In a quaint little hamlet in the south of Holland, I sat by the canals that permeated the Dutch topography and enjoyed a cold beer. The dwindling rays of the sun cast a glimmer over the still water as a Mallard went by. Europe is a treasure trove of experiences for the potential exchanger. It provides beautiful landscapes, misty mountain tops, surreal forests, mediterranean beaches and a cornucopia of cultural indulgences.
Here are the Five Reasons you should go on Exchange in Europe:
Learn a new language, embrace a new culture
16% of Europe speaks German followed by Italian, French and English. Exchange is the best time to pick up a new language or hone your skills at an European language. Most Europeans welcome foreigners who attempt to speak their language and willingly practice it with them. The student exchange program is a great time to leave your comfort zone and explore your linguistic inclinations.
Europe is a wonderful mixture of contrasting cultures. Often, neighbouring countries have diverse cultures that smoothly transition into one another as you cross geographies. For example, Switzerland has German, French and Italian parts. A short train ride of 3 hours from the North German speaking provinces exposes travelers to a transition into French and Italian cultures and even architectures.
You can spend some time in the fashion capital of the world – Paris, go hiking in the Alps in Munich, enjoy a Gondola ride in Venice or take in the night – life of Berlin – the choice is yours. Europe provides an endless list of diverse attractions to satiate your wanderlust.
Explore Europe on a student budget
Travelling around Europe is affordable on a student budget. There are no dearth of youth hostels in almost every major city, town or village and they typically cost between 15 – 25 Euros per night. Hostels are a great place to meet like – minded travellers from all over the world and experience the nightlife, local culture and sights and sounds together. Cities like Paris, Madrid and Barcelona provide student discounts and often free visits to monuments, museums and churches.
The European rail network is one of the things I loved the most in Europe. After purchasing a customized EURail Card, it’s possible to travel all the places you want to visit economically. The rail network can take you all the way from Sweden to Spain as you make the most of your European sojourn.
Budget airlines such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet also provide cheap daily flights that can cost as less as 40 Euros if booked well in advance.
Experience the European academic environment
The European academic experience is quite different from the university experience in Singapore. The courses typically focus on research, novel ideas and the progression of the student’s thought. The academic experience is one of the best aspects of going on exchange because it really challenges the notions we have of university education and pushes us to go one step further in terms of adaptability of study style and understanding of subject.
Make friends and expand your network around the world
Catching up over drinks in hostels, Barbeques with housemates, student house parties, Easter week trips, project meetings – there are a plethora of ways to socialize, expand one’s network and forge meaningful relationships that could last a life – time.
While it’s comforting to socialize with familiar faces from your home university, it will lead to stunted growth of your social circle. It’s vital to get out there and make as many local friends as possible. It will help you hone your intercultural communication skills, practice the new language you’re learning and above all – it’s a great way to have authentic local experiences that aren’t touristic in nature.
One of the most important takeaways I had from my exchange experience was how similar people really are. We all have the same hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears and being able to connect with people who have been raised so differently in a different set of circumstances is an amazing experience.
See some of the most stunning sights, sounds and tastes
Europe houses some of the most magical sights and sounds known to mankind. The La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, The Dome church in Cologne, The site of the Berlin Wall, The Mont Blanc, The Grand Plaza Brussels and the list goes on and on. Find some travel buddies and imbibe Europe with all your senses.
Exchange is a great time to take some time off and indulge in some self – exploration. Not only will you gain a more holistic view of the world and the people in it, you will come out stronger, smarter and better equipped to handle changes in life.
Navigating the streets of foreign cities and towns, speaking smatterings of the local language, making friends along the way and hopping from one train to another are just some of the exciting things to immerse yourself in. So, pack your bags and begin your adventure today!