The view from one of Madrid's many rooftop bars

Should I go on student exchange at university?

14 February 2022
Tips for preparing for student exchange and how to make the most out of your study abroad experience
Partnering with over 250 universities in more than 40 countries, the University of Sydney has the largest student mobility program in Australia.

Our Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts alumni, Chris Joannides shares tips on student exchange and how his experience at Universidad Autonoma, Madrid, Spain continues to benefit him personally and professionally.

Chris in his role as B2B Content and Distribution Manager at Stockland

Chris in his role as B2B Content and Distribution Manager at Stockland

Who should participate in a student exchange?

Anyone looking for a new and fun experience! 

It is a particularly great opportunity for students who may not have experienced overseas travel before, as it is a ready-made trip combining study, travel, and culture.
Chris Joannides (Spanish and Latin American Studies (Major) alumni)

Why should you participate in a student exchange?

You will regret it if you do not! Even if you are not studying a language, the benefits of rounding out your education with experiencing how people study, work and live in another part of the world is invaluable - you are immersing yourself in everyday life, which is more than being a tourist.

It is a great way to broaden your skill set, gain confidence, improve your cultural awareness, and have fun.
Enjoying the vibrant European music festival scene. Pictured here at Melt Festival in Berlin.

Chris enjoying the vibrant European music festival scene. Pictured here at Melt Festival in Berlin.

When should you participate in a student exchange?

As early as possible! If you leave it to the last few semesters, other things can come up and you will regret not looking into it earlier.

Where should you participate in a student exchange?

Somewhere you have always thought about going but never taken the plunge. My advice is to go for the one that feels a little more challenging – you will ultimately get the most out of it that way.

On a tour of the famous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid

Chris on a tour of the famous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid

What are the tips for participating in a student exchange?

  1. Try to get in touch with other students before you leave.
    I found a Facebook group where members were other students heading to the same university on student exchange. Some were even in Sydney, so we met up beforehand. I felt comfortable knowing I had these friends from day 1.
  2. Balance your work and play.
    Studying and attending your classes is important, but do not forget to experience the nightlife, meet new people, and just generally do fun things outside of university.
  3. Get your paperwork in order early.
    Leaving it to the last minute is stressful! Read up on what you will need to organise to get into the country smoothly, copies of your passport, vaccination status and anything you might need for once you get to the university.
  4. Dive into every experience.
    Your university will have clubs, events, social meets - even if you are pushed outside your comfort zone, you will be grateful in the long run as it enriches the experience.
  5. Look into accommodation early.
    I made the mistake of leaving it until I got there. It meant I spent much more for interim accommodation until I found the right place.
Student exchange prepares you in ways that studying in your home city cannot - it teaches you to be independent, take accountability for your decisions and take full control of your way of life.

How does participating in a student exchange prepare you for life after completion? What can it lead to or allow you to do and achieve?

Being thrust into a new culture in a foreign city gives you a great perspective on what really makes you happy - when you're on student exchange you have more control over what you do, when, and with who. This can help guide your direction, professionally, socially, or otherwise, once you leave university.

Moreover, my time in Madrid allowed me to reach my full Spanish-speaking potential. Having this advanced multi-lingual ability is looked upon favourably when applying for jobs.

Your portfolio of student exchange experiences become real-life stories to tell during interviews or at work. You can draw upon them to paint a picture about your skills, life experience and worldly smarts. From a networking standpoint, the people you meet on student exchange can become some of your greatest advocates or mentors.

Study with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to gain access to these international opportunities supported by Strategic Partnerships and Engagement within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and by Sydney Abroad. Please see study overseas scholarships for available scholarships.

Banner image: Photo of the view from one of Madrid's many rooftop bars by Chris Joannides