Much like what your mother told you growing up, everyone is unique and special
So it may not come as a shock when you realize people spend their time abroad quite differently. Such a thing is quite obvious when you meet other exchange students, as how they prefer to “experience” this time varies quite a bit. Yes, they vary so much that what you see before you is all three different types of exchange students. All three.
Even if you aren’t someone who’s been abroad yourself, judging by how much exchange kids tend to share and brag enthuse about our trips (on behalf of us all, I apologize… really) you can probably get a good idea of what kind of person they are.
The Travel Bug
These people are most likely the one’s you see most often cluttering up your Facebook News Feed just because of all the wild travel photos they post. They may also be the ones who come back being all worldly and full of “life experience”. Don’t judge ‘em, they probably actually have some fun stories to tell.
Mr/Miss Travel Bug, you know why you came aboard. School is one thing, yeah, but what’s even more exciting to you is all the places you can travel to and the new cultures you can experience. Especially if you’re in Europe, travel is so much cheaper for you right now that you just want to take it all in while you’re here for this short time. School is just a formality. Sure the classes may be different, but it’s still textbooks and tests — and who wants that when you could be partying in a foreign city and photographing every landscape, llama, and food item you see?
If you live with other local students, they probably wonder where you head off to every weekend while they are stressing about schoolwork. But hey, this is your time abroad. They definitely/hopefully understand how different it is for you. There is the risk that you seem like the ghost in the dorms who only shows up once-in-a-while in between excursions. But that’s fine for you. You came to travel, and you’re sure-as-hell going to do that. And hey, you just need to pass your classes, so who really needs to put that much effort into those.
Just hope you don’t go broke before your time is up.
The Studious Student
So what if the classes are only pass/fail. That doesn’t matter to you folks. You strive to keep up the marks you pride yourself in, even if it won’t count for anything beyond a few credits back home. You’ll go to every lecture, every tutorial, and read every article you’re given. Chances are, your classmates will quickly grow tired of the novelty of your foreign accent in their class, only because you end up being the one who talks the most in class.
Do you take time to travel? Well of course. You need to take a break from the books at least once in a while. But that’s probably not the full reason you came on exchange. Just being in a different university gives such a different experience of learning that it’s impossible to not get every bit of knowledge from it. Otherwise… why not just drop out of school and travel normally?
Not going to lie to you folks, I am definitely this person. As I write this, I am recovering from spending who-knows-how-many weeks stressing over a paper worth 60% of my mark… even though I only really need to do mediocre on it to pass. It’s completely a pride thing. When you are so used to working yourself silly in your classes back home, switching to a more “relaxed” mindset isn’t exactly your idea of a good time. Nope, that’s even more stressful because you feel like you might actually fail because you’ll relax too much. Add to the fact that its never made clear whether or not grad schools will look at these grades (seriously, I’ve gotten so many varied answers, apparently grad schools will do both or neither at the same time)… and we choose to just keep on the safe side.
The Social Foreign Butterfly
Travel is fun… sure. School is important… sure. But those can be done back home or after you graduate. Not to mention, you’re the foreign kid, people automatically find you interesting! Might as well use that to your advantage? Damn right, says you.
This new country you’re in has so many different ways to get involved that you just jump right in and see what happens. Often the place you are at will have quite a few different ways to meet people, or the culture of sociability might even work in a way that you feel more comfortable with. Whatever the reason, you Social Foreign Butterfly you, go out there and make memories.
Joining new, random clubs you’ve always wanted to try out? Why not?
Attending every social and party you can get yourself invited to? Well…duh.
You recognize that you’ve essentially been given a clean slate to work from while your abroad. Create yourself the social group you’ve always wanted, building that network of friends so that you have a damn good reason to return in the future. When given reasons for why you wanted to study abroad in the country you’re in, chances are “I really like the people” is number one/une/ichi/uno.
The fact is, you’ve only got a short time to get involved with all this stuff. This is both a curse and a blessing. While it’s a bit of a shame that you know some relationships will be cut short by the time constraints, that fact allows you to overcome many fears like the ever-common “oh goodness what will people think of me if I do this”. Who cares!? You’re the cool foreign kid whose silly mistakes and ganders will be forgotten by the end of the year.
Well… maybe. You could end up being “that Canadian who threw up all over me at that one party where I was talking to that girl I wanted to get with.” (this is not a real occurrence, folks, in case you were wondering).
There’s a good chance some of these types will overlap and intersect, but I’m fairly certain you’ll find that these slightly-overgeneralized categories exist quite prominently if you look hard enough. Know of any other types of study abroad-ers that you’ve encountered? Share them in the comment section below!
Featured image credit: Tom Godber