Everyone out there is giving you reasons to go on exchange but which semester should you do it? Isn’t it a terrible idea to go in January, where you not only miss ANU’s o-week, but also your exchange university’s freshers week? Those living in halls have their friendship groups sorted, the weather is miserably cold (classic UK), and you seem to be the only one walking around campus still struggling to find your classes. However, after my first three weeks at the University of Nottingham, I’ve left my doubts behind and realised going on exchange in their semester 2 is actually a pretty good idea!
1. The students already there know their stuff
I moved into a residential hall full of first year students, who had started university in September last year. It was really good to hang out with people who knew where all the buildings were, what bars to go to in town, and which catered meal options were good (and more importantly, to avoid the fish at Friday dinners). From my own experience and what I’ve heard, ANU colleges provide a much higher level of pastoral care than overseas halls, so I was really grateful to move in with people who could help me settle in.
On a sidenote, I recommend living in a hall with domestic students, as opposed to certain accommodation targeted at international students. It’s often much harder to become good friends with locals, while exchanges are always keen to meet new people at international student events.
2. The weather gets better
It was really cold when my classes first started in the middle of January, and even worse for those on exchange further north. However, the weather only improves from there! All the exchange students are excited for spring and summer to come, and we’ve already began planning trips to Ireland and Scotland during our 1 month long mid-semester break. If I came to Nottingham next semester, I see myself potentially hibernating in my room, becoming less social and playing less sport as it got colder. However, now that I’ve forced myself to leave my warm bed for early morning lectures and go on runs outside with the Recreational Running Society, I know it’ll only get easier and better!
3. The lack of orientation week forces you out of your comfort zone to become involved
It was difficult being in a university where you didn’t know anyone, especially when there wasn’t a Bush Week equivalent to help you meet others. The only university-organised orientation in my first week was a welcome session where all the exchange students sat in a lecture theatre for two hours. I have to admit that was one of those moments where I wished we played a cheesy ice-breaker game. As the welcome session ended, I just forced myself to say hello to random people and hoped it worked. Because everyone else was also looking to make friends, it turned out great and that’s how I got to meet the group of exchange students I still hang out with now! This sounds quite cheesy but exchange really has made me a more independent and confident person. When you’re applying for exchange, don’t be turned off by the fact you miss out on their orientation week because you’ll push yourself even more to meet a great network of students and connect with them.
Of course, in the end, consider which semester works best for you. For example, consider which courses you want to take at ANU and abroad, whether your exchange will disrupt your living arrangements in Canberra, and if you want to travel, whether you prefer travelling at the end of the year or the middle (most overseas universities start their semester in August/September). Either way, going on exchange is a great opportunity and it’ll be fun no matter when you go. While I’ve only just began my exchange, I already feel like there is so much I want to do that I don’t have enough time for!