My Instagram is full of photos of friends who have been to other nations to study, and the romance of those countries is alluring. Like this, students have always been attracted to studying abroad. I was the same. I know going overseas would be a valuable life experience, and I have no regrets, but I wasn't as happy every day as I expected I would be. I am going to present my life as an exchange student, which was full of difficulties and loneliness but also dreams and romance, to give you some tips before going on an exchange.
The beginning full of romance
My older sister went overseas to study during high school. I was lucky enough to visit her in the U.S. twice, and I was surprised to see her homestay house, its large garden, and its swimming pool. I was also surprised by the wide road, the beautiful sky, and the oilier but tastier food than in Korea. It was from those experiences that I had strong romantic thoughts about the U.S., so I decided to go to Canada as an exchange student after entering university. At the beginning, everything seems to be wonderful, just like in my dreams. I couldn't believe the size of the houses, the spacious parks and lakes, the size of the cities, and the department stores full of unique dishes and brands that I could not encounter easily in Korea. The romance was as strong as it was when I was in middle school. I felt like I was living a Canadian drama dream because I was submersed in English, everywhere. One day I applied for a one-day trip to Cheon Island near Ottawa with my Korean friends. I also went on a two-week trip to the western U.S., an area I had only seen on TV. I tried everything available to me, even if I would have been hesitant in Korea.
An end to my happy days
It took me some time to get used to everything as it was all new. I made hundreds of vows to never forget my original intentions before leaving for Canada, but once I got there, my original intentions somehow got lost. Unlike at SMWU, I had much more work in classes compared to Korea and I had more group assignments, but all I could add to the talk was 'yes'. I had lost my way. After autumn, the weather became chilled and winter approached. It snowed heavily in eastern Canada, and the sun started to set around 4 o'clock, earlier than in Korea. The weather fluctuated greatly. I realized for the first time that I was greatly influenced by the weather. Unlike in Korea where people play a lot at night, in Ottawa, people spend most of their nights at home with their family or close friends. Excessive amounts of time at home alone lead to loneliness becoming my friend.
Making my way as an exchange student
Around Christmas when my fellow SMWU peers left home, I fell deep into depression. It was the end of the year, but I merely woke as the sun went down and slept when the sun came up. I felt sorry for myself, but I lacked the will to move my body despite having the opportunity to spend time in another country. I had never felt this lethargic in my life, I didn't know how to overcome it.
As the 2020 New Year approached, I started to feel a bit fresher. I reflected on my state during November to December, I vowed not to regret my days and the rest of my time on the exchange. I began taking walks when the sun was up because the day was short, and I headed to the gym daily to lose any remaining lethargy. Rather than sitting still and waiting for a friend to contact me, I actively participated in activities to make friends. Just because I wanted to improve myself and make friends, it was not easy to improve the situation naturally. I joined a DIY club event alone, but I ended up quietly making bookmarks for an hour. I applied for a day excursion organized by a Christian club, but I sat alone on the bus, a first for me. I realized for the first time the meaning of time passing slowly in a busy crowd.
Nevertheless, I did not get discouraged. I gained the courage to approach others who were alone like me. By the time we were making our way home from the day excursion, I had made a friend. I found my inner courage. I asked a friend about schooling and we got close quickly. We went to karaoke together, which was a first for me in Canada. I also went on a skiing trip to one of the world's most popular ski resorts for 2 nights 3 days through the school's buddy program that I joined during the winter semester. During the trip, I made friends that I have maintained till now.
Nothing around me changed. My surroundings remained the same. No one approached me or cared about me. It was only when I changed my attitude that I made friends during the winter semester, more than I had made during the fall semester. By changing, I was able to do various activities. Exchange students can be compared to DIY activities because they depend 100% on the choices of the individual and are not regulated by others. In other words, your exchange student life depends on your attitude. I went through feelings of 'fun' to depression to joy. I lost my motivation quickly and spent my days lethargically during my fall semester, but I recovered and filled my days with joy during my winter semester. Decorate your life as an exchange student so that you don't regret it!
Student exchange: a privilege for only college students
'I like to experience life in a new environment.' This statement is not a valid enough reason for applying to a student exchange program, so I don't recommend the program for those wishing this. I would like to recommend a student exchange for anyone interested in learning about the importance of others and anyone interested in maturing as an adult through valuable experiences.
Personally, I gained confidence and trust in myself that I didn't know I had. I dealt with difficulties that I could not understand from experiencing a life of independence. Before going on the exchange, I thought I could manage everything on my own, but now I know the importance of others and the power of accepting help and support. Sometimes I see posts from students who wish to go on a student exchange in order to learn English more and for this reason they plan to keep themselves at arm's length with other Koreans. I would like to say to them, do not forgo changes to enjoy Korean food and talk about Korea in a foreign country with other Korean people. These, too, are long-lasting memories of your days overseas.
Last, the exchange program gives you the opportunity to grow and mature mentally as well as develop as an individual. You can make friends with international students and travel between the United States and Canada relatively easily, but those are just some of the perks you can experience in your daily life overseas. One small but great example is that you can wear whatever you want and walk in a large park without fear of others' eyes upon you. I'd like to end with, do not forget the real reason you go overseas on a student exchange. Hold that idea in your heart firmly, and while abroad make the perfume that resides within for the rest of your life!