From September to December 2008, I was out of the country for an exchange student program. Instead of studying in my green and lovely school that is Ateneo de Manila, I studied in ISEN (Institut Supérieur d’Electronique et du Numérique) which is a part of the Université Catholique de Lille. It was honestly not that difficult to survive in Lille, France as it is a student city, much like the U-Belt and the Katipunan of the Philippines. Despite the fact that we were travelling every weekend, it was inevitable to be homesick and even bored at times. Thus, I am sharing with you this simple list of things that you need to survive life as an exchange student just in case you’re interested in applying abroad or in case you’re rummaging the Web for something to ease your tension ’cause you’re already leaving tomorrow for some country whose language you do not speak at all.
1) A TV series to get addicted to
In my case, the TV series came in the form of How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. Thanks mainly to the FTP server we had in our dormitory which allowed us to download episodes at a whopping speed of 5MB/s (about 2 to 3 minutes per episode). These shows provided entertainment during my boring hours inside the dorm and kept me connected to the “Westernized” world. They made me laugh during those moments that I should’ve spent sulking in homesickness! They also kept me busy to the point of forgetting to eat lunch and dinner. Talk about savings! Shi-shing!
2) A ready stash of pasta
You may be good in cooking but if you’re in a place where a small box of biscuits of the cheapest brand costs 70 pesos, I’m sure that you wouldn’t dare to buy your ingredients. Of course, you can’t keep your food cabinet empty because doing nothing in a foreign country usually leads to hunger. What do you do when late at night your stomach screams in pain? The easiest thing to cook is pasta of course! (Sure, you may choose to make a sandwich but there is too much preparation and it’s not really that fulfilling. Trust me.) You may pair it up with bolognese sauce, white sauce, pesto, olive oil and garlic, or plain old salt and pepper.
3) A good pair of shoes
If you’re addicted to traveling like the group I was with, get ready to WALK thousands of steps every weekend. We’ve been to 11 countries, for goodness’ sake! Just look at the torture that my rubber shoes got! I ruined 2 pairs of footwear during my entire 4-month stay. Well, I think it’s just enough ’cause I think I walked a million steps and climbed 10,000 steps throughout my traveling.
4) A group of people to help you live by
Say hello to the 14 + 1 (me) amazing people that I spent those 4 months with. Sure, we may not agree on everything all the time but having a group of fun and happy people with you throughout your stay is the MOST IMPORTANT thing that you need to survive. They’ll watch your favorite TV series with you. They’ll cook pasta with you. They’ll walk miles and miles with you. So, don’t you sulk in one corner and feel that you’re all alone in whatever country you are in (unless you really are) ’cause more or less, there are other people who feel the same way as you. :) And by the end of your stay abroad, they do not just remain to be normal people, they become your friends and that’s probably worth all the effort of surviving in your host country.