Student exchange during pandemic: Should I go?

Author: Mina Mihailovic

Going to an Erasmus exchange guarantees memories that you will remember for the rest of your life, but what happens when the whole world is affected by a global pandemic?

Thanks to the Erasmus program, studying abroad is a dream come true for thousands of students from all over Europe. While a little over a year ago, students' main concerns were bureaucratic matters, now, with the global pandemic, the decision to go abroad has become much more difficult. The world is still very unpredictable and decisions need to be made on a daily basis. How can we prepare to go to another country of different cultures, languages, and now COVID-19 measures that can change overnight? What is it that will make this Erasmus experience unforgettable?

#1 You will get to know better the beauties of the country you went to for an exchange program

Picture of a Mountain
Getting to see the beauty of a country is just one of the best things. (c) Mina Mihailovic

Although most students use the opportunity to visit as many countries in the region as possible during the exchange, in this situation it will generally not be possible. But this situation also has its advantages. Since travel is limited during a pandemic, this will be a great opportunity to get to know the beauties of the country you are going to. Traffic within countries generally functions without problems and there are no special restrictions. Take this opportunity to explore new places in your Erasmus country. Ask locals about places that are not popular with tourists and spend more time in nature.

#2 You will have the opportunity to improve your foreign language

The global pandemic has affected people's mental health and everyone is eager for socialization. Although you may not have the opportunity to go to cafes, bars and clubs this time, you will still have the opportunity to meet the locals, talk to them and thus improve your language. People who work in a nearby cafeteria where they only buy coffee to take away, can hardly wait for someone to address them and talk to them. Most student organizations at universities organize online Tandem evenings where you will be able to practice the language, but also meet students from all over the world.

#3 You will spend more time in nature

Lake in Austria
Just a picture of a new lake I discovered in one of my exchange studies. (c) Mina Mihailovic

After many hours in quarantine, self-isolation and lockdown, you will appreciate the time spent outside, in nature, much more. Going on an exchange is a great opportunity to escape from big, busy cities and go hiking or just enjoy by a lake, river or sea. If you do not have time to leave the city, you can always gather your new friends and go to a nearby park and have a picnic. Assemble a team and take the opportunity to play a sport, run or ride a bike and enjoy the fresh air.

#4 Online lectures will bring you more free time

Online classes
 Online lectures can be strenuous, but also time saving. (c) Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Although online lectures can be very strenuous and energy consuming, it turns out that this will, in a way, save you time. You won't have to get up a couple of hours early to get ready to go to college, you will not have to wait for a bus or walk to university, and you won't have to come home tired after a hard lecture. Arrange your workspace, make your favorite coffee or tea and follow the lectures from your new home.

#5 You will get closer to your international friends

You may not have the opportunity to visit bars and clubs with your international friends, but you will have the opportunity to organize joint gatherings, dinners and trips. The fact is that even in this situation, you will meet many new people who will most likely become your friends much faster. We are all aware of meeting people in clubs or bars that you think you had a great time with, but you didn’t really get to know and talk really well. That is why joint gatherings at e.g. bring dinners closer to each other and you will get to know each other better.

#6 "Tapetenwechsel" - Changing the environment and its positive effect on mental health

We all miss traveling outside our country, so this will be a great opportunity to spend a certain period in another country. You will be able to travel and explore new places. The change of environment itself will have a good effect on your mental health. You will live in a new city and be surrounded by new people.

About the author

My name is Mina Mihailovic and I come from Novi Sad, Serbia. I am currently pursuing master studies in Slavic languages, with specialization in Serbian language and literature. During my studies, I spent two semesters on student exchanges – winter semester of 2017/18 at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and the summer semester of 2020/21 at the University of Graz. In addition to learning languages, I also love music. I finished music school, in the piano department, and since my high school days I have been singing in choirs and vocal ensembles. I am currently employed at the Foundation Novi Sad – European Capital of Culture as Social Media Associate and Lector. 

Student dorms in Graz