Of course, travelling and seeing the world is fun. Not having to study so frantically for exams to the point of puking is also an alluring idea. However, that’s not all to an exchange program, its not only about having fun. If you love learning outside of textbook, you will love an exchange program as well. Here are 5 reasons why:
Believe it or not, you will learn more about other countries than about the country you go to for exchange. This is because you are going to make friends with other students who go to your host country for exchange, just like you. These students hail from anywhere around the world except from your host country. During the orientation and other events for international students, there are plenty of opportunities to be acquainted with them.
You will learn more about world history and culture by hanging out with them than you ever had studying your secondary school textbook. If that is not enough incentive for you to know more international friends, think about where you can stay for free when you plan for your next holiday. Italy, Germany, America, Korea, Hongkong or Mexico? Don’t worry, you are covered.
As a Singaporean, everyone around the world will be interested in you, simply because Singaporeans are hard to come by, given that Singapore is a small country. Be prepared to amaze them with the story of how your country transformed from a 3rd world fishing village to a 1st world financial hub with universities ranking in the top 50 in the world. Look at their jaws drop.
Staying by yourself in a foreign country and being away from your family for one whole semester is an experience you don’t want to miss. You likely have only one chance for this. Not that we encourage you to be unfilial, but the best way to grow up is really to do everything by yourself, including buying toilet paper. It is time to give your parents a break anyway. Yes, you may have stayed in the hall or in the army camp before, but come on, you go back every weekend, don’t you? Our western counterparts are chased out of their parents’ house as soon as they enter college, which probably explains their independence and their propensity for creative & world-changing inventions. Taking a leaf out of their book may not be a bad idea if you aspire for something great in life. After you survive the whole semester, your confidence level will surge, knowing that you have what it takes to be self-sustainable. Of course, remember to give sergeant mum and dad a call regularly to report on your well-being.
All of a sudden, you are pushed into an unfamiliar environment and are not surrounded by your parents, friends and relatives anymore. Everyone looks like an alien. You are uncomfortable but that’s when you grow. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After a while, you start making new friends and these friends become your family members. Then you become comfortable again. You have proved to yourself that you have what it takes to turn discomfort into comfort. The next time you are pushed into an uncomfortable situation, such as having to make presentation in front of your CEO, you will still be uncomfortable but you are less so than your peers because you have been fortified by your exchange experience. In other words, you have been equipped to do great things in life.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone – Neale Donald Walsch
In Singapore, course offerings available at tertiary institutions are not entirely similar to that of the west. While the former is a function of demand from the market and economy, the latter is based on students’ demand. Don’t be surprised when you come across someone with a degree in evil when you go to US. (it is a study of why people do evil). If you think that conventional modules such as business, engineering is not your cup of tea, here’s your chance to try something new! Learn about religions, about surfing (yes, this is a university module) and about the origins of human beings or anything you always wanted to learn about. They have the most obscured modules you can imagine. Time to clear your electives.
You will have more time than you ever had since you join university. Singapore universities probably boast the most intensive and vigorous workload in the world. Going to universities in other more laid-back countries and not being obligated to score an ‘A’ means that you suddenly find yourself having tons of free time. Add that to the fact that you are away from your friends, family members and relatives and the product is even more free time. You start thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life (this is a healthy, not an emo question). Getting exposed to an entirely different culture in your host country, plus talking to and learning from your international friends will also help you arrive at your answer. What’s more, you will probably embark on activities that you have never tried when you were in Singapore, perhaps a meditation retreat, a solo travelling trip or joining an interest group (one usually becomes more adventurous when overseas). All these will bring you closer to who you are at the core and help you figure out what you should do in your life. In contrast, hustling through the 4 years of college and graduating without knowing who you really are is probably a formula for mid life or quarter life crisis.
Cherish the time to think.
Getting lost will help you find yourself. – The Holstee Manifesto
Whether you are now contemplating to go on an exchange program or are currently reading this from your host country, it’s never too late to consider the 5 above perks. Realize that you are becoming a much better and stronger person from your exchange experience, should you embark on one. You will look back at your life 10 years from now and marvel at this wonderful experience that you have undergone. And don’t forget to have fun!