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International_Students2Di Antonio Garramone

For an university student, irrespective of his age or field, there will be a moment of his career in which he will be annoyed by the mundane rituals of his day to day life. It is not necessary to put something behind bars obliging him to say the truth to understand that, despite the fancy party nights between the various exams’ sessions, this life could be considered pretty boring, characterized by relationships that are not sexual nor friendly, with several books covering diverse subject-matter. We can try to make things more amusing imaging to cheat a Contract law book with the curvy Business administration case book, praying not to be discovered because we definitely love the doctrine of good faith or the third parties responsibility but, seriously, how many irrelevant tangents can we explore?  For those not so nerdy to be able to do so, when this moment arrives -while ranting and raving about how life sucks, looking at the roof, waiting for an epiphany as a comet between the water stains on the wall- the solutions reality offers to remedy our dissatisfaction are only two: thinking about what’s for dinner, and dreaming about life’s next travel opportunity and destination.

It is quite common for a young man or woman around the age of twenty to believe they deserve a better life than the one in which they find themselves, or at least they deserve a break from it. And what is better than travelling to an unknown place somewhere on the earth’s face? Most of you might think that this solution cannot be realized due to all the obligations that a student must respect. Well, guess what? I introduce you to the Exchange Program: the easiest way to go far away without throwing your studies in the trash. After all the paperwork necessary to apply for your chosen university is completed and submitted, the moment in which you have been selected comes. In this moment you finally know that the time of your life is coming. But what actually happens as soon as you get off the plane? What really characterizes an exchange student from a local one? Let’s take a look!

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1)”You have to mispronounce your name, just so people will understand it”. Not everyone’s name is Bob, and, trust me, even if it should be possible, there will always be a foreign student unable to pronounce your name. It is advisable to abstain from the discussion of last names; the pronunciation of last names should be reserved to those with expert skills.

2)”You have improved your ability of sleeping in any kind of public transport, table, on the floor, and most importantly, in class”. One of the biggest enemies of an exchange student is the so called jet-leg. After one month, you will be able to sleep like you’re used to at home, but in the first weeks you will probably spend your night watching all the television series available on streaming while the rest of the city sleeps, and daydreaming to get some shut-eye as if it were a Victoria’s secret model.

3)”You would kill for food from your own country”. Spoken like a typical Italian or Southern European. Instead, you encounter pasta with sweet sauces, spices everywhere (even in the cakes), meat that tastes like fish, a kitchen’s nightmare that involves you and a series of dramatic consequences for your digestive system. However, chocolate is chocolate everywhere and we have to be grateful for that.

4)”You get a tons of friendship requests on Facebook from people that you don’t even know and three thousands likes at every stupid thing that you publish”. Have you ever counted how many Carl are listed on your Facebook profile? Changing is cool, and putting a Mohammed or a Joanna in your contacts can only make things more interesting, but who is Joanna? Maybe she’s the one that I met at the symposium about the environment? Anyway she likes at my Halloween album, and  I love the photos of her dog… She dresses so fancy… Oh my god, she loves traveling like me! It would happen at least twice a week, like by like, you will create an empire of worldwide friends, and with most of them you would have spoken only about the weather.

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5)”You have to travel, until the end of your financial resources”. You are in a foreign country and you do not know if and when you will return, so what are you waiting for? You definitely have to visit every single place beyond the tourist guide advertising, discovering even the weirdest site that that country can offer you. The only problem is that your wallet is going to be empty in a few weeks, but don’t panic: have you ever heard about hitch-hiking?

6)”You have to speak the universal language of love”. Love is all around us, even in Greenland. Despite the cold, they are able to give you their hearts in addition to sardines. If you don’t try you will never know if you like it! And for those that have decided to face this adventure despite being involved in a relationship, you have to take two clocks and organize your Skype timetable. It is not ideal, but even a PC can make your heart beat if the right person is on the other side of the camera.

This is a little sum of what is going on during an exchange experience, and if you are thinking about trying to face this challenge, even if you don’t believe it, you are ready.

But, what happens when you come back home?

7)”Who is the man I see? What am I supposed to be?” Welcome to your identity crisis! You will speak in your host country’s language or put on an accent and pretend you’re an exchange student again. But I’m sorry, the game is over and your amazing experience will not come back. But you will always be grateful for all the wonderful moments, people, even problems it gave to you, and you will have the awareness that without it, one life is not sufficient to gain this sensation of…happiness.

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