The Five Ts Why You Should Go on Exchange

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Most universities offer exchange programs for students to study for one semester in another university. This is definitely a great opportunity that enriches any student’s undergraduate life. Being a current exchange student myself at the University of London, I have experienced and learnt so many things that I, too, have become a believer in it.

If you are a current undergraduate in Indonesia, going on exchange will first and foremost give you that experience of studying and living abroad that Indonesia Mengglobal has been advocating. Reading about it and experiencing it are two very different things. Especially if you are aiming for overseas postgraduate studies, this experience can be a first taste of what it is going to be like. Because, as my cool editor so aptly pointed out, many of these points apply to studying overseas in general, too. So here goes, my reasons why I highly recommend everyone to go on exchange programs, summarized in five friendly Ts.

Go on exchange for the TEACHING AND LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

Doing a business degree in NUS, I am very used to having projects and presentations on creating marketing launch plans, writing management reports, and constructing stock portfolios. In contrast, here in the University of London, all – literally ALL – my assignments involve reading countless journals and writing academic essays. Additionally, the education system is also very much independent study based. Classes are held at a minimum, but we are expected to read far and wide on our own and see our professors for discussions. This is very different from the practical, hands-on education I get in NUS, and it is a nice experience to have.

Royal Holloway University of London, during one of the extremely rare winter days when the weather is not depressingly grey and gloomy.

However, for me going on exchange is so much more than just the academic studies. There are many other important aspects, and together they make an exchange experience something that you really must not miss. So moving on…

Go on exchange to TOUGHEN UP YOUR CHARACTER.

Believe me, it will. My first weeks were one heck of a roller coaster ride. I was of course, very excited. But I was really scared too; I was all alone, so far from life as I knew it. I learned to be more independent as I did not have my family and usual circle of friends to count on.  Making friends in Singapore was easy, but doing the same in London, with the cultural differences and all, was another thing entirely. Plus, contrary to what my friends believe, I am always nervous about meeting new people, not knowing what to say and getting myself into awkward situations. But I still had  to walk into that room full of intimidating-looking strangers and make new friends. My time here has really taught me to do things I have always thought that I will never in a million years be able to do.

Go on exchange for the TRADITION AND CULTURE.

While here on exchange, I have learnt many things about – and actually experienced – the British way of living that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  There are the trivial, quirky stuff, like participating in pub quizzes (a game of trivia questions in a pub), but there are the more serious things too. Conversations with local friends have given me an insight as to how the British think and let me understand a little bit more about them. Interactions with fellow exchange students from all over the world have also given me glimpses into their many different cultures. It has been an eye-opening and enriching experience, as, in a sense, I get to learn a bit more about how the world works.

Go on exchange to TRAVEL.

I think this is my favorite part. Going on exchange has given me the chance to travel. Mind you, there is a difference between traveling and liburan. Different from just jalan-jalan, the traveling I mean is more about exploration and learning. There is a big difference between reading about the fall of the Berlin wall and actually learning about it, and what it meant to Berliners, right on the spot where it happened. And I would never have understood why Bavarians love their beer halls so much if I had not been to one in Munich and experienced it for myself.  Everyone I know who has been or is currently on exchange usually uses free days to travel. Most of us are on tight budgets too, so money managing skills are really put to use here as we scout for the cheapest tickets (a friend managed to land a Warsaw-Stockholm flight for 0.25EUR!) and accommodation (couchsurf to stay in a place for free!). After all, we have come so far to wherever we all are, so might as well use the chance to explore more of the place!

While on exchange in Europe, why not travel to Berlin and learn the city’s fascinating story? Beats any regular history class, hands down!

Go on exchange and learn about THANKFULNESS and NOT TAKING THINGS FOR GRANTED.

I have learnt firsthand to be more thankful and not take things for granted anymore. When you are on exchange, there will be a lot of things you will have to live without. These are usually the small details at home that we all tend to take for granted. And only when they are missing will we start to appreciate them more. In Singapore, I used to make a fuss about weird (and inaccurate) bus arrival timings, or the crowded MRT rides during peak hours. But ever since I got here, I promised to never again  complain about the Singapore public transport system; the one here is four times as expensive and not even half as nice and clean. And don’t even get me started on taking the tube in London during rush hour.

On top of everything, one major point about going on exchange is the short period of time associated with it – six months, for most of us. This adds an extra sense of urgency, that we need to really make the most out of the time that we have. One of my favorite saying goes, “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Going on exchange has taught me exactly that; I have been numbering my days and trying my best to live each one to the fullest. It gives that extra nudge to explore, to travel, to learn and get the most out of the place and the entire experience, that a normal four years in university abroad may not.

Having said all these, I firmly believe that going on exchange, or any other kinds of study abroad program for that matter, is an experience any student should not miss. Check with your university about opportunities available to you. Do not be deterred by costs because it is actually more affordable than you might think and there are grants and scholarships for study abroad programs, too. Additionally, the administration process can get quite complicated, but just stick it out because in the end it will all be worth it. Everyone I know who had gone on exchange has come home to remember it as the best semester of university. I know it will be for me too.

Photos were taken by the author herself.


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Acacia is a third year business student at National University of Singapore (NUS), currently on exchange at University of London. At the moment, she is busy spotting the latest consumer trends for her part-time internship with Trendwatching London. Removed from the practical world of school and work, Acacia likes to think of herself also as an avid reader, a language enthusiast, a HUGE foodie, and an artist at heart. Her ultimate goal is to be a lifelong student, traveling the world and writing for Lonely Planet.

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