The reality of exchange is far different from all the plannings and all these pictures you may have in mind of how things will go. So, as an ongoing exchange student, I'm here to tell you about my experience so certain things don't take you by surprise. If you don't know what exchange is check out my last article to learn more about it 10 Reasons why you should do the national student exchange program
I have to tell you that going on exchange to the University of Louisville is by far one of the most amazing thing that have happened to me, I would not trade this experience for nothing else in life not just for academic reasons, but I have grown spiritually (maybe I will tell you all faithful readers about this one day). When you are away alone, you get to see life differently and you have more time to think and be at peace of mind (at least that's what my experience has been).
Now, I know you've been waiting to hear about my exchange journey, let me tell you about it along with a few tips about exchange. (This is one of my longest article I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING YOUR TIME READING IT)
1. GO TO ALL THE WELCOME WEEK EVENTS
Knowing how much I love activities, of course I went to a lot of welcome week events. All of them were great especially when you are new on campus and don't know your way around. I met a lot of people during those events ( some that I don't remember their names now, but whom I'm grateful for because they all helped me either by showing me where to get food or show me my way around). Most importantly, there was plenty of food and a lot of give-aways at all those events. So, if you are going on exchange, you certainly do not want to miss those events.
2. GET INVOVLED
Yes, get involved!!! In my opinion, whether you go on exchange or not, you should still get involved as much as your life schedule permits it while in college cause you want to get the most out of your college years.While on exchange, I got involved with Phi Delta Epsilon International Pre-Medical Fraternity which I was already part of at Florida International University, so that was easy engagement for me ( but not so easy to find them, it was a process). I also got involved with the BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry); I have a Catholic background, but they didn't look at that they just welcome everyone so much that the BCM became my favorite place to hang on campus. I just needed somewhere for praise and worship and found that and so much more (that's another story in itself). I also got involved with research, volunteer work, and shadowing. Now, I say get involved, but don't get yourself overwhelmed just like I did. I took on so much that I ended up struggling in the middle of it. If you are going on exchange, just take it easy and take on as much you think you can handle, don't overdo it just like I did (I paid the price DON'T DO IT!). Keep in mind that you are going somewhere new, you have to adjust to the environment and more before anything else.
3. BE NICE
I say be nice not to say be friendly; my person and my brother usually calls me friendly, so I guess you can say maybe I am friendly. If you know me, you probably know that I smile a lot and I am very talkative, but let me tell you what my friendliness did for me. I went to an ice cream social the second week of school mind you this was when I still didn't know almost anyone on campus. I was just making small talks with students and other people around and I ended meeting two of the highest ranking people at the school. Follow this conversation:
Him: That's a nice smile you have there, what's your name? how is it going?
Me: Thank you, I'm good and you? (of course I said my name ahahahahah)
Him: I'm good, how is school going so far?
Me: not too crazy just yet, I'm still trying to find my way around.
Him: That's good. What's your major and what year are you?
Me: I am a junior majoring in Biology with a minor in Psychology, and I am pre-med.
Him: Oh wow, this is great!!! but how come you're still finding your way around? are you a transfer student?
Me: No, I'm here on exchange from Florida International University.
Him: OMG, I love FIU and my wife went there, welcome to Louisville. Well, I'm the dean of students here if you ever have any questions or need anything don't hesitate to email me, or come by my office ( I ended needing his help for real and he helped for real). Let me introduce you to Dr Postel. Hey, meet Daenne, she's an exchange student from FIU.
Dr Postel: Welcome to U of L, what brought you to Louisville?
Me: Laugh, I don't know, I'm just here.
Dr Postel: Well, we are glad to have you here. What's your major?
Me: My major is Biology with a minor in Psychology, and I am pre-med.
Dr Postel: I am a medical doctor myself, do you know what you want to do yet?
Me: I think I want to be a pediatrician, but I have an open mind about everything else.
Dr Postel: It's good to know what you want, but it's a good thing to keep an open mind.
Me: Well , I was looking for shadowing opportunities, do you by any chance accept students to observe you?
Dr Postel: I am more on the administrative side of things now, I don't practice anymore, but I'm a Radiologist and practiced for a long time I can put you in contact with one of my colleagues.
Me: You would? Thank you so much. How do I get in contact with you? Can you give me an email or a phone number please?
Dr Postel: I am the school President, just Google U of L President and you'll find me.
Me: You are???? I had no idea who you were.
Dr Postel: It's good to interact with people nicely without knowing who they are, now let me let you enjoy your ice cream, just email me.
Me: wait!!! can we take a picture ( of course I'd ask that)
Dr Postel: Sure!!!
Me: Thank you, and Thank you again for everything.
See, it's simple JUST BE NICE. I spoke to Dr Postel and the dean for about 5 minutes each without knowing who they were and I was just pleasant to them both. In case you are wondering, I did send him that email and he put me in contact with some great doctors and I have been happily shadowing at the University of Louisville Hospital since then. You'd be surprise what a smile can bring both you and the other party. Just SMILE
Now, if you are still reading I appreciate you even more!!!
4. DON'T EXPECT TO HAVE NEW BEST FRIENDS RIGHT AWAY
First of, my person will get on me for even mentioning this. She'll be like you're not allowed to have anyone else besides me and Dani (deep down she means that). Just don't expect to have the best of friends right away. Now, I met a few people that I think I am safe to call them friends because they have proven to be friends and genuinely care about me and I care about them too. Kari and India, I love you girls!!! Thank you for being such great support, I'll miss you both and everyone else I've met here.
5. BE ADVENTUROUS
Duh!!!! you are somewhere new so why not? Let my let pictures speak for themselves
(oh! meet some of the U of L Ongoing NSE group)
6. REMEMBER YOU ARE STILL IN SCHOOL EVEN IF YOU ARE ON EXCHANGE
I say this because there was a point where I completely forgot that part for a minute. I had to say academic Daenne academic.
7. GET MENTALLY PREPARED TO GO BACK HOME
To be honest, I don't think I'm quit there yet. Although, I miss everyone back home, but I love this peace of mind I have here.
Overall, this exchange has changed my life completely, I have learned so much about myself that I didn't know before. The main thing I learned was needs vs wants, when you are on a tight budget, you'll learn that for sure. God has used NSE to mold me into a better person; I am just beyond grateful for this opportunity.
I also learned you my true friends are, and the who truly care about me in the process. When you go through tough time and when you move is when you will know who really care about you.
I want to thank FIU and U of L for this privilege. I also want to thank everyone who supported me through this journey I mean all kind of support prayers, texts, calls, any kind of support thank you. Thank you to those who didn't support me as well, you too helped me become stronger.
Now, if you make it to end, thank you for your time and thank you for learning about my exchange journey. I hope that my experience will help you or a loved one going on exchange or in anything else in life.
Remember to bless someone with your smile today, you never know what your smile can bring you or someone else.