Why did I decide to study in the newest country of the exchange partner list?

Posted on 26/07/2017

Where to go to study abroad?

As most of the schools nowadays, my school offered us the opportunity to study abroad for a whole year with the aim of discovering a new way of learning, a new culture and to have a better understanding of the world we live in. This was for me the best year of my life so far, even though I was really unsure about my choice when I said out loud “Indonesia” during the choosing process. To put things back in context let’s see how we had to choose and then why I decided to dive into the absolute unknown.

Choosing the right place

During my first year, we’ve been told that after the first semester we would have to choose a destination for our second year. We were provided with a first list which was subject to change. A lot of countries were available all around the world, from Asia to Latin America, throughout Europe and the U.S.A., with this list a list of contacts from a student who previously did the exchange corresponding to each destination so we could have a feedback to ease our choice.

At first, my project was pretty classical, I wanted to go to the U.S.A and enjoy a campus life as we all saw in different movies, either this or maybe going to Iceland, where I traveled once and fell in love with the country.

Asia seemed quite attractive but I clearly didn’t want to go to live in a huge city such as Shanghai or Hong-Kong because I had this picture of a life completely scheduled at every moment and with a constant landscape of skyscrapers. A month before the final call we were given the final list in which some countries were added and other removed.

I could at this time say good bye to my urge to go back to Iceland as it wasn’t any more available. So I had one choice which I thought solid: The United States of America.

Other points of view

When discussing with my friends I thought my choice was quite good and it could be a great experience, so I became surer and surer about this destination and felt like it was the right thing to do. For myself and for my resume as well.

A week before the “final call” I wanted, out of curiosity, see what the previous student did during their year in the U.S., the first thing that caught me was the number of contact available, it was definitely a destination that more than a lot of students  wanted to choose, a very popular one not to say the most.

Secondly, when looking at their pictures they all did quite the same, going to sports events, traveling to the same locations and doing the same road trips. At this very moment, 1 week before choosing where I would spend the next year if my life, I felt like I was about to choose for a big tour in the U.S. and that in 2 years I will only be an extra name on an extensive list of the informant. And all the determination I had vanished, I was left with more doubts than I ever had about my choice and future.  We are now 2 days before the D-day, panic is becoming more and more present, I need to find something solid, something that is going to be good for me.

The day before, why not choosing Canada, or staying in Europe, some destinations are quite attractive for me and my resume. It’s 9 p.m. I’m in my room, in less than 12 hours one word will shape one year of my life, and I still have no clue of where I want to spend it.

I decided to review for the last time the destinations available, all of them. Continents by continents, comparing the two list to see what changed and what didn’t. Arriving in Asia I want to left it unchecked, but well I don’t know where to go, so I must check it again. Surprisingly I find out that Indonesia was added to the list, no contacts, it’s a brand new country they added.

Yogyakarta Indonesia

Universitas Gadjah Madah, Yogyakarta Indonesia. It catches my interest and I look up the school online. A university of 50.000 students in the middle of Java Island. At this time my idea of Indonesia was limited to Jakarta the capital of traffic jams and Bali the party island. It doesn’t seem to be so bad of a choice but Canada and Zagreb, Croatia are still more solid choices for me. Here we are the D-day we’re all gathered in the same room, with the staff in charge of the exchange program and we begin. One by one we’re being called and we have to publicly say where we want to go. I still haven’t really decided yet, 2 destinations about which I have some clues, and 1 completely unknown. And that horrible moment arrives: they call me out, I raise my hand and say “Indonesia”.

The person in charge didn’t hear it well, I have to repeat it (I wasn’t very sure myself either I said it) “Indonesia”.  She writes it down, and that’s it. If I pass my second semester I’ll go to a country I have no idea about. To live for a full year. I remember the surprised faces turning to me when I said this destination.

Nobody expected it, neither did I. When the selection is over my close friends come to me and ask me why I decided to choose it, and why I never talked about this choice. I explained to them that I didn’t really know why either but that I wanted something different, something that I could live on my own, without having any preconceived idea about where I was going. The thing I’ll always keep in mind is the feeling when I left. A huge mix of pride, fear, excitation and being challenged. I was not really sure why but I felt it was the good thing to do.

Count down

I still haven’t really decided yet, 2 destinations about which I have some clues, and 1 completely unknown. And that horrible moment arrives: they call me out, I raise my hand and say “Indonesia”. The person in charge didn’t hear it well, I have to repeat it (I wasn’t very sure myself either I said it) “Indonesia”.  She writes it down, and that’s it. If I pass my second semester I’ll go to a country I have no idea about. To live for a full year. I remember the surprised faces turning to me when I said this destination.

Nobody expected it, neither did I. When the selection is over my close friends come to me and ask me why I decided to choose it, and why I never talked about this choice. I explained to them that I didn’t really know why either but that I wanted something different, something that I could live on my own, without having any preconceived idea about where I was going. The thing I’ll always keep in mind is the feeling when I left. A huge mix of pride, fear, excitation and being challenged. I was not really sure why but I felt it was the good thing to do.

She writes it down, and that’s it. If I pass my second semester I’ll go to a country I have no idea about. To live for a full year. I remember the surprised faces turning to me when I said this destination. Nobody expected it, neither did I. When the selection is over my close friends come to me and ask me why I decided to choose it, and why I never talked about this choice. I explained to them that I didn’t really know why either but that I wanted something different, something that I could live on my own, without having any preconceived idea about where I was going. The thing I’ll always keep in mind is the feeling when I left. A huge mix of pride, fear, excitation and being challenged. I was not really sure why but I felt it was the good thing to do.

Why choose the unknown

Now that we have the context back let’s see why I chose to go there and why you should as well try to dive into the unknown when you have the opportunity.

The first reason that comes to my mind is the fact that nobody could have given me a feedback about how life was there, and when people tell you how it was for them, how they felt, what they did, we all tend to do the same things, even unconsciously we will try to find the same feelings and do the same activities, travels and this was something I wanted to avoid. You’re doing your exchange year for yourself, no one else. Choosing a destination that you like or just because you want to know more about it should be the only criteria to be based upon to take such decision. After doing it I can clearly say: It’s only one year, it’s not going to shape your whole life after it. And if it does you clearly made the best choice you could ever have.

Related to this reason comes this feeling once you chose it, I felt excited, proud, and afraid at the same time. It’s a great feeling, and being afraid if mixed with pride and excitement is just a great thing. You will be challenged by your own decision, leaving your comfort zone for good and finish this experience with more knowledge than you would have had to go somewhere you already know about or where you exactly know what is going to happen.  During the first part I spoke about my resume and it’s true that the scholar part of this exchange has to be taken into account. As part of the exchange program, the partner universities have to provide a certain level of lectures, at least as good as the one you receive in your home country.

So regarding the classes, you don’t have to be afraid of choosing something completely out of the box. Furthermore, it can be a real added value on your resume. When an employer will go through the pile of C.V. he received (if he even does) having a destination completely different from others makes you different, it catches the attention, as it caught the attention of my classmates when I chose Indonesia. It makes you different from the 200 applicants who went to the U.S.A. and the others to Europe. You have the same curiosity about everything since you’re basically discovering every corner of your surrounding as a new place or a new way of doing things. At the end, you bring back more knowledge than you could have expected.

Looking back

If I had to look at what I learned what I saw and met. I would definitely agree upon the fact that I made the best decision I could ever have done. I experienced the feeling of going somewhere you have no idea about and it’s thrilling, I learned about a culture and country I was not even expecting to be this interesting and most of all I learned more about myself in one year than I did in the previous 20. I can’t do anything else but to encourage you to make bold choices, leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself. It’s difficult but in the end, it always pays off and having this gut feeling of having done the good choice is always rewarding.

 

Discover opinions from students to students!

Are you a student? Select your university and give your opinion!

Written by
Paul Cornillac
French student in management who loves to share stories. Studied abroad which gave him an urge to discover as much as he can. Interested in learning about cultures and dreams that one day he will manage a multi-cultural team from all around the world.