Go west, young student

If a list of possible ways of travelling to another country easily, flexibly and economically for a fixed period existed, going on exchange would cover the most of it. Still, there’s more to going on exchange than just being cost-effective: it teaches you, allows you to grow and presents you with a unique chance to broaden your view of the world.

Most of the time, the focus of texts and blog posts about exchange lies on glorifying all the new friends, fantastic adventures, endless parties, the exchange student community and the splendour of travelling. And it’s true: I agree that in comparison to just travelling, when going on exchange one gets to experience the daily life of the local people and cross paths with them as they go on their everyday routines. This dive into the deep end of a new culture can offer a totally different perspective on how one’s own world and home is displayed to them.

Other new acquaintances besides the daily tasks are the culture, religions and politics of the foreign culture. When stepping into a foreign society, you have the chance to look at things from an outer dimension – this means noticing the cracks on the surface, problems that the locals might not recognise. At the same time, you might notice that what used to be self-evident to you suddenly becomes irrelevant, and the flavours, aromas and feelings that used to be unfamiliar to you end up captivating you. Experiences like these can be addictive, and many exchange students find themselves later returning to their destination countries for work, or for other reasons.

However, it is no secret that many also experience a feeling of relief and gratitude when they return from their journey and very mundane stuff suddenly works again: the supply water is fresh and safe to drink (and it comes from the tap), the public transport is practical (although the train might be slightly delayed), documents are electrical (you don’t have to fill paper forms in three copies anymore), and the internet connection is limitless and fast. It’s actually pretty nice to come back home to Finland, even if a part of you stayed abroad.

Still, going away on exchange or internship for a year or a half can feel a bit overwhelming, despite of the indisputable benefits of internationalisation. It nevertheless is, in my opinion, one of the best possible ways of gaining experience for the future working life and other challenges that life presents you with. You can also go global when you’re home: join the international tutoring group or become active in international student organizations. You have plenty of options here at Tampere University, thanks to the active student community and the University’s support.

Whether your choice of globalisation be west, east or the exchange students’ pub quiz, you won’t regret it. Later in life there can be very few chances to join an unexpected adventure in the whole wide world.

– The writer went on exchange in the USA in spring 2017