Alright, so here are five tips for when you might go on exchange – or for me to read again myself if I ever live in another country again.
The first tip I would give concerns the university and how you decide to go about your daily activities there. As you may have read, I have been unhappy with my university in several ways, and most of this dissatisfaction has come from the fact that, since coming here, I have been comparing it to how it is in Denmark and what I’m used to at CBS.
Knowing what I know now, the tip I’ll give you is the same tip I would give myself if I’m lucky enough to go on a second exchange: Play by the rules of your new home.
I went to Spain for the people, the culture, the experience, but I never really thought of the university in the same context. I was more focused on speaking the language, eating dinner late and getting immersed in the culture.
But uni down here should be seen from that same perspective, because of course it will be different when so many other things are. So, having a mindset of accepting that there might not be a syllabus or that you might have to ask many more questions than you’re used to or will generally just have to adapt to how things are done in your new country will hopefully make your experience better than mine (with this new mindset I do enjoy uni more, to be honest).
Play by the rules of your new home
My second tip covers looking for your new home in a foreign country. I’ve been very lucky in terms of the apartment I have and my neighborhood, except for the one time when some guys tried to steal my phone.
But what I suggest is that after you find out which university you have been accepted by, start learning about the neighborhoods. Living a 5-minute walk from uni might not be the greatest idea if it’s far from everything else or if the area in general isn’t that great. Think about the things you will appreciate having close to you, like the beach, a fitness center or a supermarket.
Admittedly, this can be hard to do several thousand kilometers away, but I would suggest trying. When searching for somewhere to live, the only thing I wanted was to stay in a place that was 10 minutes’ walk from the train station where I would begin my daily commute. I now know that next time I look for an apartment,
I would very much appreciate having a supermarket much closer, as carrying groceries and maybe also a 5-liter bottle of water for what seems like 10 kilometers or more, though it is only actually 700 meters or so, quickly becomes a chore.
My third tip would be to try and learn the language of the place where you’re going. While studying, I’ve had Spanish as part of my semestral ECTS points, but knowing the language has made many things much easier for me. We were told in January which university we were going to. From January to the departure is plenty of time to get familiar with a new language through either Duolingo or Memrise (language apps) or through language courses.
My fourth tip is specifically for European cities, but here in Barcelona there are groups for Erasmus students.
It has not been the most active lately, due to the many restrictions, but here in Barcelona there are several local companies with names that include “Erasmus” and they offer various social activities or tours of the country, city, or trips to parks and the like.
The fifth and last tip is for the people who enjoy jogging or those considering buying a bike. As I told you in one of my last posts, I went to Barcelona last year. All my transport last year was by metro, and you don’t experience the city from the metro.
Last year, one of my regular stops to change to another metro was La Sagrada Familia, which is an amazing building – just check Google for all sorts of facts about it. And even though my regular stop was this station, I only went up and saw La Sagrada Familia once in the four weeks I was there.
Everything is currently closed here in Spain, also my closest gym, so I’ve started jogging, and there are many things you see jogging (or biking) that you wouldn’t see otherwise, because when jogging in a city you don’t know, you don’t have a route to take, thus going left and right is more a matter of deciding where you want to go next in the city.
Also, by doing this, you’ll get more familiar with your neighborhood and will see restaurants or maybe even art or sculptures you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.
Bearing everything in mind, my last tip is: Go on exchange. I do hope the next group of students have more of a pre-corona experience than a corona-exchange experience, but all in all, so far it’s been really fun living in another country.
Like anywhere else, it has its ups and downs. I, for example, have to move because we couldn’t find a new roommate for our apartment, due to corona, but then I’ll get to live and experience another part of Barcelona.
One very last thing – my roommate who promised me carbonara went back to Italy the day after my birthday, so ON my birthday he cooked the entire apartment and a former roommate carbonara, and another made cookies. I was promised good carbonara. I was given great carbonara!