Cultural Experience | Resources

Is an Exchange Program the Right Study Abroad Experience for You?

Learn what makes an exchange program unique before choosing which type of study abroad is right for you.

There are a variety of different programs for studying abroad and it’s important to understand the differences between the types when choosing which one works best for you. There are plenty of good reasons to choose an exchange over a faculty led study abroad, but there are also many things to take into account. Here are a few of the characteristics that make an exchange an exchange.

An exchange is very independent

Going on an exchange, you have no faculty from your home university traveling with you and no established group. In addition, there is no faculty or adult keeping tabs or checking up on you. An exchange experience requires a lot more responsibility but also allows for much more freedom than most other programs. You decide what you do while abroad and you choose how to make it your own!

You do your own budgeting

For some programs there are overhead fees that cover all the costs you will encounter besides personal purchases. In an exchange program, you will encounter number of different costs that you must both keep track of and pay for separately. If you’re paying for a lot of your experience from your own finances, it’s especially important to realize the necessity of planning your budget and accounting for all your expenses. On the other hand, you can also be sure that your money is going specifically to the things you want to spend it on and not on things chosen by group leaders or other students.

Planning travel is your responsibility

In other programs there will be some preplanned trips you take with the group from your home university. During an exchange, you are the one who arranges and books any trips you plan to take. This can involve a learning curve when figuring out what websites are most useful, how to research the best deals, and which kinds of travel are most appropriate for which kinds of trips. This is definitely one of the best factors about going on an exchange, as you get to go exactly where you want and you also learn loads about geography, transportation, and scheduling.

You can change your mind

If you take a weekend trip to Barcelona and want to extend your trip into the week, you can! If you have one day left in Italy and would rather spend it sampling wine than seeing a historical site, you have that liberty. Traveling is often best when blessed with a little spontaneity. Being your own boss can permit you to explore on a whim.

You go out of your way to make your own friends

When you go with a group from home you have a guaranteed set of friends. On an exchange, you have to go out of your way to make the friends you will travel and share experiences with. You also have more of a chance to become friends with local students and take trips with several different groups. This experience comes with less group security but gives incentive to leave with more international connections and new relationships.

You live more like a local

During an exchange you have tons of opportunities to have personal interactions with locals. You may live with local students and are also often responsible for your own food, shopping, and necessities. This pushes you to use the resources of the community as a local would. Living as an exchange student, you experience the culture in a very realistic and true to life manner.

Taking solo trips or visiting friends is an option

One freedom of going on an exchange is you have the opportunity to take trips by yourself. You can also visit and stay with friends or acquaintances that are locals of your host country or neighboring countries.

You are the one who creates solutions for difficult situations

Mishaps are inevitable when you travel. While you’re on an exchange, you have to depend on yourself if you get lost, lose your passport, or get sick, etc. This can be daunting, but also ends up being extremely rewarding. Knowing that you traveled to a different continent by yourself and took challenges as they came at you is a big boost to your self-confidence and your self-sufficiency.

8 Characteristics of an exchange program.

Emily Roth

University of Connecticut | 6 stories

Emily is a current UConn senior and Political Science major, deeply in denial about graduation. She studied in Nottingham, England for a semester of her junior year and feels super lucky that she was able to travel around Europe. She hopes to pursue a creative and entrepreneurial career which allows her to make actual change in people's lives. She can often be found enjoying cheap wine while consuming excessive amounts of home remodeling shows.

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