I don’t know about you, but for me, the main thing that motivated me to go to university (apart from making my parents proud) was knowing that I would get a shot at making a student exchange abroad.
And I’m barely joking here!
After hearing about it from friends who’d done it before me, I knew this would be the ultimate experience. Getting to actually live in another country, deeply immerse into its culture, meet & work with people from all around the world and all of that, with very few actual real-life-responsabilities, how good could it get?
I ended up going to the university of Ljubljana in Slovenia. This is still by far to this day, one of the most incredible experience of my life. I’ve visited 14 countries over the course of 6 months, met friends I stayed closed with and still visit today, and learned so much about myself.
If I could give a few pieces of advice to my younger self prior to the exchange, it would go something like this :
The more remote and unknown, the most interesting this will get! Of course Barcelona and Paris sound safe and relevant, but what if you could discover a country/culture you’d never thought about visiting before?
My main recommendation would be :
Choose a country that is central and close to countries you’d like to visit during your times-off. Because after all, you’ll want to rent a car on the weekend with your new friends and make some roadtrips!
Put on your YES mode
There will never be a better time in your life to try new things.
Two russians ask you if you want to join their roadtrip this weekend to Budapest? YES
A slovenian friend invites you to her family barn to ride horses in the countryside even if you’ve never done it before? YES
Pre-drinks with the Frenchies before the actual pre-drinks? YES
Your turkish classmate needs a partner for his badminton activity on Thursday morning? YES
Don’t get me wrong, everybody has their limits and it’s important to understand yours. As long as you respect yourself and work with your values, you will be fine.
I guess my point is: get out there! You’ll see that getting out of your comfort zone and putting yourself in odd/new situations will 99.5% of the time have a positive outcome.
You will discover new hobbies, create fresh and interesting relationships, but most importantly you will learn so much in the process.
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Open your mind
You will meet people from so many different background and cultures, it will require patience and adaptability.
A good example of this is the first time I scheduled a team meeting with a turkish classmate for our International marketing group project :
« Let’s meet up tomorrow at 10H45AM » I said.
« Yeah,that’s perfect » He said.
The next morning, he shows up at 11h30AM, looking relaxed and unapolagetic.
« Why are you late? » I asked
« Ho I didn’t think you expect me to arrive at 10H45AM exactly. »
« !?!?!?!? » – Me
So that’s when I learned Turkish have different notion of time then we North Americans do. It’s okay to show up 45min late, it’s no big deal. We ended up both laughing about it but it required a good discussion!
All in all, working with people from all around the world will come with a few challenges at first, but in the long-run it will make you a better person, capable of extensive adaptability and team-work skills.
In other words, if you manage to successfully deliver a 40 pages school group project working with a Swedish, Albanian and Portuguese student, chances are you’ll be able to work with everyone on pretty much any thing in the future.
Make the most of it
If you had one thing to remember from this blog post, it’s this :
Make the most of it.
Have some fun, as often as possible. Go out until the sunrise. Do it again the next day. You’ll sleep when you get back home
Don’t worry too much about money. Go rafting with the group. Rent that car and go visit Bosnia over the weekend. Book that flight on spring break.
You’ll work you ass off and pay up your credit card when you get back home.
Open your heart. Don’t hold on to the first impressions you get when meeting people for the first time.
Be curious, show some interests, asks questions.
Once you get passed the small talk, you’ll realize how interesting and unique everyone can be and how there’s a story behind every individual.
Just make the most of it.
You’ll build meaningful friendship that’ll last a lifetime.
Joas A.Trépanier is the Founder of the online travel magazine OffToPlaces.
Laurence and Joas quit their job and booked a one-way ticket to travel the world with one purpose in mind: Building an Online Travel magazine from scratch along the way. Follow Laurence and Joas on Facebook, and Instagram!