There are three kinds of students. The confident exchange-goers, the whatever people, and then there those who’d really like to go, but some unexplainable magnetic pull just keeps them stuck in their comfort zone. I used to be one of the latter.
Going on exchange used to be a thought I often played with, but I kept on burying it in excuses. The time never seemed right. Yet, I think the real magnet for me was the travel anxiety that got to me even on shorter trips. Making the decision to go for it took a good deal of determination and encouragement from friends.

Many studies confirm that an exchange year can breath new life into many situations in life. Some seek their identity, others want to break the mould.
The only thing in common seems to be the direction of their personal development. That’s why I, too, have now overcome my travel anxiety and even like hanging abroad – a lot.
Still, it might not be a good idea to regard your exchange period just as an self-improvement project. In fact, student exchange is like another freshman year, except that it all happens in half of the time and in English.
It’s best just to enjoy the ride and see what you’ll end up gaining. In any case, these adventurous couple of months have nurtured me more than oatmeal ever did.

I cannot predict how your exchange experience will turn out. There are exchange students that almost seem to be born anew. There are those who feel homesick. Some are all about partying and some all about studying. But above all, there are exchange semesters that are a balanced mix of all of the above.
The balance I found was a combination of hiking on Sundays and dancing away in a chicken costume made of a laundry basket. You run the show, coincidence just adds some flavour.

Student exchange isn’t a time out from reality, just from your old routines. But at least in my case, it has also given a whole lot of new energy and spirit. That is something I will pack in my suitcase, in the space that used to be taken by travel anxiety, and take it back home. You, too, have long odds on having a pleasant exchange: according to a study, more than 90 % of exchange students are happy that they left. Do you think there are as many satisfied Toyota-owners? Yet, they sell.
Still chewing on your nails and being doubtful? That won’t cut it. Watch Mel Gibson’s Braveheart twice, say your Ave Marias and go have a chat with the International Coordinator of your department. Like, now. Have an exchange of your life! Geronimo!

Ville Salonen

(Translation: Essi Varis)