This is my final blog! I am back in Auckland for a week now, and I am still processing the entirety of my trip. I’ve done so much, seen so much, met so many people and yes, did a little bit of study as well at some points. It is difficult to summarise an entire trip, but what I am going to do here is outline some tips and advice that I would like to give to you, prospective travellers.
Should I go?
Was the trip worth it? Yes. This is the easiest question I have potentially ever answered. The experience, enjoyment and friendships that you make when going on a trip abroad is quite simply a once in a lifetime experience. Yes it does cost money, yes it can be hard at times to be away from your family and friends, but boy is it worth it. I’ve been to more countries over the last 7 months than most people will in their lifetimes. I’ve seen more sites, had more experiences and made more friends from other cultures than I would in 20 years living in New Zealand. Our age is the best time to go travelling – we are spritely enough to travel rough, young enough to enjoy living in hostels and have few burdens back home so we can spend all the money we have, knowing that hopefully a job will not be too far away when we get home. Some people would argue that it is better to just go travelling rather than be on exchange, but I would argue no. When you are on exchange, you get to tick off your degree, you have a base to go travelling if you wish, and most importantly, you get to meet locals properly and form a life and friendships with them that are more than just fleeting.
What was the toughest part?
Honestly, and this might sound a little corny, the toughest part was leaving Amsterdam, knowing I was going back to the cold and wet of Auckland. Now I am back here, things are a little easier as I have got back into a routine and met up with my friends and family, but life was so good over in Europe that I didn’t really want to go home. Culture shock was limited for me, although I am aware that this will not necessarily be the same everywhere around the world – the Netherlands is not that different to New Zealand really.
OK I’m convinced, where should I go?
This is probably the most important part of your decision – if you end up in a city which you don’t really love, the exchange probably won’t be nearly as much fun as otherwise. So research research research. Look up each city/country and determine what best suits your needs. Why are you going on exchange? For the prestige of the university? To get immersed completely in a certain culture? To go to a ‘fun’ university where there will be a great college lifestyle? To have a base to go travelling around the continent? These questions will determine what university you should apply for.
Any last words?
Go. Whatever reason you may be hesitant, just go. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you certainly will not regret your time. I miss Amsterdam already, it’s got a special place in my heart, and I will always look back at the last 7 months as some of the best times of my life.