I have met and all the amazing places I have visited. Now I can’t wait to know what destiny has planned for me.

 

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This is a guest post written by Monica Sanchez Hernandez, a 17 yeard old girl originally from Barcelona who spent her year in Freedom, Wisconsin, USA.

Europe, Exchange, Study Abroad

8 Reasons to do an Exchange in Denmark

1) The People

You might have heard Danes are the happiest people in the world—I believe it. Although they may be paying close to 50% of their paycheques to taxes, this contribution covers all the things most North Americans save for: tuition, healthcare, university living expenses, maternity leave, and childcare. As a country that’s almost entirely made up of middle and upper middle-class citizens, Danes have it good when it comes to finances. Beyond their amazing social benefits, they are incredibly humble and kind. I found that Danes were always happy to help, had your best interest at heart despite being strangers, generous, and were genuinely kind people.

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2) Baked Goods

Can y’all say kage? OK, probably not. It’s pronounced kay-yuh, which leads me to my nickname, Kagelynn. Forget it’s namesake, danishes are not Danish by any means. They’re actually called wienerbrød—direct translation: Vienna bread. Aside from that tiny misunderstanding, Denmark is crawling with tasty baked goods. Think rum balls (romkugler), marzipan-filled pastries (kringle), the vast array of kage (shoutout to Danish kagemands for being the best birthday cake I’ve ever had), and do not even get me started on Danish Christmas cookies. Just go. Go and have it all.

3) Student Life

Danish students are given the equivalent of $1000 CAD (5000 KR) per month to just live. They are expected to literally be a full-time student—living in a kollegium, attending Friday Bars, sipping on cheap beer, and supposedly studying. I already miss living in a dorm, its respective parties (Tour des Chambres, anyone?), watching movies in each other’s rooms, and my wonderful flatmates that had basically become a family to me. I even miss going to our dorm’s creepy old basement to do laundry (I used to tell people it looked like an insane asylum.)

4) Bikes Everywhere!

Upon my arrival in Aarhus, I distinctly remember asking, “What happens when it rains? Do you still go biking when it rains?” My Danish friends would narrow their eyes at me—probably wondering just how big of a sissy I am—and say, “Well, yes.”

Duh.

Those days are long behind me. I actually miss my bike. Besides the fact that biking is the cheapest and most convenient way to get around, who doesn’t love the sun on their face, hair blowing in the wind, and how badass you feel biking in torrential downpour (which is pretty badass, in my opinion)? I especially miss the midnight adventure time on bikes with my friends. In Vancouver, I’d most likely die in a tragic car accident if I were to venture out on a bike and into 3-lane traffic. The North American lifestyle with cars, freeways, and a lack of proper
bicycle lanes is just exponentially more sedentary than that of Scandinavia’s.

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5) Cheap Beer

At home, I pay $5 CAD for beer and a liquor tax. In Denmark, I could buy half a dozen of beers for the same price (and a liquor tax would be blasphemy). Also, Denmark is home of Carlsberg and Somersby (I know that’s an apple cider but it’s still very tasty). I’ve never drunk more beer in my entire life, and it was awesome.

*Honourable mention to the game Klub 100. It exists in North America as Centurion, but the fact that Klub 100 exists in Denmark just makes me laugh.
What happens is that you drink a shot of beer every minute for 100 minutes. I have thrown up every single time I’ve played. The Danish soundtrack on SoundCloud, however, is perfection.

6) Dansk Jul (A Danish Christmas)

Is there any kind of Christmas that compares? OK, probably yes—but a Danish Christmas is simply magical for someone coming from such a multicultural country such as Canada. I’m smitten by all Danish Christmas traditions—the marzipan, all the festivities associated with lille julaften, julefrokost, and just the endless amount of Danish Christmas foods. And as a tribute to my Danish friends, I will even miss taking shots of schnapps every time “Last Christmas” by Wham comes on.

7) Nature

Denmark is 70% agriculture. I kid you not. We were roadtripping to my flatmate’s sommerhuse (Danish summer house), and it was just farm after farm after farm. One of my best friends in Denmark actually lived on a farm. Although lacking in mountains like my home in Vancouver, Denmark is green for days. There is an abundance of countryside, beaches, and fun places to bike to and simply bask in its natural glory. I personally love the Risskov beach in Aarhus, as well as the beaches in Thy. Ridiculously good-looking.

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8) Hygge
The best reason to study abroad in Denmark is the hygge. Hygge is essentially an untranslatable word in Danish culture, but at most, I can describe it as the warm cuddly feeling you get snuggling under a blanket during a chilly night combined with the gooey warm feeling you get when surrounded by excellent company. The closest word to it in English is cozy, but it’s so much more than that. It’s generally induced by a hot cup of tea, some form of delicious freshly baked good in the oven, and great friends. I can’t wait to go back to Denmark for some more hygge til!

 

 

 

Kaylynn looooves travelling. After a 9-month stay in Europe, 6 of which were spent in Denmark—she lives and breathes missed trains, delayed flights, cheap beer, good wine, and an incessant supply of freshly baked bread. She also enjoys giant sheet cake, playing klub 100 with Danish beer, the occasional game of foosball, and being called Kagelynn or a tykke hobbit.