There goes a lot of work into planning a vacation or even just a short trip, (unless you are one of the people that make money by posting pictures on instagram -everything is easy for them, obviously) and while the annual trip to Italy may seem more like a routine than anything else for some, they were also planned by someone. Now think about not only going away for a fortnight but for several months or even a whole year. To make it easier for you and your braincells I am going to spoiler you a little and tell you that they involve not only multiple hours of paperwork, but also some sort of emotional preparation.
On to serious thoughts for the ones considering studying abroad, I do want to encourage you to not give up after you found out how much work becoming an exchange student requires, because only if you strive for the better you can achieve it. If you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.
The first step I would recommend taking after making a decision on whether you want to be an exchange student or not, would be figuring out the duration of your stay abroad. Six months away from home can be longer than you think – leave alone a year. As soon as you`re done with thinking about this, discussing it with your parents, (who are obviously a big part of the whole process) and making up your mind, you can move on to:
1. finding an agency – which is what I would recommend, since getting a VISA (in case you want to stay in America or anywhere else outside the EU) and being accepted to go to a foreign school without an agency is nearly impossible. There are numerous exchange agencies which can help you to move forward quicker. They may differ in terms of what you are required to do or have in order to be accepted and allowed in, as they all have their own guidelines, but when it comes to this issue, the internet really is your best friend. Surf the web and gather all the information you need in order to make a decision.
2. After you’ve chosen an agency you will have to write an essay which will not only show off your language skills but is also essential in finding a host-family for you. I am well aware that there are several ways of finding a family that will take you in, and quite literally treat you as one of them. While sponsored placement is not commonly used to determine where you go, it still is an option, even though it seems more likely that you are matched up based up on data you give to the agency.
3. Doing well academically isn’t a must when applying for a year abroad, yet it does come in handy as not only will you get accepted to schools easier, but you also won’t have such a hard time when coming back and having to catch up with the material taught in your class at home. Depending on where you are going, classes might be easier or harder. It’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed as teachers pile on „busy-work“ the first couple of weeks. Usually the mass of new stuff you’ll be learning, experiencing and seeing within this period of time is more intimidating than the level of difficulty.
4. While there are many more major steps you need to think about before studying abroad, you need to become aware oft he fact that once you made the decision and start preparing yourself for whatever may come, quitting is not an option anymore. It is about experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on, as sooner or later these are the things that shape the adult you will become.
While surely we want to collect stamps in our passports, what we really gain isn’t the ink on some pages, it’s the stories and memories tattooed across our souls. We don’t set out for repetition but for experiencing new things, broadening our mind and (ironically) repeatedly stepping out of our own comfort zone.
Greetings from abroad,