Who: Camilla from Denmark
When: Spring semester, 2013
Where: Hendrix College, Conway, AR, USA – At my home university I was studying Modern English and International Business Communication. In the US I took classes in American History, Sociology, Anthropology, and Asian Religions.
What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?
For as long as I can remember I’ve been wanting to live in the US at one point in my life. My granddad lived in Houston, Texas, and for every time that I went to see him I would fall more in love with the country. On the fourth semester of my bachelor degree we could choose to stay home and write a project, or to spend the semester at a university abroad. I of course decided to spend the semester abroad and fulfil the lifelong dream of mine to live in the US.
How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?
Most people from my class decided to go to San Diego or London, but I wanted to try something different and go to somewhere new. I’ve always loved the South, so after browsing through the different college profiles in my programme, I decided on applying for Hendrix College in Arkansas. Honestly, I had never heard anything about Arkansas, but that was exactly what made me choose to study in that state. I wanted to do something unique where I wouldn’t just be one out of thousands of other exchange students.
Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?
I was pretty excited. I had just ended a 5-year-long relationship, so I was ready for some change. I honestly didn’t expect much from this experience. I was just hoping that it would make me grow as a person and that I would make some memories worth remembering.
What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?
When I arrived to my new campus it was raining, and I was all alone as most students weren’t gonna return from their Christmas break until the day after. So I felt very lonely and I really just wanted to go back home immediately. Luckily this changed the next day.
What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?
After the first week I definitely realized that if I wanted to make the most of my semester, I would have to stop holding back and start being more chatty. Being an introvert, this was definitely difficult overcoming, but after a while I just realized that I needed to let go if I wanted to make the semester a good experience.
Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?
Definitely! In Denmark we usually spend 8 weeks in class, and the rest of the semester we work on our exams which are usually major essays and oral exams. In the US we only had one week of finals, and these were mainly multiple choice tests. Along with that, we would also take tests and hand in essays several times throughout the semester. It was definitely difficult to get used to this.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?
Honestly, the whole semester has been one big and great memory. Hendrix College is a small liberal arts college of about 1,300 students in the middle of nowhere. Since there was not much going on in town, we lived in something that we called the Hendrix Bubble, where we wouldn’t notice anything going on off-campus. I loved this! You would get really close with everybody, and there was always something going on on campus, from theme parties, to concerts, excursions, literally every day there was an event worth attending. My favorites were probably the Macklemore concert, Holi Festival, International Week, Toga Party, German Immersion weekend, and the monthly theme days in the cafeteria.
Has this experience at all changed the way in which you view yourself/other cultures?
I don’t think that the experience has changed the way I view other cultures. But it did teach me to make the most of everything that I do and to be open to anything that may be new and different to me.
Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?
I didn’t travel much during my semester abroad. I spent my spring break in Panama City Beach, and did a roadtrip with my family after the semester.
How did this experience change you?
This may sound cheesy, but I definitely believe that my study abroad experience has changed my life. Before I was super shy and kinda miserable. Living in the US I learned to let go and just live life. On top of that I also happened to meet a girl who today, three years later, still is my best friend, and I met a French boy who today is my boyfriend and this summer we’re gonna move in together in Amsterdam. So yes, I definitely think that this experience has changed me and my life!
Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?
If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?
You’ll get a unique chance to immerse yourself with the culture of a new country. Along with that, you might make some new friendships that will last a lifetime.