General tips from students that have been on exchange

We have asked students that went on exchange in the past to give general tips about their experience. Here are their feedback:

Don’t hesitate to explore, don’t fear to make friends. Time goes by quickly, don’t waste it.
Definitely get a bike to commute with! Go to a new city every weekend. Work hard, play hard. Take a lot of good books to read. Think about easy and cheap recipes before you leave, and take it with. Make sure the accommodation includes wifi, gas and have double glass windows.
Make sure that you are well prepared.

Contact the academic staff of the host institution and find out exactly what you are getting yourself into.

Carry enough money to supplement the monthly stipend
Apply to any exchange opportunity because you will learn things you never imagined.
Make the best use of the time
Take every opportunity, be brave and step out of your comfort zone. Be aware that you have to be flexible.

Also, do not spend every weekend traveling. Part of the experience is learning to live and fully intergrate yourself into the place and culture and that becomes very difficult if you are away all the time. By all means go traveling but invest in the friendships in Amsterdam (or your home city) first.

There will be good times and low times, embrace it all!
Eat at the student cafes and get involved in community activities such as visiting museums. Finnish people are shy so you will have to make the first move.
Before you go tell yourself you will be open to new experiences, thus when you arrive say “yes” to everything. If new people invite you on a trip, go! Just try and from the beginning be as receptive to a new experience as possible. It is so vastly different to what you are used to so whatever happens it is bound to be fun, memorable and formative.
Eventually a problem is solved by just consistently going up and expressing dissatisfaction with the situation.
 Learn your train route home by yourself as quickly as possible. Although at first the train system seems intimidating it is extremely easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. In this regard, I found the google maps app indispensable when travelling on unfamiliar routes. You simply give the input for your start and end train stations and it plots the quickest and cheapest routes for you. If possible, try not to register for classes at 9am as you will have to endure the rush hour trains. With regards to Japanese society its best to just roll with it and not get upset about isolated incidences, as they are bound to happen again. Maintain a positive outlook and if possible try to travel out of Tokyo for a true Japanese experience.
In terms of adventure and good education,  Kennesaw State University is a place be, not to mention other places you can visit in the USA.
I would advise talking to a student who has been to the same host university and ask them all the questions you can possible think of, because the information the host university gives is quite limited.

I would also advise them to save money in advance, because Beijing is expensive and with the exchange rate at the moment it is even worse.

I would also advise them to have the right attitude in terms of studying. Because the time to improve your Chinese is quite limited, but if you go with the idea to study as much as possible, the exchange will be very rewarding.

Don’t worry, you will figure it out, you might feel like you are thrown in at the deep-end, but honestly, whats the worst that could happen.

Just be open for new opinions while still holding on to your roots, who you are and the values you believe in.

Join societies and try to befriend locals, not just other exhange students.
One: ensure which campus your classes take place and try to live in the same city.

Two: look for housing in advance!

Three: I would not recommend the Leidse Pas (only applicable if you do OWL week). It costs a lot, and I don’t know anyone who really befitted from it.

Four: on that note, OWL week is definitely worth it. I strongly recommend that students partake.

Register at the municipality immediately, so you can open a bank account soon.
Attend all the university and faculty arranged social activities. These are great ways to meet new people and make friends.
Enjoy the beer, food and all Ghent has to offer. This has been an amazing experience and make everyday count when your here. Do as much exploring and try to do something new everyday.
Live in University accommodation. Tour as cheaply as possible. Do not fall into tourist traps and spend a lot of money on things which you do not need.
Don’t. go abroad with any expectations. Emerge yourself into the culture and make many local friends because it will ultimately help improve your Chinese.
Apply right now. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
If you are going to be using a bank card (i.e debit/credit card) take a back up! Make friends with the locals and don’t just stick to other international students, there’s a reason you chose the country your host institution is in
Sign up and participate in everything, challenge yourself to operate outside of your comfort zone
Think about the time you will be spending overseas and your aim. I went four months and at the end I realised that another 2 months would have been very beneficial to keep the friendships that I have formed. I would not have chosen another university (with a longer semester) if I could choose again, but I think it is good to think about it and create realistic expectations.
Also, be in the moment and say yes to everything –  I did things I would have always been too afraid to do (like swimming in the amazon river where i know theres piranhas and alligators) but its a once in a lifetime opportunity and you have to enjoy it to the max! Also, Brazil is quite expensive and you’re going to need some money to be able to travel and explore a little bit!
Be open to anything which comes your way!
DO IT. Even if you scared or nervous for leaving home, just do it. Best thing of my life and just have no regrets.
Stay off campus, its a lot cheaper.
Choose your subjects wisely. Rather do more subjects before the break, so that if you have Stellenbosch exams, you have more time to prepare for them in the second term.
Chat to the people who went to the exchange university before you, about where to stay and what to study! Also- budget constraints aside, never say no to new experiences or travel.
Bern is a different and exciting experience
Exchange students should be flexible in the host institution.
Europe is expensive! Haha *this cannot be overstated.

But, more seriously, I believe that adequate preparation can go a long way.

However, if you have an attitude that recognises that this is an amazing opportunity and a special time in your life then any challenge can be overcome.

Just go! And when you are there, meet new people! And go travelling! And just have an amazing time. O and get a good cellphone contract – it helps a lot.
Take dress-up clothes with for the crazy international parties. They are expensive in the shops.
Just do it!!!
Gather as much information as you can and then just let whatever is to come , come.
Travel as much as you can. It is a once in a lifetime experience and try to meet as many new people as possible. Even if you just start a conversation with the person next to you on a 2 hour train ride. You will be surprised by what you learn from other people.
Do not ever lose your passport.

Travel as much as you can.

Go to berlin, portugal and the Czech republic, its amazing

Travel light
Do not live outside the university, use university accommodation. And do not wait to the end, I someone says lets do this, do it. The exchange will be over before you know it.
Don’t freak out when you have an off day, it does not mean it won’t get better again. Just keep busy, especially when you are feeling down. Participate and go out, even if you do not feel like it.
Take a weekend bag along on exchange, makes travelling a lot easier.
Know your destination and surroundings and pack light as will most probably never wear all the clothes you packed.
I think exchange is a wonderful experience and there will be some tough times but there will also be some great times so they should just sign up and experience it for themselves.
Say yes more than you say no; don’t be afraid to try new things!
Learn Norwegian if you can fit it in your schedule! It’s fun.

Buy ice grips for your shoes, it’s no fun falling on the ice multiple times a day.

Attend the buddy week and make friends during this time.

Join a student club or organisation.

Ski – it’s totally great

Norwegian men do not approach women, it’s the other way around. You might be shocked by how “assertive” the women are!

Take part in absolutely everything and make as many friends as you can.
Just enjoy it and embrace every opportunity that is offered to while you are away. The time goes so quickly and before you know it its over so just enjoy it!
Not to stress while there about everything, but to just have fun and take everything in!
1. Do not overload on coursework

2. Travel with friends that you meet on exchange

3. Make friends with the locals

4. Go do things that you would not usually do. Being more spontaneous than usually enabled me to meet a variety of people and to build many friendships.

Put yourself out there
Don’t be frightened by the administrative upheavals and all the tiny fears that may accompany the decision to go on exchange. All those things fade away in the process, and in the end, none of them remain. Going on this exchange will be one of the best decisions you have ever made. You will meet people that would have otherwise never been accessible to you, you will travel and you will reflect and you will step back on home ground, knowing that you have grown and that you share a closer connection to yourself and the world around you.
I would advise future exchange students to start looking for accommodation from the moment that they are awarded the scholarship. Finding central, fully furnished, decent accommodation all the way from South Africa was by far the biggest challenge.
After the first three weeks of the exchange I burst out crying and was ready to climb on the first flight back to South Africa. All the initial adrenaline rush has settled to normal and I realized how much I was moved out of my comfort zone. New work and unknown expectations laid ahead and I doubted whether I would be able to make it. My advice would be to be aware of such a fragile moment, embrace it and get past it. Once I had that break-down moment I was stronger and did not look back once.

My advice to new exchange students would be to see as much as you can and speak to as many different people as possible. Make connections and keep in touch once you are home. Travel lightly, but make sure you always have a book for writing down ideas and a good camera to document. Write down all your ideas and new experiences, even if it is just keywords, dates and locations.

Yes, take part in every activity possible. Do not become a recluse, engage engage and engage. Meet every culture you can and truly listen to their ways of reasoning. If it is possible, mimick the incredible work ethic of your host country.
Make sure that you fill the time with other things than only studies. There are so many conferences,workshops etc etc which you can attend where you can meet really interesting people.
Bring your own medicine.
Save as much money as possible and then don’t be shy about spending it on exciting experiences once you arrive
Don’t be afraid if you feel overwhelmed – stay calm and carry on.
Go to China!
Make the best use of the opportunity.
Enjoy every moment. Don’t be shy. Reinvent yourself. This is your opportunity to truly be you regardless of what you have become in the bubble and mould that is Stellenbosch. Use this as an opportunity to discover yourself.
Definitely read the blogs of previous students who have gone on exchange. You will get a better idea of what it’s really like.
Yes, engage in as much activities as possible. Each interaction shapes and challenges ones worldviews and standards.
Use and enjoy every single day, hour and minute of your exchange. It might seem like a long time, but it passes in a flash. Never tell yourself that “you’ll do something later”, because you’ll probably end up not doing it.

Try not to fight the new culture and keep comparing it with your own, but rather start embracing it as soon as possible. And make sure that you don’t only interact with other international students but with the local people too (especially if you are there to learn a language).

Start your VISA application as soon as possible, it takes a lot of time. Also make sure you have a police clearance certificate if you plan to go on exchange to Belgium.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

“An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks or jumping off cliffs. It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all those you meet along the way.”

Where ever you go to, allow yourself to be influenced, challenged and changed. But at the same time allow yourself to share a little bit of Africa with the hosts as well.

Go with an open mind, but stay true to yourself. There are multiple cultures and social circles at Xiang’An campus, but it can still be a lonely place far from home.   Support one another.
Try to go with someone you know. It may sounds like it defeats the purpose, but I found that I had formed a much larger network, because I traveled with a fellow Stellenbosch student.
Have an open mind and decide that your exchange will be good. attitude is everything
Attend every event possible, meet as many people as possible, try something new every single day!
Go on exchange! Make it happen
Make sure that you’ve activated your bank card to work in China so you can easily withdraw money. A cash passport is not necessary. When they say that you have to pay the deposit money on the day you arrive, don’t worry – you have about a week to do so!
BRING MORE MONEY!
Speak to someone who has been before to find out information before you go.
Make the most of every moment, it goes by so fast!
Do your research before you go, speak to other student that have been on exchanges before. Friendliness and openess will get you a long way
Do not try to do research in China, everything is blocked.
Please learn German before you come.
Do your research properly especially if you’re going to a non-English speaking country. Don’t be afraid and just go for it! It’s an experience of a lifetime of which you will hold dear for the rest of your life. Just prepare properly and go in with an open mind and you will never be dissappointed
Make sure you know the reason for choosing a certain country. It is easy to choose a country because you’ve heard something about it, and then to get there and not like it. Do your research on the host country/city/institution. Make an effort to go see places and meet new people, but remember that your main reason for the exchange is to develop academically.
Learn the language of where your host university is and save up some money – Europe is expensive! Apply to a University that has a bursary programme.
Take part in as much as you can. Get out of your comfort zone and do as much as you can in the time you have.
Go as young as possible. Travel a lot. Don’t convert everything back to Rands – you will go insane.
GET OUT THERE! It is an experience I NEED to experience again. The travel bug will bite, and it is a sweet, soothing sting! It is so great to go out there and experience everything! Don’t sit and coop up in your house, or hang on to small things that will prevent you from this experience. Do everything that comes your way, no matter how big or small, experience it and dont be caught up in shyness or fear of the unknown, you will miss too many things. Join a sports team, club, institution or gathering as it is the only way to meet and form relationships with the locals. Don’t be caught up in technology or introverted things, manage your time with studies and social life and you will get through fine! The education system is there to help you achieve what you want, if you have the drive and want to learn, it works well in your favour. Try find a nice balance (Easier said than done). Dont tie yourself down before you leave, be sure you will let everything go while youre there so you can be open minded to the new life. Most of all, dont be scared!
An exchange is life changing. If you get the opportunity, max out on it!! do not stay cooped up in your room thinking about how far home is and how your family is not there with you…. Make the most of it!!! But don’t forget to study hard… it is very easy to get side tracked.
Invest in the place you will stay.
Study hard but efficiently so that you have enough time to explore and do fun stuff.
I think living in private accommodation is a better option than living in university accommodation. Budget and plan financially before you go.
Travel around Europe as much as you can!
Do some reading on the courses you are planning to take before hand. If the courses you wish to take require knowledge of Software, do a coursera course to figure out the software before you leave.
Be open to people and experiences, be realistic and know that you will need to put your work first at times. Most of all accept the differences and embrace them.
Be prepared to come back as a changed person. You are about to have the time of your life.
Go over with an open mind ready to embrace the culture. Lots of international students had a really horrible time because they allowed the weather to get them down, whereas I decided to embrace the lifestyle. I joined the outdoor society and did a whole lot of cools stuff.
Make sure you are well prepared-mentally, financially etc. Exchange can be tough at times and take it’s toll on you emotionally but in all honesty it was one of the best decisions I ever made and I loved every second of it.
Stay close as possible to the campus
Try and make a new friend every day; buy or hire a bicycle and cycle to nearby towns; get lost (deliberately); cook with the locals (its cheaper and you learn their culinary culture); attend musical concerts, theatre shows, operas etc, that are playing (a lot of times free of charge) in town; travel as much as possible (alone and with other); try and speak with as much professors at your university as possible (build connections, tell them about your research interests); try and speak the local language whenever you can.
Enjoy it, and make lots of friends- go out and do things!
Be open to new things. Go with good intentions of what you wish you achieve, but don’t expect too much. Be willing to work before you play. If faced with the choice of being a nice guy or not a nice guy, be nice. A little bit of positivity goes a long way.
Be organised. Being an exhange student takes a lot of planning and preparation.
Read up on culture shock, attend orientation and join clubs of interest to meet people. Do as much as possible!
Go with an open mind, don’t write people off because of first impressions. often people from Wisconsin come across as rude, however they are very nice people once you get to know them! Strangers will often look at you like a mad-man if you say hello!
Make friends with all the exchange students and dont form clicks.
Integrate with the culture (although it’s incredibly tough and a reality check), do not go the Mzungu-route and use money to buy your way out of the tough living conditions of the local people. Do not isolate yourself. Try to have both Ugandan and other friends for emotional support. Don’t expect sympathy. Be extremely patient with forming friendships, making appointments, waiting for anything to happen. Let go (!) of things- especially your control of organising and structuring your life. Try to stay aware that you are not the centre of things and your consciousness doesn’t matter to anyone else. Everyone is struggling. Take life day by day
Interact with people, don’t lock yourself up and expect to make friends while sitting in your room, be adventurous, most of all have a good time, maike the most of your time there, i know it was hard for me to come back to SA.
Join CouchSurfing online. I met my best friends and contacts through an event hosted by couchsurfers on my first day. Also, clothing is very expensive there. You can buy sufficient winter gear in South Africa.
IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFE TIME. APPROACH IT WITH A VIEW TO CHANGE AND TO GROW. DO NOT APPROACH THE EXPERIENCE WITH A MIND TO STAY THE SAME.
If your exchange is during the second half of the year (and in Northern hemisphere) go a few weeks earlier so that you can make the most of the short European summer
Go into the exchange with an open mind. Be ready and willing to learn and accept people for who they are. Respect other the culture of your host country.
Raak betrokke so veel as moontlik, dit bou jou sosiale kapitaal; wees trots op jou eie kultuur; respekteer ander se unieke kulture; Dit help om die reels beter te ken as wat die bestuur dit ken.
Go for it. There is no excuse not to do it! Save money beforehand and don’t be scared to go to different towns with your bike. Make lots of Dutch friends, make sure to eat their food and learn their language 🙂 ENJOY!
It is a great opportunity which should not be missed!  It is not always the most glamorous of times, but those homesick times come and go and then the rest of the time is great!

"When it comes to suitcases: backpack beats duffle bag, suitcase with wheels beats backpack and convertible backpack with wheels trumps everything. " Summer School Traveler Corneli Smit