I hate to break it to you, but if you are, like me, an Erasmus+ student only at UL for one semester, let it just sink in that over half of your time as an exchange student has already passed! And whilst I’m sure that you are doing your best to “have the best time ever” abroad, we also both know that you could do it better.
So here they are: 10 dos and don’ts keep in mind from now on, to make the last few weeks of your exchange semester your best one.
- Have a “YES” mentality. With every opportunity you dismiss, the thoughts of “Oh, I wish I had done…” or “Damn, I will never know what would have happened if…” might haunt you for the rest of your life. So: go and talk to that stranger, go on that trip to who knows where! Every good experience will be a bonus, and every bad one will be another good story to tell afterwards.
- Document your memories. Whether through pictures, documenting it in chats with your friends or writing a blog, make it easier for yourself to remember this time in the future! You could, for instance, write down one random thing that happened each day – these are the things that you might forget, but will bring back the most when you find them again.
- Remember what you are here for. Whether it is reaching new intellectual heights or simply “having the best time of your life”, remember what you expected before coming here and think: are you really living up to them right now? Make sure you’ve done all that you came here for (and hopefully even more!) before you go back home.
- Look on the bright side of life. Whilst it might feel like we’re on a permanent holiday here, normal life goes on here as well and, as in normal life, sometimes bad, unforeseen things can happen. When they do, don’t let them influence your entire experience. Patch it up by doing something you still had on your bucket list and you’ll remember straight away that you are on an amazing one-time experience and that you should make all moments memorable, not remain stuck in the unlucky ones.
- Try to really experience your host culture. Don’t forget that you are in Ireland, nowhere else! People will ask you when you return: “So, how was Ireland?” Experience as many quirky, typical and unique things that only someone who lived in Ireland for a while will understand; that is something nobody can take away from you.
- Take everything too seriously. Yes, we all want to experience Ireland to the fullest, but don’t push yourself over the edge by fanatically dragging yourself to far-off places every day and on crazy trips every weekend. Chill out!
- Take risks that you’re not insured for. Just don’t. Just because it feels like we’re on a bit of a holiday for a semester, doesn’t mean that gravity or health hazards work any differently than in your home country. So by all means go on those great outdoor activities, but be cautious as you would be at home. Did you know that in 24 years’ time 66 people fell off of the Cliffs of Moher and died? Yeah, just putting that out there.
- Feel guilty about not contacting “home” enough. For sure, it would be thoughtful to let your parents or grandparents know that you arrived safely, that you have a roof over your head and that you’re eating enough. And for sure it’s important to help out friends at home if you need you, or occasionally Skype with your missing-you-terribly Significant Other. But, you are here only once and, as we noticed, the time flies.
- Do things that you wouldn’t do at home. Many exchange students might actually forget it, but yes, in Ireland there are also rules and laws that any citizen should follow. And yes, here it’s also possible to binge drink until you are escorted to the hospital. All I’m saying that it is wise to be a bit sensible whilst on exchange, like you would (hopefully) be at home. After all, you are in a host country and it might not be as easy to slip out of consequences here, or be picked up by your parents at any time.
- Be that “annoying tourist”. Now that you have a chance to live and experience Ireland for an entire semester, this is also your chance to forever exit the stage of “annoying tourist” and blend in with the locals seamlessly. Just observe how the Irish behave and master it, especially in pubs: don’t dance to the live music pretending that you know how to Irish dance, don’t request stupid songs to the musicians, and do sing along as loud as you can when a song is played.