Most universities offer exchange programs for students to study one semester in another university. This is definitely a great opportunity that enriches any student’s undergraduate life. Being an exchange student at the University of London, I have experienced and learnt so many things that would not be possible elsewhere.
If you are currently an undergraduate student in Indonesia, going on exchange will first and foremost give you that experience of studying and living abroad that Indonesia Mengglobal had always been advocating.
Merely reading about exchange programs and experiencing it are two very different things. Especially if you are aiming for overseas postgraduate studies, this experience can be a first taste of what it is going to be like. So here goes, following are my reasons on why I highly recommend everyone to go on exchange programs.
Go on exchange for the teaching and learning experience
Doing a business degree at the National University of Singapore, I am used to having projects and presentations on creating marketing launch plans, writing management reports and constructing stock portfolios. Contrastingly, at the University of London, all my assignments involve reading countless journals and writing academic essays. Additionally, the education system emphasizes on the need of being independent (to rely on self-study). Not many classes are held because we are expected to read far beyond than the professor's discussions.
Go on exchange to toughen up your character
Believe me, it will. My first weeks were one heck of a roller coaster ride. I was, of course, very excited. But, I was really scared too; I was all alone. I learned to be more independent as I did not have my family and usual friend circle to count on. Making friends in Singapore was easy, but doing the same in London, with all the cultural differences, was not at all easy.
In addition, contradicting to what my friends believe, I am always nervous on meeting new people, not knowing what to say and unconsciously getting myself into awkward situations. I still had to, however, walk into that room full of intimidating-looking strangers and make new friends. My time in London has really taught me to do things I have always thought that I will never, in a million years, be able to do.
Go on exchange for the tradition and culture
While being in London on exchange, I have learnt many things about – and actually experienced – the British way of living. There are the trivial, quirky stuff, like participating in pub quizzes (a game of trivia questions in a pub). But, there are also more serious things to do. Conversations with local friends have given me an insight as to how the British think and hence, enabled me to understand them a little bit more. It has certainly been an eye-opening and enriching experience.
Go on exchange to travel
This is my favorite part. Going on exchange has given me the chance to travel. Mind you, there is a difference between traveling and going on a holiday. Different from just jalan-jalan, the traveling is more about exploration and learning.
Everyone I know who has been in an exchange program usually uses free days to travel. Most of us are on tight budgets too, so money managing skills are really used here as we scout for the cheapest tickets (a friend managed to land a Warsaw-Stockholm flight for 0.25 euro) and accommodation (couchsurf to stay in a place for free). After all, we have come so far to wherever we all are, so might as well use the chance to explore more neighboring places.
Go on exchange and learn about thankfulness and not taking things for granted
I have learnt, firstly, to be more thankful and not take things for granted anymore. When you are on exchange, there will be a lot of things you will have to live without. In Singapore, I used to make a fuss about weird (and inaccurate) bus arrival timings, or the crowded MRT rides during peak hours. But ever since I got to London, I promised to never again complain about the Singapore public transport system; the one here is four times as expensive and not even half as nice and clean. And don’t even get me started on taking the tube in London during rush hour.
Having said all these, I firmly believe that going on exchange is an experience any student should not miss. Check with your university for opportunities available to you. Do not be deterred by costs because it is actually more affordable than you might think it is and there are also grants and scholarships available for studying abroad. The administration process, however, can get quite complicated, but just adhere to all procedures.
This article originally appeared in Indonesia Mengglobal, a site where Indonesian students and alumni from US top schools such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley share their study-abroad tips and experience. The site aspires to make high-quality global education more accessible for Indonesian students.
Acacia is a third year business student at National University of Singapore (NUS), currently on exchange at University of London.