What People Don’t Tell You About Going On Exchange

BY HUDA AKHTAR, THIRD YEAR STUDENT IN HUMAN RESOURCES, TRSM

What people don’t tell you about studying abroad is that you’ll want to go home about 2 days into your trip. No one tells you how hard it really is settling into a place you have absolutely no prior knowledge of. People don’t speak of the first week you arrive into your chosen city, they don’t mention the restless nights thinking about how you’re going to manage your commute, your work – your stress piles up.

Little did I know, the best is yet to come.

Orientation week hasn’t even begun and you’re having thoughts about wanting to drop everything you’ve worked so hard for and fly back home. Everyone only ever talks about how wonderful of an experience you will have when you go abroad, but why is it that you’re feeling uneasy? Did you really make the right choice travelling 5000 kilometers away from home?

No one tells you about the anxiety that comes with that first week upon arrival because only after a few days, you’re thrust into orientation activities. You’re going from one campus to another, having no time to worry about the specifics. All your time is consumed with attempting to navigate the city but losing a little bit of hope the more you try. That is, until you’re home alone, thinking once more of all the worries that are feeding your anxieties.

Now, you have another thing on your mind; every person you’ve met so far has found someone else who they’ve clicked with instantly. Why not you? Why did no one mention this feeling, one that makes you feel like you’ve started university all over again but with no one but yourself to rely on? Orientation week passes by slowly with these thoughts and doubts in your mind. You speak with friends and family back home and everyone is settled into their semester already, busy with their regular, scheduled lives. Friends that have gone on exchange to other countries seem to be having the time of their lives and adjusting fine. It seems like you’re the only one having a hard time on exchange. But like I said, there are things people don’t tell you about going abroad.

Just as you start to lose hope in ever finding someone to share the Dublin experience with, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. In one way or another, whether it be while you’re waiting for the bus to take you to Malahide Castle, or you’re soaking up the beauty of Howth, or in that random Cultural Studies course you took, you’ll meet people. You’ll feel the kindness when they decide to keep you company on the bus trip back to the city or when they ask to exchange social media IDs. You never thought you could connect with such complete strangers in the most mundane of situations. And soon, you start to develop a soft spot for these people who were once distant strangers.

No one talks about the relationships you’ll come to cherish in a new kind of way. People speak of the wonderful food, sights, and experiences they have in the countries they visit, but what they don’t tell you is that you’ll find the most fascinating people you’ll want to keep in your life forever. The unconditional kindness I’ve received from them is something that has impacted my life greatly and has allowed me to find comfort in this city I was once so afraid of. I’ve found comfort in the many cozy coffee shops, the quaint benches by the river, and most importantly, I’ve found comfort in the friends that feel more like my family now.

Because that’s what no one tells you; in this new place far away from home – you create a new identity and a family that only exists right here in these moments. Regardless of what you feel in your the first few weeks, upon arrival, one way or another, and when you’re least expecting it, you will find people that allow you to open up and really see what the new world you’ve immersed yourself in has to offer.

So here I am telling you, if you’re wondering what studying abroad is like, it is hard and the unknown is nerve-wracking. But if you let it, the difficult days will dissipate and your exchange will be eye-opening – the place where you’re not obligated to make friends because of the limited time you’ll spend here, but ultimately where you’ll develop the deepest of friendships. Most importantly, it will give you the opportunity to discover yourself and what you really want from life. If you’re reading this blog in hopes of a sign to go abroad, this is it. I told you what no one told me about going on exchange. Now it’s your turn to take on the same role for another confused soul bound to need help in the future.

2 thoughts on “What People Don’t Tell You About Going On Exchange”

  1. Absolutely lovely! An amazing read and a beautiful end. Thank you for sharing your story in ways we can understand! Keep up the good work!

  2. Loved this article! I’m not going on exchange or anything however I am going travelling and feeling super stressed. This really helped ease my nerves and shone a positive light on some very real concerns. Thank you!

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