I always knew that I would go on exchange when I came to university. Where and when and what I would do there were the unanswered questions. With a little soul searching and half a year later I would be on my way to sunny California, to Pitzer College.
The first time I stepped my feet to the campus, I just knew this was the place to explore my creativity and have a jam-packed schedule. I’m definitely not condoning working yourself to the brink of exhaustion but sometimes a little nudge on the back to push yourself is healthy and for me, it was when I was on exchange.
My first venture to really get to know the real campus life in Pitzer was to join one of the dance teams. I had been dancing back in Aberdeen and it was nothing new for me but somehow going into the audition in this new place was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I would have while abroad. I guess that tells something about my motivation and how much I wanted this. Thankfully I passed and I was now part of this diverse group of amazing people. We practised a couple of times a week and that was always such a happy time for me. We did also perform and oh boy, was that something that pushed me out of my shell. I like to think of myself as a very outgoing person and I enjoy performing but every time I performed in California it was something else. But I still loved it.
My second and third ventures of creativity were to join the college newspaper. I don’t remember any more if it was my own idea or if it was my friends but somehow, we ended up with a podcast about our expatriate life in the States. I had never thought about starting a podcast, frankly, I don’t even listen to them, but I grew to love going to the basement of the music building where the radio studio resided and just talking and laughing my heart out. All the episodes can be found on Spotify at 'Across the 7 Seas' if anyone is that brave to actually listen to it. (We did win one award for it from the California College Press Association!) I should also add that, yes, I did also write articles and somehow, my old high school’s alumni association found this one about languages and European School teachers were really having a field trip in the comments. Sometimes life really is weird and fantastical…
My final creative venture in California was taking an art course. The good thing about an English degree is that when abroad you only have one or two mandatory courses set by Aberdeen and everything else is up to you. Although, I do have to say that I am slightly sad about the fact that you can’t take a rock-climbing course and convert those credits back to Aberdeen… A shame. But! You can definitely take art courses and I delved into the world of oil painting. And, boy, do I have to tell you that was my absolute favourite course, maybe ever. Some of the paintings I did have special places in my current house. There is an Ottilia shrine with a self-portrait of me as the main attraction. And what about it?
What I’m trying to say is that your year or semester abroad is the perfect time to invest in your hobbies and better yet, you might find new hobbies and new things to fall in love with. Obviously, partying and travelling and complaining about essays is essential exchange stuff but really getting involved with campus activities and societies gives you an amazing understanding of the local student life that you otherwise might miss! Try everything and if it sticks it sticks.