For anyone considering studying or living abroad, it is important to know that an exchange program is not that simply as shown on television or told by returned friends and family members. Any person in that situation knows better all the problems that the so-called “new life” can bring on its arrival, such as cultural shock, language barriers and employment, for example. Although, the good experiences that someone will have are immeasurable: new culture, friends from all over the world, knowledge and a huge new international perspective.
The decision to travel abroad to learn a new language or join a new angle of studies in a foreign university for their career is made by hundreds of facts. The stories changes from person to person. There is also people that just needs a break from what they are doing and them they go to another country to get a pause and return a year or some later. In anyways, this is a big decision to everyone and the changes are well seeing when this period of new experiences are over. When talking to people that already joined this experience, they classify themselves as more open-minded and tolerant than before.
It will never be easy to get on a plane and say good-bye to the beloved ones and for an established life someone already built for years. That’s the case of Sidney P., a Brazilian that came to Ireland to do an English language course six months ago. In his early 30’s, Sidney thought it was time to live the experience of an exchange program. “I was just graduated from college after doing a Psychology degree and I thought it was my chance. Due my age, it was a question of ‘now or never’ and I could not let it pass by me. And the most important: I needed to get out of my comfort zone”, he explains.
When decided to do it, Sidney started his research about countries, schools, agencies and everything that could help to make the final decision. Even though, the mainly reason to make you go abroad is money – you need to be established, the costs for it are not cheap and you don’t know how much you will need until you find a job. “The employment market was something that I was always making research on. Mainly because I could not be in anywhere without working, my money wasn’t enough to support me for more than 6 months”, says Sidney.
Once a decision is made, you just need to face your destiny: it is time to go. Arriving on the new land is magical. You are finally doing your dreams come true. However, the real life is harder. Many students says that it is not that easy when you have to leave the tourist’s life and start to plan your life in the new country. Finding a place to rent, opening a bank account, start to go to the supermarket on your own… It is only the first responsibilities you will face during the exchange program.
Thaís Rodrigues, a Brazilian student that came to Dublin to improve her English skills, points how difficult it was to find her own place. “When we start to search for a house, we have to understand the country’s rules to rent that. Talking to the property owners and understand the demands about contract is one of the hardest parts. Many people come to Dublin knowing a basic level of English and the language barrier can be a massive wall between you and the chance to get the house you liked”, she says.
As the problems goes by and the difficult is becoming something in the past – but a huge knowledge to take notes for forever, the day start to seems clear again. The experience of an exchange program is very intense. In days, you already made many friends as you did during your whole life in your country. You have already learned a new culture, new behavior, new cuisine tastes and the language progress is terrific as you are learning and living it every day. In addition, this is the main advantage of the exchange program: live it and make it worth in every difficult, every new thing learned, every new friend made, every new step in a different culture that may will delight you.
Here follows a top five tips to make it a brilliant time of your life that an exchange must be.
RESEARCH. If you are really planning to do an exchange program to learn a language, for example, make a full research about the countries you have interest, schools, methodology, cuisine, agencies, housing market and everything that may concern you during the time abroad.
MAKE A PLAN. If you already decided where to go and what to do, make a plan to yourself. Choose a date that you can leave your work or college, if it is the case, and take time to say a temporary good-bye to your friends and family. Time will be very important, also the money. Make a financial strategy to do not lose control before and during your trip. Remember that a job is not easy to find and you will compete in the market with local and foreign people.
SEARCH FOR A PLACE. When arriving to your exchange destination, make sure to have your priorities in mind. Try first to find a house to let instead of doing tourists rides. Think you will have enough time to do it during your time abroad.
FOCUS YOURSELF IN YOUR STUDIES. Even though the freedom seems the most awesome thing during an exchange program, do not forget why you are far away from home. I is pointless to pay and go to an exchange program and do not learn at all. Focus yourself and try to earn in every possible way: school, classes, work and local routine.
BE STRONG. Everything during an exchange program can be very intense, especially when talking about feelings. Because everything is new and your basis as family and friends are too far, you need to face feelings alone and it can be hard. Be strong, make right decisions and do not lose your mind with freedom. Analyze yourself. Think about how you would face a situation before and now. The most important thing is finding yourself.
MAKE NEW FRIENDS. As The Beatles used to say, do not ever forget to have a little help from your friends. As all the experiences are so intense and our beloved best friends are back in home, we need to connect to new people. This new friends are facing the same situation as you and as you share all of this together, it is easier to keep safe and have fun to forget the problems.