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Going on Exchange in Canada! Why is it a good idea?


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On Exchange in Canada

Going on exchange to another country for 5 months, that sounds great! And, this is also the case. A lot of students are thinking about going on exchange and I would be glad to tell you my experiences so you can make a good choice for yourself.


What is an Exchange?


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First of all, it is important to know what an exchange is exactly. An exchange is an agreement with your own university and another partner university in another country, to 'lend out' students to each other for 'free' to expand their knowledge about different cultures and to get to know other countries. Why is it free? Because they both profit from sending their own students to different universities.


Besides, an exchange is normally 1 or 2 semesters (4.5 or 9 months) following courses at a different university. At my bachelor, Business Administration at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, we could only choose to go on exchange for 1 semester. Besides, we could also choose to follow courses and different faculties (so for example following a Physics or Psyocholgy course). This differs per university. Maybe you can go for 2 semesters on exchange and maybe you can only follow courses from your own faculty.


You also have to earn a certain amount of student credits, because otherwise you will have a study delay. An extra advantage of an exchange is that you can still finish your bachelor within the given time frame while you have the time of your life!


Okay.., now enough with the more serious stuff, let's go to the fun part! :) I will divide the exchange in different topics that are good to know for you :).


You are thrown in the Deep End


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One of the things that makes an exchange so educational is that you suddenly 'start over'. You don't have friends yet, you don't know the environment, the culture is different and the only thing you have is the university with the courses you are going to follow. What are you going to do with your free time? Suddenly you have to make new friends. It all sounds scary at first, and maybe even not fun, but the opposite is true.


The fun thing is that there are a lot of exchange students just like you, who also 'don't have a life yet' and thus are really excited to try out fun activities and do a lot of cool stuff. Because every exchange student is there for a relatively short period of time, the people are enthusiastic about getting to know the new culture and do a lot of fun activities.


When you are done with your exchange and probably had the best time of your life, it really feels as if you conquered something big. You have gone to a strange country on your own where you didn't know anyone for 5 months. And.. you had a great time! This gives a boost of confidence that you can be alone and can do anything you want.


What are the Advantages of an Exchange?


Okay, let's go through the big advantages of doing an exchange. Let me know which advantage you think is missing here ;).


Advantage 1: You will become more independent


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Maybe it is your first time living on your own, this was the case for me. That is already very educational, because you have to take care of your own food, you have to do your laundry and you have to keep your house clean.


Besides, you will get more independent by taking care of yourself in a strange country with strangers. You probably have had an amazing experience while it was all new for you. This gives a certain independence that you believe you will be able to have fun everywhere on your own. This attitude you will take forever with you, wherever you are.


Advantage 2: You will be more confident with new people


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Personally, I had a bad habit of not 'needing' new friends, because 'I already had enough nice friends'. So every time I met someone I really liked, I didn't do anything with it, because I 'was already busy enough with other friends'. This is ofcourse a bad attitude, because a new friend could be really valuable. On my exchange I didn't have friends and suddenly I wanted new friends and suddenly this turned out to be quite hard and scary.


How do you create real friendship? I was used to have short and fun talks with new people, but not more than that. And friends I already had from home, I knew for years already. I forgot how it was to make friends.


On exchange you not only learn how to make friends, but also how to have good small talk with other persons. Maybe you also can find you in this; but due to Covid-19 my social abilities where less than what they were. But on exchange, I have met so many new people, in the first week maybe even 15 per day, which gives a boost for your social skills.


Advantage 3: You master the language


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It depends on where you are going, but when you go to Canada for example, your English (or maybe French ;)) will improve a lot after an exchange. I have to say I didn't really notice during the exchange (I am Dutch), but I feel my pronunciation has improved a lot. I feel comfortable now to have a long conversation in English and also presenting in front of the class in English. The big advantage is that besides getting student credits, you learn the language really well.


Advantage 4: Friends all over the world


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Before I went on Exchange, I only friends where I spoke Dutch with. Now, I have friends all over the world: Canada, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Dubai, Spain, France, England and so forth.


I never expected it to be such an enrichment to my life. I will admit, when there where 'Internationals' at my university, I was not interested in meeting them. I don't know why to be honest, but it didn't attract me to get to know them. It's such a shame, because having friends from different countries is super interesting! It is not only interesting to understand culture differences, but you could also visit them in their home country!


Advantage 5: New Courses


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The courses I followed are: The Foundations of Ethical Leadership, Buyer Behaviour, Psychology for Everyday Life, Creative Writing and Real Estate Investments and Analysis. Also in almost every country you can follow a specific course for the country, for example: Canadian history.


The courses where very different from the courses my home university offered and they brought me a lot. Without creative writing I wouldn't have this blog and without the Real Estate course I wouldn't have done my Real Estate Masters in a total different city in the Netherlands.


I recommended you to try different courses that have always interested you and hopefully it will bring you a lot as well ;).


Advantage 6: Personal Development


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The last advantage I will discuss, but for me the biggest one, is personal development. Getting to know a different culture will teach you a lot about your own culture. What seemed 'normal' doesn't have to be as obvious anymore.


I will discuss one major personal development I undertook. In the Netherlands there is a 'C-culture' on universities. A lot of students are glad when they pass, without looking at the grade. In Canada I saw how this can be different. In Canada there is an 'A-culture' where students want to get the best out of themselves. Besides, they have summer internships, good jobs and join clubs. This actually inspired me to do a summer internship myself :).


Ofcourse there have been more interesting stuff I learned during my exchange, but I will spare these for you ;).


What are the disadvantages?


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One big disadvantage are the costs. An exchange is very expensive, especially in North-America or Europe. The total Exchange costed me around $ 9000 including a vacation of $ 1500 for 2 weeks. This is a lot of money, but for me it was 100% worth it. In these costs everything is included: airplane tickets, a place to sleep, a vacation, new clothes, food and so on. I think if you live more carefully and you don't go on the vacation you could do it for about $ 6000, which is still a lot of money.

I didn't get a scholarship, but that could also help you a lot with financing the exchange ;).


Besides the costs, there are seriously no other disadvantages. If you know how to finance your exchange, just go for it! :) You won't regret it.


Why choose for Canada?


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Personally I think that every country is great and will give you a unique experience and that it doesn't matter much where you going, if at least you are interested in the culture of the country.


The nature

What I liked about Canada a lot is first the nature. Canada is one of the biggest countries of the world, but has only 32 million inhabitants. There is a lot of space around you which I am not used to in the Netherlands. My exchange was in Calgary, which is very close to the Rocky Mountains. This was amazing to visit in the summer and go skiing in Fall.


The culture

The Canadian culture I didn't think was very different from the Netherlands. Of course there are differences, but it wasn't a 'culture shock'. If you are from Asia, Africa or South-America I think you would have a bigger culture shock. If you are from Europe or North-America, don't expect to experience a very different culture. If you want that, I would look for another country.


Friendly people

It sounds very cliche, but people in Canada are very friendly and helpful. In the beginning I even thought it was suspicious. Sometimes a stranger suddenly talked to me very happily and this suddenly happened a lot. It inspired me a lot, because the world gets more beautiful by doing this.


Let me know what you will do :)


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Canada is thus a great place to have your exchange, but I think every place could be great to do an exchange. Follow your heart and choose wisely. I hope this helped you to make a good choice for you exchange. And let me know what place would be ideal for you to go to! :)


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