amy dang on exchange

Why going on exchange was the best decision of my undergrad

Amy Dang studied at the Neoma Business School, Rouen Campus in Rouen, France for the Fall 2017 term. She is a BBA student, with an Option in Accounting and a Minor in Economics, on the Waterloo campus.
Travelling, meeting new people, living away from home and did I mention travelling? These were the main reasons I applied to go on exchange in my fourth year. As it turns out these would end up being only one of the many reasons why studying abroad was the best decision in my undergrad.
I had the opportunity to study at the Neoma Business School in Rouen, France which is about an hour and a half outside Paris. Coming to Neoma, I did not really know anyone very well, besides a few Facebook messages in the summer before exchange with others who posted in the exchange group. In many ways, this was a blessing in disguise; had I chosen the same schools as my friends, I know that I would have stuck with them the entire semester and been more reluctant to make new friends. This leads me to the most important point:  going on exchange is about broadening your experiences and learning more about yourself. Pick the school or country that you want to study in, not where you feel pressured to pick. You will meet a lot of people whether it be in your classes, your residence or in the hostels while you travel.
Getting the chance to travel every weekend to a new destination is what made exchange so exciting, as every week was a new adventure. Zurich, Amsterdam, Rome, Lisbon and Berlin were only some of the many cities I got to travel to with each one being so unique. A big takeaway from travelling to all these places is: plan for the weather and make sure you pack accordingly before exchange. When I left for exchange, I was still in summer mode and I had the plan of travelling to all these warm places and underestimated how cold some of my chosen destinations would be. My overall advice: don’t pack only for the weather it is now but what the weather will be as well. Otherwise you will be faced with having to buy new clothes or wearing the same five outfits, like me.
My other advice about travelling is: don’t be afraid to do solo trips. Not everyone in your regular travel group will always want to go to the same place or do the same things and going by yourself is a great way to experience a city. You don’t feel pressured or rushed in places that you want to spend time in or feel bored doing things that you are not interested in. Berlin was a city that I got to explore on my own and I got to fully immerse myself in a lot of the World War II history of the city at the pace I wanted to go.
While travelling and going out were the highlights of my exchange it’s also important to balance that with academics and studying. Taking the week off to study, work on projects and recharge is always a good idea to prevent you from getting stressed or burnt out. I was also applying for co-op jobs while studying abroad which leads to my next advice:  applying for more postings will never hurt you. While this period was stressful, as is any application period, it can feel extra stressful as you are not on campus to do any interviews. My advice would be to apply for more postings than you think you would at home. That way you have more options and are less stressed in case an application does not go in your favour.
While some of my classmates chose to return to a previous employer because they knew they were going on exchange, don’t let it deter you from going through rank-match. It may take a little more planning on your part but it is doable. It also gives you a fun talking point while doing Skype interviews.
Exchange was one of the best experiences of my undergrad and I could write a much longer spotlight on how amazing it was but the only way to understand it is to experience it yourself, which is something that I would recommend to all students here at Laurier.