Nearing my last few days abroad, I feel like I have become an expert on the differences between an exchange program and a study abroad program. Comparing my experience to those of my friends, I have noticed some key differences in my experience that make exchange experiences unique and appealing to different types of people.
One of the main differences is the amount of autonomy and independence that you have in an exchange program. Being in an exchange program almost felt like freshman year all over again as you’re pretty much on your own in terms of picking classes, meeting new people and making friends, and assimilating to a completely new environment. While Bocconi does organize a few orientation events, they are not really conducive to mingling with your exchange-mates. Compared to my friends who enrolled in study abroad programs, they had a set group of students who they attended every class and even trips planned by their program together. The independence definitely can be overwhelming, but as long as you put yourself out there and are open to meeting people from different walks of life from all over the world, you will find people who will enhance your exchange experience tenfold.
Another main difference between my experience and study abroad experiences was the diversity of the people I met. Through my exchange program, I was able to meet people from all over the world from Norway to Australia. This was probably the coolest part of my experience as I got to interact with so many people from different cultures, and learn about so many different parts of the world through my one exchange. It was also helpful that my classes were taught in English and all exchange students also spoke English. Not only was I introduced to so many different cultures, but I was able to make friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. While you meet new people on both exchange and study abroad programs, study abroad programs usually consist of other American students. I was so thankful for my ability to be exposed to so many different cultures and to branch out of my American-dominated educational experiences. Although everyone’s exchange experience is different, I am sure that most can relate to these characteristic elements and differences from study abroad programs and can decide which program is best for them.