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Study Abroad in an Exchange or International Program

Updated on March 15, 2012

If you are a college student thinking about studying abroad in an exchange student program, just go for it. I'm an international Phd student from France and I arrived last year in British Columbia, Canada. Little did I know about these exchange programs when I first met all of the foreign exchange students and changed my life forever and in the best way possible.

Culture shock : Meeting a whole new world

You hop on a plane, sad to live your comfort zone of family and friends. Heading to a whole new country that even if you went there on vacation before, it won't be the same. You are on your own this time, going to live in the unknown. Maybe excited, maybe a bit scared too...

The first contact can be more difficult if you chose a country with a language you don't use on a daily basis. The food tastes different, some habits are familiar, others are really striking you and that makes you even more excited (ever been to Canada where people are so polite compared to Europe ?).

You meet other international exchange students just like you, same fears, same astonishments. The studying can be really different but that is why you are here for : discovering and understanding how other countries work, a clear asset for your future.

At some point, you will feel homesick. Nothing is wrong about being in that new country but... something is missing, people, friends... For me, it was mostly the food ! But I digress. Don't cry in your corner, technology has became international best friends : use Skype, msn, a phone and you'll feel so much better !

New friends for a lifetime

What you share in a new country with the other exchange students is something so special, I can't even describe it with words. Being on exchange, especially if your family and friends are living on the other side of the planet, makes the relationships between you and the people you meet stronger.

Your friends on exchange will become a new family. They are going through the same experience you are living, they are discovering the same novelties even though you may not come from the same country or continent.

This is why I would encourage all college students that have this opportunity to take it and live it to its fullest. It's usually a one in a lifetime experience that will enrich yourself and will open you so many new doors.

My experience studying abroad

Like I said in the introduction, I'm an international Phd student from France studying in Canada. After only 4 months, I've bounded with so many new friends from all over the world : Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Poland, Iran, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Japan, France, Mexico, Brazil, USA and Canada.

Now, 6 months after everyone went back to their respective countries, there are some small gatherings happening regularly in Europe, Japan or Australia because of that something special that we all share and that we don't want to let go. That feeling is also called the reverse culture shock where you feel like you don't fit in your old life anymore. No one understands what you lived except your new exchangers family.

I learned so much about all of these countries without even visiting and I also learned a lot about Canada itself. The key is to find local roommates or a host family and avoid spending all of your time with the exchanger.

I hope that I made you excited about going abroad and discovering a complete life-changer experience. If you have any feedback, don't hesitate to post in the comment section.

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