Well, this is the end. My time as an exchange student at The University of New Orleans is over. I cannot believe how quickly this time has gone by, when it feels like I walked off the Southern Cross University campus a life-time ago. Time really does fly when you’re having fun (cheesy but true and you know it)!
As a journalism major, and a writer, one of the rules we are often taught is that it is wise to stay away from clichés. They sound cheesy! But what happens when your clichés come true?
As an exchange student, I have made lifelong friends (cliché alert). Cheesy, but true! People from all around the USA and all around the world. My semester abroad is over, but my friendships are only just beginning.
Not only was this a great social experience, but it was also extremely beneficial to my education – in university and in life. I was able to learn about people’s cultures, backgrounds, and history over dinner. We would discuss politics over breakfast and assignments over lunch. I learned so much more than the class content and, to me, that is invaluable in all aspects of life whether it’s in your formal education or your participation as a global citizen.
However, exchange was still a learning curve for me. I learned to manage my time better. Try doing essays and having Mardi Gras! You learn to priorities your time because you never want to miss out on the fun of your new city or the content in your new classes. Some days I would get up ridiculously early to get some study in if I knew that there was music, fun, or a parade happening in town that evening. Other days I would save my study until late afternoon when I had an energy burst. Essentially, it was all about finding the balance, even more so than at home. I was able to come out of the semester with the grades I had worked hard for, but I was also able to enjoy everything the city had to offer.
There is one terrible part about exchange, though… the worst part is the goodbye – not just to your new friends, but to your new city. And that’s exactly how I feel. I have absolutely fallen in love with New Orleans and I am so sad that my journey here is over. But, I know that this experience has enriched my life in more ways than I could have imagined and that this won’t be the last time that New Orleans and I meet. I can see myself returning, except this time without the study load!
When I first came on exchange, I had reservations and doubts – not just about the experience, but also about myself. Could I live away from home in another country? Could I balance my study and social life? Could I understand another university and their methods as well as I already understand my own? Would I make friends? What referencing style will they use?!
If you’re considering exchange, you may have some of these doubts too. You may not have any of them, which is great, but if you do let me assure you – everything worked out just fine for me. I made friends, I embraced study, I found balance, I fell in love with New Orleans. All my reservations and first-day-of-school nerves melted away with the first set of friendly faces – trust me, you’ll meet enough for a lifetime!
Exchange has been a priceless experience and I’m genuinely sad that it’s over, but I am so excited to encourage others to embrace the opportunity and follow their own adventures.
Go out and do it. Take the leap of faith (final cliché, I promise).
-- Nada van Kempen, Southern Cross University to University of New Orleans, 2017