Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing the Alps rising up in front of your eyes. It's an everyday part of life in Konstanz. If things I have never experienced in my life become the most common things I meet in a new place, it is only natural that I feel awkward in the gap between them. However, I think adapting to new things and enduring awkwardness is the first thing to learn and get to know as an exchange student. And I believe that in that process, we get to discover things that we didn't know before and make a better version of ourselves.
Life in Konstanz
The first reason for becoming an exchange student was a vague desire for challenges. I didn't have a big dream about being an exchange student itself. When I was young, I had had experiences living abroad, and because not all of them were happy experiences I thought that having lived in a foreign country was enough. However, through COVID-19, there were times to spend more at home and felt weary with the restrictions on what I could do. Others may think that I applied to be an exchange student without a big dream or motivation, but when I decided to do it, I needed something to evoke excitement in my life and that was being an exchange student. So, I entered the department of politics and public administration at Konstanz University, which was a priority when applying for to be an exchange student. Konstanz is a city in the German province of Baden-Württemberg, located in southern Germany, and Lake Boden and the Rhine River flow through. It also faces the Swiss border, so it is close enough to go there on foot. On fine days, you can see the Alps from anywhere in Konstanz. The city of Konstanz itself is not that modern or big, but it is safe and very clean and has all the infrastructure for a desirable life. It is also famous as a place where Germans come to relax on their vacation.
More than studying
Konstanz University was founded in 1966 and is one of the few schools in Germany with a campus. The most impressive part of Konstanz University was the various special programs for exchange students. The program GO-Konstanz, which is held in March and September, a month before the start of the semester, was particularly impressive. The GO-Konstanz program, in which I participated, had an Intensive German course in the morning, 9 am to 12:30, and an orientation program for exchange students in the afternoon for four weeks in March. In the German intensive course, it is a very good environment to learn German because one professor is in charge of fewer than 15 students. However, what impressed me more was the orientation program. Exchange students have to do a lot of things on their own because they are living abroad, such as getting insurance, visas, and residence registration. But GO-Konstanz's orientation program helps with everything. During the orientation time, the person in charge of the International Office informs you of all documents, including residence registration and visa, and helps you establish accounts and register insurance, so you don't have to get a visa in advance or do it alone in Korea beforehand. Living out of the country can be a big challenge, but it helps you a lot to settle down and adapt to Konstanz because there is always someone helping with the most important things. And even after the orientation program, the international office is so easy to contact, so it helps exchange students a lot.
Now or never
Those who dream of being an exchange student do not do so by thinking simply about studying in a place other than Korea. Being able to enjoy what you can as a student and living abroad with what you want to study is the biggest advantage that exchange students can have. One of the biggest advantages of being an exchange student in Germany and Europe is traveling. Many countries in Europe can be reached not only by airplane but also by train or bus. It is my daily life to spend time studying and doing homework at school on weekdays and think about where to travel on weekends. If I were in Korea, I would never imagine myself thinking about whether to go to France or Spain on the weekend, but all of this is possible because I am in Europe as an exchange student. In addition, there are more chances of going to places that are so hard to visit if you were in Korea. I am attending the 75th Cannes Film Festival in May. It is difficult for normal people to go because only film officials or reporters are allowed to participate in the festival. However, students who are interested in film can participate in the festival if they submit their cover letters and gain admission. I also applied for the Cannes Film Festival to experience as many things as possible while I am an exchange student and I got admitted, so I will be attending the Cannes Film Festival in May. There are so many things to experience and learn as an exchange student. It is not only about studying or learning about new cultures. So don't be afraid of challenges. If you want to do it, then go for it and experience as much as you can.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
Being an exchange student is not always fun, of course. Since being an exchange student starts with leaving one's comfort zone, it cannot be said that the life of an exchange student is always happy. For me, the biggest difficulty was loneliness. It is not simply feeling lonely, but because I experienced the feeling of loneliness for the first time in my life when I became an exchange student. At first, I was worried about how to handle the feeling. However, in the end, I thought that dealing with emotions that I was feeling for the first time could be one of the things I could learn, so I didn't think too seriously about it, and tried to control my emotions by taking a walk once a day and going outdoors. Also, as an exchange student, I sometimes encounter problems that I cannot solve by myself. There are times when the problem feels greater than itself and that would not have been felt so much if I were in Korea. In that case, rather than overly obsessing about the problem and continuing to think about it, it is most necessary to put one's mind to solving it if I can and ignoring it if I can't do anything with it. It doesn't seem to help much to think too deeply about the things I can't change. So, try to just find what is good about that moment while focusing on the moment itself. It may be said that it is best to have no problems or worries as an exchange student, but I think it is best to learn and experience a lot as an exchange student though you might encounter some difficulties. Therefore, even if there is a difficulty, I think it is a most valuable experience if there is something to learn from it.
Enjoy every moment
What I want to say to Sookmyungians, who dream of being an exchange student, or who are about to become an exchange student, or who are already exchange students like me, and to all those Sookmyungians who are reading this, is to enjoy every moment. No matter where you are, that moment is a time that you will never get back, and the most important thing is to find and enjoy the happiest thing at the moment. I think the most important thing is not to be afraid of challenging yourself, but to take on the challenge and enrich your life by enjoying the process rather than the results.