The lure of far off places, different cultures and new people is often compelling to university students.
The enticing freedom and experience of travel is high on most students’ priority lists, and most are already planning all the post-grad adventures they will embark on before beginning their future careers.
But what many students don’t consider during their years at university is the opportunity for them to see the world while they study.
Student exchange offers you the chance to pack up your life and move somewhere completely new, (for a semester or two) and fulfil study requirements while experiencing a new culture, country, language and life.
Almost every university in Australia has a list of partner institutions from Europe, the Americas, the United Kingdom, Asia, and Africa; the choice of where to embark on your exchange adventure is extensive.
Exchange allows students to earn credits for their degree by studying at the university and country of their choice.
The opportunity for travel, new friendships and personal discovery is endless on exchange, and students are able to tick off some of their ‘must-see places’ while still graduating right on time.
The benefits of rolling travel and study all into one are obvious.
You are able to experience different places in one of the best possible ways: by living there.
Travelling across the world while living and studying on your own may seem intimidating, but it enables you to grow as an independent adult with a broader mind and understanding for the world.
Living in another country and experiencing new cultures, no matter how similar they are to home, opens your eyes to the world around you and will give you the skills for navigating the rest of your life.
It could even help you uncover a new dream or direction.
Journalism and law student from the University of South Australia, Kvitka Becker, decided to go on exchange to Lancaster University in England to fuel her travel bug and undertake her first solo adventure.
‘It gives you the chance to live in a completely different way than you would at home. The challenge of moving somewhere completely new and studying there was so exciting,’ she says.
Kvitka says the best part of her exchange was the friendships she formed while in England with other students.
‘It has helped me maintain friendships all over the world, and being able to stay in touch with them helps to keep my mind open to the rest of the world and not be kept in the Adelaide bubble.
‘It was the little moments which I treasure most: memories like spending time drinking tea in the kitchen, cooking together, and just hanging out enjoying one another’s company.’
Julie Høgholm, a cultural studies student from Denmark’s Roskilde University, has been on two exchanges to England and Australia, and believes they are the best experiences of her life.
Like Kvitka, Julie considers the friendships she formed as one of the most important aspects of her exchanges.
‘I look forward to visiting my new friends again in their own,’ she says.
‘So far, seven people that went on exchange in Adelaide during the same semester as me have already visited me in Copenhagen.’
Julie says the cultural and personal benefits of her exchanges are unquestionable.
‘I don’t think I realised it while I was gone, but after returning to Denmark, I feel more ‘grown up’ than ever.
‘I had discovered and been part of another culture over a significant period of time and reflected on my own life in Denmark in the process.’
No stranger to travel, Julie, who has visited many countries in almost every continent on the planet, says student exchange is an incredible and unique way to experience the world; offering young people a richer and more rewarding way to travel than just being a typical tourist.
‘I’ve recommended exchange to all my university friends interested in travel.
‘It is an amazing experience that everyone deserves to have; the best year of my life.’
An important part of student exchange however not as exciting as making international friends or trekking across foreign land, is finances.
One of the hardships of studying at university is the emptying effect it has on your pockets, and saving for an exchange takes dedication and time.
Taylor Pope, an environmental science student from the University of South Australia, travelled and lived in British Columbia, Canada when he embarked on his exchange to the University of Victoria.
He notes exchange as a very expensive adventure.
‘I can’t say it was very beneficial in the short run because it set me back a long way,’ he says.
‘But the experience is invaluable and it definitely looks good on a resume.’
Both Kvitka and Julie agree with Taylor that the expenses needed for student exchange are worth every cent.
‘There is nothing I would rather spend my money on than travelling,’ says Julie.
And there are many ways students can afford to experience life on exchange, with numerous universities offering travel grants to their students and Government HECS loans that can help get you on your flight.
Taylor recommends exchange to every student.
‘We’re very lucky to have opportunities like these; it is such an amazing, life-changing experience that will not come around again,’ he says.
So if you are dreaming of far off places and don’t want to wait until you finish your degree, then go for it.
Kvitka says it is the best thing her life at university has provided her with.
‘It taught me so much, and allowed me to create some wonderful memories; I just wish it didn’t end.
‘I would encourage nothing more than to go on exchange, so if you have the chance, do it!’