A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
February 2019: One month has passed since I came back home from exchange at the University of Sydney. My Australian semester’s been it all: challenging, eye-opening, beautiful, educating, inspiring and of course a lot of fun. Looking back, I can barely believe that I used to walk along violet Jacaranda trees every morning on the way to a historical campus where I studied with scenic views on Sydney’s skyline.
Are about to leave to your exchange adventure, thinking of going abroad next year or even favouring one of Leiden’s partner universities in Australia? Let me re-cap my time abroad and share what I deem valuable tips for anyone ready to go.
(1) Be open-minded
Especially during the first weeks! No matter how motivated you are to attend another international pizza night or go to the movies with a group of people you haven’t met before… that is how you will meet people and make friends! Tip: Look out for student associations such as sports and music clubs. These are very popular across the UK, US and Australia and a great way to socialise.
(2) Be flexible
Throughout the year before your exchange, you have been putting a lot of effort in planning – no matter if accommodation, study units, flights, scholarships or travel. Your student room is not how you imagined it to be or you are not accepted to all of your desired courses? Not everything will turn out exactly as thought: Let it go and embrace the beauty of challenge.
(3) Be spontaneous
On top, try not to plan out all of your weekends and travel weeks in advance. Here at Leiden University, you might have learned to estimate how the workload will be like throughout the semester. However, not all universities will provide you with a detailed plan. This is why, during my exchange semester, I have become way better at appreciating the moment and saying yes to activities that cross on my way spontaneously.
(4) Keep a diary
Time will fly and you will experience so many new and exciting things that are oftentimes difficult to keep track off. My advice: Keep a diary. A note a day on what you did, who you met and how you felt already makes for a great memory aid you will embrace your whole life long.
(6) Be kind to yourself
Keep in mind that your grades may turn out differently from what you’re used to. But do not stress. You are at new university, with different kind of teaching and grading methods as well as maybe even studying in a foreign language. Plus, you are exploring an unknown and exciting environment, building your social life from scratch and maybe even working on the side.
(7) You have always wanted to…?
Take a philosophy class, join the volleyball team, improve a foreign language, go kayaking, run a half-marathon, join a theatre group? Now is the time. Starting from zero in a new place with little routine and responsibilities makes it very easy to try out new activities. Sydney University’s countless (!) student unions made this very easy: No matter if wine tasting societies, a Quidditch team or The bushwalkers – from culture to sports, you could join in!
(8) You don’t need that extra suitcase
Travel light and smart. Don’t bring along your entire wardrobe – you will not wear it. Especially when planning to travel around after your semester, it can cost a lot of nerves and sweat to get your clothes, shoes and useful gadgets from home (yes, I brought a smoothie maker) from A to B. Eventually, I ended up really needing practical clothes (running shoes, active wear etc.), sunglasses, a cozy sweater and some summer dresses.