Exchange Program- What you need to know

Picture this: you have been accepted to an amazing exchange program in your dream country. Are you excited, are you nervous, are you anxious about what all to pack and where to start from? Don’t worry, even I was. 

It’s daunting to pack everything you own in one or two suitcases when you’re going to a different country. Before I left I was jumpy, I didn’t know what was waiting for me, and how to pack ‘accordingly’. After numerous, google searches and reaching out to tons of friends who have been through that, I was able to survive. Here are a few things that helped me 

  1. Don’t pack everything you own – I cannot stress this enough. I really wanted to carry all my 8 chic pairs of footwear, and I did carry them. It seemed until I reached there and had to lug my two suitcases around Charles De Gaule alone while looking for a cab. 
  2. Know the weather! – Don’t underestimate the weather in another country. I thought, ill be able to handle, the Northern France weather easily, until I was shivering even on sunny days.
  3. Be minimalist- Pack all clothing pieces, which can be mismatched easily. Don’t take things which you can wear only once. 
  4. Insurance – In India, we don’t bother ourselves with health insurance, however, almost in any other country, without health insurance, you won’t be able to even visit a hospital. Also, it’s essential for you to have your insurance, for visa purposes. 
  5. Apply for Visa in advance- Don’t wait till the last minute to apply for the visa. Once you get your acceptance letter, call the consulate, collect all the necessary documents, and apply ASAP.
  6. Carry a scanned copy of your documents – Carry scanned copies of your passport, student id, address proof, and a passport size picture, you will need it everywhere. I carried only one of each, and end up paying for photocopies, every time I had to get a transport card or supermarket card. 
  7. Learn basic Phrases – I love Europe, but it’s hard to find someone who speaks English there. I went with just knowing ‘Bonjour’, ‘Merci’, and Au revoir. I struggled. I couldn’t even place an order, or ask the supermarket supervisor where the sugar is kept. Download Duolingo, or go on youtube, learn the basics. Don’t forget to download Google translator too!
  8. Don’t forget to carry chargers – Just don’t!
  9. Leave expensive items at home  – You’re in a foreign country trying to take care of yourself, you don’t need the pressure of taking care of expensive things you bought from home. 
  10. Don’t carry food – Ironic coming from me, but don’t carry lots of food! I love my spices, but carrying food takes up a lot of space. You will easily find Indian stores, even in the smallest of towns, I can vouch for that. Also, you’re going so far away, explore the food there. After all, you’re there for such a short term. 
  11. Get your accommodation sorted way in advance – Book your accommodation, preferably in a lively area. Before you go also explore the area to see what all is easily available to you. 
  12. Don’t carry a lot of things to deal with homesickness– Naturally, you’re going to miss home, but don’t carry a lot of things for that. Few photos should be enough!
  13. Electrical Converter (Adaptors) – Take the electric adapter with you, when you leave. Not every country has the same plug point as your home country. Tip – I took an adaptor and an extension box from my home country, this helped me a lot!
  14. Download local maps online – You’re in a foreign country, you stumbled out of the pub after midnight, you don’t have money on you, your phone has no network, and you don’t know your way back home. It always comes in handy to have the local maps downloaded offline. 
  15. Learn nuances of the timezone – It’s not complicated, but it can be frustrating. Once after coming back to my apartment at night, I called my parents in India at 2:30 am for them cause I forget about it. Be careful and keep it in mind. 
  16. Prepare a small medicine kit– Take a few doses of medicines with you! Do not think you can ‘manage something there’. Go to a doctor, and get a few basic medicines permitted. 
  17. Figure out local dishes in advance– Before you go look up everything. Figure what all you can eat, especially if you have any dietary restrictions. Being a vegetarian, my options were slim, but french pastries always saved the day for me!
  18. Accept a little uncertainty – It’s a life-changing experience, without a doubt. However, it’s not as rosy as it sounds. Just accept a little uncertainty, and be tough.
  19. Be ready to get cultural shocks – French people give you a kiss on your cheeks as a greeting, but as an Indian anyone coming close to me used to scare me. However, over time it grows on you. You have to accept the culture and adapt. (Don’t ever do anything you’re not comfortable with)
  20. Be ready to come back home– This is something no one prepares you for! No matter how much I missed my friends and family when I had landed there, I shed tears while coming back. It’s hard to leave when you’re having the time of your life.  

It’s almost been a year since I went to France and not that I look back, it has made an impact on me. When I left, I didn’t think it would be a huge jump ‘to the future’ me. My experience was cut short due to the pandemic, in spite of that, it was the best thing that happened to me. 

If and when you go there, savor every aspect of your life abroad. You will never get an experience in quite the same way, so make the most of it. Live in the moment and soak in everything! Say yes to everything while you’re there. 

First appeared on Unbox college

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