One: You will learn a new language quicker through immersion The quickest way to learn a new language is not to sit in a classroom with a group of other English speaking students or to listen to repititive Rosetta Stone tracks. The most effective, and confronting, way to learn is through full immersion in a country that is native to speaking your chosen language. Whilst this can be very intimidating at first, being forced into daily activity in a foreign language, accelerates the learning progress. For me, living with a host family in Italy had its challenges, but through daily listening and participation in conversations, I learnt a lot more than textbooks can teach. Most importantly, you learn different slang phrases and inflections which can only be learnt through situational experiences.
Two: You will make new friends from all over the globe
Through my studies abroad, I have met friends from Italy, Ecuador, Argentina, France, USA, China and Canada. Not to mention the friends I have made from back home in Australia. These friendships have led to future meetups, opportunities for travel and even the learning of their native languages. Friendships like these are based on a mutual understanding of the challenges associated with living and studying abroad but also open the eyes to other world cultures and their traditions.
Three: Your eyes will open to new and diverse cultures
Living day to day in a foreign country means you will inevitably live as the locals do. Rather than being a traditional tourist in a country other than your own, you are essentially welcomed into another life, a life in which you eat and drink local delicacies, partake in cultural traditions and grow up as locals do by participating in their education system. Whilst those you meet are often fascinated by having an "Australiana" in their class, they do not however change their daily behaviour and habits to suit you. Whilst I was in Italy I attended school classes such as Latin and Art History which we don't offer in Australia, was given a shot of grappa by my host father and sipped an Aperol Spritz at the bar at the tender age of sixteen. Opening of presents was on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day was reserved for skiing the Austrian Alps and Louis Vuitton was the school handbag of choice.
Four: You will travel to new and fascinating destinations
Living and studying abroad, especially in Europe, you will inevitably visit various destinations in an effort to gain the most of your experience. When I was in Italy, I was staying in a small town near Udine but was shown Trieste, Venice, Rome, Florence and Cortina in Italy. I also travelled to neighbouring countries of Austria and Slovenia which were beautiful in their own ways. Even when I was in Mexico studying at university, I was able to visit Puerto Vallarta for the weekend with the exchange program. Whilst you think of your exchange as being to a single destination, you will often get to experience more than you ever thought possible.
Ljubljana, Slovenia. Five: You will develop a new appreciation for your life back home
Being shy in my younger years, I used to be quite nervous having to do a speech at school or meeting new people. The major thing I learnt being on exchange was that as hard as it was for me to do these things, it seemed a lot easier after having to do them in a foreign language. You gain a sense of confidence from having to make it on your own and master a language that is confusing and intimidating at times. Another thing I learnt from my time abroad was that as much as I loved experiencing new destinations and new cultures, there is nothing like home and that feeling of returning to the familiar is amazing. It will open your eyes to how lucky you are to be living in such a beautiful country that is Australia.