5 Lessons My First Month of Exchange Has Taught Me

Hello lovely readers! I am a third year creative writing/law student who is currently on exchange at the University of East Anglia, which is not in London (It’s in Norwich).

There are rabbits on campus. Rabbits! It’s adorable, but more on that later.


Despite being on exchange for less than two months, I’ve been taught some pretty valuable life lessons, and not always in an easy way. Apologies if they’re Stilton level cheesy, but here goes.

Lesson 1: You need to challenge yo’self if you want to develop yo’self.

Okay in terms of rhyme that didn’t work, but in terms of life lessons for me, it did.

Here’s an example: Back in Melbourne, I am someone who has trouble getting from Southern Cross Station to Docklands (as in, two hours sort of trouble even with a GPS). I take PT as much as possible because the route is, essentially, set out and done for you.

However, over here, to get into town just once a week, we have to pay $8+ for a 40 minute bus ride. I’m not about that life. Or more specifically, my wallet isn’t. I had to brave this:

Screen shot 2015-03-08 at 2.40.47 PM
Google Maps is amazing!

I would’ve put it off, but the fact that I finally had a rain and assignment free day meant the lord really was testing me.

So, I set off with Google Maps on my phone (thank you, technology), and even though there were many wrong turns, and I took way longer than the 57 minutes Google Maps specified, I made it!

Being in a different country has forced me to prove to myself that I can travel to places alone (map needed). Now, there’s no excuse for me to not walk around Melbourne!

Lesson 2: Helping people is better than helping yourself

Self-fulfillment is not something you can find in a shop. I learnt this when we went to Edinburgh and encountered the National Monument.


As you can tell, those stairs are for giants. You need arms to push yourself up (some people ran up but don’t ask me how.) I don’t know how but barely scraping 5’3 and being someone who needs assistance opening a jar of Aldi pasta sauce, I somehow managed to push myself up. It was a great moment.

Here is an example of the assistance needed, ft. me being a jerk.


My friends, however, had some trouble. Feeling pretty bad for them, I ran around asking people to help them. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, all of us were up.

We also wanted some long distance shots. Considering I could hoist myself up, I ended up climbing down, taking photos from different angles, and climbing back up.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It was a workout and a half, but to be honest, helping my friends felt a lot better than surprising myself with the fact that I could get up there alone.

Lesson 3: “Most people are (nice), Scout, when you finally see them.”

Yes, this is from To Kill a Mockingbird, and yes, it fits this lesson to a T.

I was quite a reserved homebody with three friends before I went abroad. However, time zones and distance meant that I didn’t have that here.

Image: Quickmeme

If I didn’t talk to people, then I would miss out on so much and I would be pretty lost and miserable.

So, I started asking to go places with people, and it’s amazing how many ‘yes’ responses I got!

On my Edinburgh trip, I know I would never have visited so many attractions or had such wonderful experiences without spending it with the new friends I made.

like the Scott Monument! The view from the top is the most frightening and glorious thing in the world :)

Being abroad and taken out of my comfort zone has forced me to discover how awesome people can be. That being said, being alone isn’t a bad thing, which brings me to my next point.

Lesson 4: Being alone does not make you a loser.

Back home, I knew who I could call if I wanted to have a good time.

Here, I was the only person from UniMelb, and I was pretty quiet at first.

By the time I learnt lesson 3, people had already made good friends. I did feel pretty lonely because I didn’t have my usual crew and knew even less than Jon Snow.

weknowmemes knows me so well….!

However, as I challenged myself to do things alone, I realised that it could be an advantage.

You can do things without needing to worry about another’s needs, and you don’t have to feel obliged to keep talking to someone when you don’t want to.

I could plan a trip to Berlin alone without being asked ‘what?’ if I said I wanted to see Zoo Station and the Ku’damm more than the Berlin Wall. I could go to Paris just for the aim of eating a Royale With Cheese in my ‘Pulp Fiction’ shirt and not feel judged.

Point is, I could do whatever I wanted, and, may I add, when you accomplish your personal challenges alone, the victory is twice as sweet.

Lesson 5: Go to Aldi

I was a fool to ignore Aldi back home. However, in light of the past lessons exchange has taught me, I realised that it is possible to feed yourself for a month for around $120. And no, I’m not just talking about with staple foods, I added plenty of treats in my trolley, thank you.

post aldi me! Gif from giphy.com

Experience is a pretty good teacher, hey, and what better than in the form of exchange?

– Exy