Two weeks before I go back “home” to the Philippines and here I am not wanting to leave this place I now consider my second home. Most of my friends already left and went back to their own countries and to their normal lives; some are still traveling around while some are still here, starting off their second semester.
The past six months have been a whirlwind – starting off as a little gust of wind on the ground but growing higher and higher until it has taken countless objects with it already. Among those that I took as I swirl through this whirlwind are the people that I met here. Besides the memories and experiences, they are going to be the ones I will treasure forever. They made my student exchange journey more memorable and meaningful.
However, although I’m quite sad to bid goodbye to my student traveler friends here, I’m also faced by the fact that when I enroll next semester, most of my college friends in UP Los Baños will also have graduated already. By that time, I’m left with no choice but start from the top and introduce myself to people from batches after me and probably to people who are younger than me. Until now, this latter issue still honestly hasn’t sunk into me. I don’t feel like it’s that big of a deal but I’m kind of preparing myself if ever there will be a tidal wave of that being-out-of-place feeling in the future.
Still, I have no regrets. Taking this exchange program opportunity as a student traveler will always be one of the best decisions I ever made.
Throughout my student traveler journey though, I have had lots of realizations about joining an exchange program – both good and bad. I want to share them with you here so if ever you’re given the opportunity to study and travel abroad, you know the pros and cons that you have to weigh.
Pros and Cons of Being a Student Traveler on an Exchange Program
- You learn to be independent. You’re miles away from home and the people who basically served you all your life. They have always cooked for you, did chores for you, and washed your clothes for you among others. But now, you are left alone. So there really is no choice. Eventually, you’ll find yourself confident enough not to depend on anyone else.
- You get to meet lots of different people. This is one of the best things that could ever happen to us as a student traveler. These people were raised from countries and cultures different from ours and it is indeed amazing to be exposed to their cultures as it makes you appreciate your own culture and roots more.
- You get to travel. Obviously, as someone who will go out of their way to study abroad, you will also have that chance to travel around the new place you will be staying in. If you’re lucky and determined and you picked a university that’s location-wise (i.e. taking courses in Europe), then you could also choose to go to the nearby countries. Study + travel = What better way to hit two birds with one stone!
- You get an exposure to different cultures and a taste of different cuisines. I’ve already mentioned this on Pro #2 but really, this deserves to be emphasized. It’s such an amazing experience to learn new cultures and see other people’s lifestyles. You get to be more open as an individual and more respectful of our differences and similarities as humans.
- You get to experience a new way of learning + it’s good for your CV/resume. I would be lying if I say that this isn’t a huge factor in why I took the risk of being a student traveler. I have been told that joining an exchange program helps a lot in your future employment as it makes you more competent and flexible for change. Of course, there are many more ways to be more competent and flexible but employers almost instantly trust that you are those things simply because of your exchange program experience.
- You are going to be away from your family. This may be one of the hardest parts of being a student traveler if you’re like me who never had to be away from home for such a long period of time. You will be thankful for the technology that we have now which helps us in connecting easily with them. However, there will still be those times where you will feel like nothing will hurt more than the fact that you can’t hug or talk to them personally.
- You will most likely experience homesickness. You will miss home… a lot, especially if the country you’re in is so different than the one you came from. You will probably sulk in one corner of your room for the first few days just thinking about how far you are from your family and friends, from the people you grew so familiar with. I myself had moments like these but trust me when I say that it definitely gets better and that being homesick is totally normal.
- You may probably experience some dangers in some places. Some places are totally safe but some are just not. So there will come a time where you will probably be so worried about your safety or about whether or not you should trust other people. That’s why, as a student traveler, you always have to take extra care and be more wary of your environment.
- You get to miss a lot in your home country. They say that so many things can happen in one year. But even for me who just took one semester (six months), I know I missed a lot of happenings back home. It’s major FOMO. You could keep up with the people at home, yes, but you can’t take back the time that you spent away from them.
- You will probably graduate later than your batchmates. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of student travelers still graduate on time even if they took one semester in a different country or university. Still, there will be a chance that your graduation may be delayed especially if your university won’t credit the subjects you took abroad. It would be wise, then, to choose subjects that can be credited so your efforts could still be recognized.
So is it worth it to graduate late because of being a student traveler?
At the end of the day, it still depends on your priorities. If you’re the type of person who wants to graduate early and find a job immediately then maybe, you will find that participating in an exchange program would just prolong your agony. But, if you’re a risk-taker (and probably have parents who aren’t so strict of you being away from them) then maybe, you should give this a shot.
Honestly though, before coming here, I was so anxious about continuing my study abroad. If you ask my friends and family, they can prove to you how much I wanted to graduate on time and basically, to just get it all over with.
From where I am from, most people consider it pitiful and unfortunate if you graduate delayed. This is mostly because our society is so stuck with the “normal” process of studying, graduating college, finding a job, building a home, settling with your family, and then being happy. Being happy is almost always at the end of the process. So that meant, when you’re delaying your graduation, you’re also delaying your happiness.
After being a student traveler on a six-month exchange program, I realized that this is never the case. You can make your own happiness while still studying even if you haven’t graduated yet. You can learn more in the process than in the destination itself. You can always choose to make your dreams happen and be happy now.
So is it really worth it graduate late in exchange for being an exchange student? Heck yeah, it is, for me!
Planning to go on exchange? Check these out for clothes that you can wear at any season!
Are you a student traveler, too? Do you think it’s worth it? Comment down your thoughts and I’d love to read them!
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