You get what you give when studying abroad

Exchange student Ashleigh Bagshaw considers her time in the U.S.

This article marks my last for the Reporter, and so it is only appropriate that I take it as an opportunity to reflect on the term that has been from my own personal viewpoint as an international exchange student. The experience of exchange is unlike any other, and it is difficult to put into words everything that I have learned along the way, but I will do my best.

As a native of Adelaide, South Australia, I came a long way from home to attend Minnesota State University, Mankato. Exchange is one of those experiences that you come into with expectations, and find out that every expectation you had prior to coming was completely inaccurate. It is not an experience for the faint of heart, and it challenges you to become stronger than you ever believed possible.

I arrived here back in the first week of January and found myself captivated by a new world; to me Minnesota was a Winter Wonderland. Studying abroad provides a wake-up call in that it really makes you aware that there is an entire world beyond the place where you grew up, and that was one of the first things that really hit me when I arrived here. To be a successful exchange student, you have to come into the experience with an open-mind, and always be ready to learn new things.

It has certainly been a difficult transition at times: living on a different continent from my loved ones; adjusting to cultural differences; and all the while struggling with the pressures faced by all college students.

However, the MSU community has been a warm and welcoming one, and I quickly found my niche. It is important to make connections while on exchange, and for me I have made friendships here that I hope will continue to last for years to come. I could not have had the experience I have had without having met some truly amazing people along the way.

If there is one thing I cannot emphasize enough about going on exchange, it is the need to take every opportunity that is handed to you. While here, I have been lucky enough to be given many of these opportunities including: working for the Reporter; undertaking a video production internship at Mav Visual Productions; and even organizing a concert for a Minnesota-based charity to raise awareness about how students can stay safe while traveling internationally.

The four months I have spent here are short in comparison to the four years that many students will spend at MSU, but I have taken so much away from this experience in such a short time. Studying abroad not only provides a fantastic opportunity to learn more about another country, but to gain a greater sense of self-awareness, strength and independence. The lessons you learn from exchange provide invaluable life experience, and are lessons that could never be learned in a classroom.

Exchange truly is the experience of a lifetime, and one that I would recommend to each and every student at MSU.

Photo: (Courtesy of Ashleigh Bagshaw)

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