What it's Really Like to go on Exchange

I discovered what it means to leave your comfort zone when I rejected all offers of help finding university accommodation, arrived in Lyon with my backpack alone at night on New Year’s Day and got a taxi to go to a youth hostel where I had no food and couldn’t sleep because someone was snoring. My (very idealistic) plan was to look for apartments online and become best friends with my new French housemates before I began an amazing semester on exchange. Two weeks later I was still living in a hostel, uni was about to start and I was stressed and crying almost every day.

In the end things worked out and I realised that, while I had been freaking out, I had actually been doing some really cool stuff . I managed to navigate the infamous French administration, open a bank account, find a studio to live in and learn how to make friends in a new city and new university, all in a foreign language. I even managed to pretend I was actually French so that I could get into a museum for free!

Once I had a place to live, my worries shifted from, “Omg is this apartment in a ghetto suburb” and “will I like the housemates” and “I’m scared” to, “I think I bought too many potatoes”. Uni started, and it was just like being in first year again. I was SO unfashionable with my backpack and knitted jumper and I was always lost. I had no idea what was going on with my timetable, which meant I missed quite a lot of classes by accident.

Uni eventually got easier too, and I began to drink long life milk, eat crème fraîche and accept that I just had to write on graph paper (lined paper doesn’t exist in France). I learnt to ski, trained myself to be up and ready for 8am classes, and sort of (but never quite) got the hang of kissing on the cheek.

There were a couple of setbacks (of course!). One of them was unexpectedly failing a final exam about History of the Middle Ages. I had to extend my apartment contract and miss a trip to London so I could re-sit the exam, but staying longer meant that I had more time to spend with my new friends.

Somehow, I made it through the semester and sort of managed to hold myself together when the time came to say goodbye. I never knew that I would be able to count amongst my closest friends, people who come from Colombia, America, Bosnia, Finland, Canada and New Zealand, and I never knew how tough it would be to leave them behind.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.