How to make your first student exchange

Starting this first trip always seems too difficult. Requirements, documents, paperwork, fees, etc. are on our way telling you that you’ll never get it. And I can tell you one thing: if you don´t start today certainly you won’t ever get it. Definitely Study abroad is not a simple thing, but it´s more to the palm of your hand than you can imagine.

Studying abroad is different from traveling for tourism. Although you can do tourism when you go abroad, this last one needs more planning.
I was once told at the embassy of Brazil in Colombia: “you can´t wake up one day and say: I want to go to Brazil. The whole process can take up to a year”.

Undoubtedly, I had woken up one day and I’d had that thought. I wanted to travel as soon as possible. But my situation was different, I had advanced already several steps in the process and in less than seven months I was back to Brazil enrolled in a two-year master’s degree.

I’m sure you’re also wanting to travel soon, and beginning the process can be a quite challenging experience, but at the end, isn´t that what we´re looking for when we travel?
Don’t panic. Here I will give you some recommendations that will facilitate your life.

1. Anticipate

As I said, the process can often take six months to a year. So start looking for information now. Some Schools have agreements between them that will facilitate everything. You’ll need to submit some documents and that´s all. In others, you have to create the link and chase the documentation. You will need signed documents, translate and send papers to another country, fulfill deadlines, etc. So don’t waste time and find out the exact dates of the beginning of the courses, the deadlines for submission of documentation, if you need a student visa, how long it will take to get it, etc.

2. Stay tuned for opportunities

Most colleges have an office of international relations. Go there right now and clear all the questions you have. Also, get information about the possibilities that your college offers. If it hasn’t any, there are many exchange and internships institutions. Embassies usually offer several programs. If you really want it, just make a quick “google search” and you’ll find everything you need. Also, see what possibilities of scholarships do you may have. Currently, there are many institutions that offer scholarships to afford the cost of your trip. Believe it or not, most of these scholarships are lost every year due to lack of candidates.

3. Don’t leave it for later

Most people let the experience of studying abroad to the end of their careers. But my recommendation is: do it as faster as you can. The student status is a worldwide privileged status, enjoy it. When you graduate and lose this status you will regret not having done so many trips as you could have done. It’s easier for students to get visas, discounts, benefits program, and almost anything. From discounts to going to the movies to buying an international flight ticket.

People will tell you that at the end of your course you’ll be more prepared academically to live this experience, but believe me, when you’re traveling, the learning is outside the classroom. In fact, a résumé with different colleges and countries, speaks by itself about your ability to adapt, change and work in different situations and contexts. Regardless of your academic performance, what you learn traveling will be for the rest of your life.

4. Read a lot

Get used to reading absolutely everything. Nowadays, all the information you need is documented on the web. Don’t be that guy that calls to an office asking for information that is available online, but you were too lazy to find it. From that moment, you’re creating a negative reputation for yourself in that institution.
Read the calls, manuals, and other information about the college, the embassy, the country where you go, the health system, to which things you’ll have access, Scholarships, documents that you will have to take from your country, bureaucracy before departing and arriving at your destination, job opportunities etc.

The more information you get from the beginning, fewer surprises you’ll find on your trip. And have fewer headaches.

5. Learn a Second Language

Assuming that you are a native English speaker. My recommendation is to start studying as soon as possible a second or third language (let’s say Spanish); maybe it’s the perfect excuse to make your exchange. Knowing several languages will ease your walk through the world and create bonds with people and cultures in a way you never imagined.

6. Don’t compare yourself with others

A negative and misguided thinking when you apply for any vacancy is to think that there will always be someone better than you who will be called to fill it.
Entering a college or being accepted into a program exchange is a vulnerable situation and you will feel the same. You will always think that your competitors are so much prepared, have a better curriculum, more employment or academic experience, etc. Block these thoughts from the beginning, because they’ll only give you insecurity and you will end up giving up.

7. Don’t give up at the first attempt

Many colleges, teachers, institutions, etc. will reject you. This doesn’t mean that you are not good enough. Don’t get upset and keep whining about it. Go and knock on other doors, eventually, someone will answer and open it.
The selection processes vary greatly according to the institutions, and you’ll never know what a college is really looking for. Maybe they aren’t looking for the most experienced person, but the one that is eager to learn as much as possible. Believe in yourself, in your abilities and your skills. They can be the difference that they are looking for. Trust me, if everything were based on resumes, I wouldn’t be in the place that I am today. Sometimes, we focused on the information stored on a piece of paper or supported by a diploma and forget the great talent that is within us. Trust in your talents, they will take you far.

8. Don’t be afraid and don’t give up

As I said in another post, fear can always be present, but he cannot make decisions for you. In the process, the fear will show different faces, many questions will come into your head: what if it doesn’t work? And if I don’t like the country? And If I don’t like college? Or what if I don’t make any friends? Etc. Even your family will join the fear with phrases like “you’re going so far from home, we will miss you so much, won’t you feel the same?”
Face all these fears the best way you can. It’s completely normal to have doubts. But staying seated at home you’ll never find answers to any of these questions and you may lose the opportunity of a lifetime. As one teacher told me at the time when the fear took over my abroad experience: “if you don’t like it, you just come back home, period.” And is just as easy as that.

 Versión en Español

Versão em Português

 

 

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