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The Exchange Chronicles: The Perks of Studying Abroad

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Nakul Bhatia (3L): Prague, Czech Republic

Most memorable moment?

It was probably all my friends and family that came to visit throughout my exchange. I had friends from Calgary, my cousins, my parents, and Kismat and Faiz come to Prague and I ended up being a de facto tour guide. Also, the beer in Prague.

Problems you encountered that you weren’t expecting?

How cheap beer was in Prague! Why was this a problem you ask? Because you could never say “it’s too expensive” if you didn’t feel like going out and, thus, you had no excuses to stay in and watch movies. But, in all seriousness, it was probably being homesick.

Also, people in Europe were much less impressed when you told them you were in law school since you can go to law school right after high school. Definitely much less of a bar pickup.

Absinthe.

Any culture shock?

How weak European hockey is! They don’t even hit!! Don Cherry was right all along. Czech people also drink A LOT of beer (the most in the world by far); so when you are asked by a Czech person to go for a beer, it’s never ever less than 4. You have to make sure you Czech yourself!

I also travelled to a TON of countries, so it was basically learning about a new culture every weekend and it got to be

 ridiculous at the end. But I know how to say “cheers” in 6 different languages!

Advice for future exchangees?

Do your research of where you want to go and the credit system for the schools. I got to travel to 9 or 10 different countries, and I was able to because of the dates of my program and how cheap it was.

Just do it.

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Kismat Nijjar (3L): Wiesbaden, Germany

Most memorable moment?

Oktoberfest with Nakul! Hands down, one of the best parties I have ever been to. Sure, we had to wake up at around 6:30am to go line up, wait outside the beer tent for another 1-2 hours, and brave the cold… but it was well worth it! Thanks to Nakul’s recommendation, we ended up at the Hacker- Festzelt tent where I was able to drink a stein and a half (trust me; that’s a lot for me!) and dance to a live German rock and roll band.

As well, meeting people from all over the world and studying with them was a blast.

I will also say that touring the German Christmas markets at the end of the semester was amazing! The Germans definitely know how to do Christmas!

Lastly, the University I attended organized a few field trips for the exchange students. We travelled to Strasbourg to tour the EU Court of Human Rights and EU Parliament. We also went to Luxembourg City and got to sit in on a hearing at the European Court of Justice.

Problems you encountered that you weren’t expecting?

All non-EU citizens have to acquire a residence permit from the Immigration Office. Dealing with that office was a nightmare. As well, customer service is apparently not a thing in Europe; this led to some stressful times at the bank. Also, it’s not as cheap as you would think to travel within Europe.

Any culture shock?

German people are not as mean as you would think; trust me!

Advice for future exchangees?

Make sure you take as many required courses as you can in 2L, so that you’re not overloaded with them when you come back! Do research into what type of courses the exchange program offers. Also, factor in living/travel expenses. Although my bank account has been drained, the overall experience was priceless, and I would highly recommend studying abroad for a semester!

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Allyson Hopkins (3L): Copenhagen, Denmark

Admittedly, my exchange experience could have started out better. In fact, my tumultuous relationship with the “happiest country in the world” started before I even stepped foot in Denmark. Frustrations with course registrations and applications for housing left a lot to be desired. Despite all this, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning as I boarded my flight to Copenhagen.

Fast forward fifteen hours later, and I had hit my second patch of turbulence when I moved into residence. Expecting a clean room was perhaps a tad naïve. However paying $1000.00/month, I had replaced this naivety with some well-paid-for optimism. Sadly this was not the case. In place of my imagined clean home were strange bugs, suspicious crumbs littering the bed, and walls coupled with heaps of garbage strewn across the apartment. I was beginning to suspect that the seat belt sign might be permanently engaged for the duration of my exchange experience.

That first night in Copenhagen was, perhaps, the worst. Because Faiz had not yet moved into his apartment, we both spent a long night battling jet lag and platonically spooning on a single bed while I nervously scratched my arms and legs in anticipation of a perceived attack from bed bugs.

Three days later, as I trudged home from a party with no umbrella, Copenhagen let me have it again. The phrase “it was raining cats and dogs” does not really do that night justice and as I stood ankle deep in water, drenched, and silently cursing my luck. Forget turbulence; my flight was going down, and I was pretty sure the landing was not pleasant.

From then on, whenever something unfortunate would happen such as getting a flat tire two days after I had bought my bike, or contracting a plague-like illness midway through exchange, I would vent to Faiz that Copenhagen really and truly did hate me. My confirmation bias had been set in stone, and there was no looking back

Fortunately, things got better. I grew to love biking to class; I made lasting friendships, and the sights and foods I experienced have no equal. It’s an unfortunate truth that, even on exchange, turbulence happens; that’s life. The best thing you can do is buckle up and enjoy every minute of it because, believe me, it’s so worth it.

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Faiz-Ali Virji (3L): Copenhagen, Denmark

I spent the last 4 months on exchange in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life, and my advice to every law student is to go on exchange if you can! At first, I was a little worried about missing out on part of my last year of law school with all my friends, but trust me; the FOMO quickly dissipates when you are gallivanting across Europe.

I was asked to pick my most memorable moment, but really that is an impossible task. How can I choose between watching a Netherlands Euro Cup qualifying game in Amsterdam, going dog sledding and ice karting in the Artic Circle in Northern Finland, eating the best pizza, pasta and paninis of my life in Italy, or even just partying until the sun rises in good ol’ Copenhagen? (#humblebrag)

Luckily for me, going to a Scandinavian country where everyone speaks English better than I do meant there wasn’t really much culture shock. That’s not to say I didn’t run into any problems while there. I’m pretty sure I spent more on coffee in those 4 months than I did my first two years of law school. I also got my bike (which is the preferred mode of transportation in Copenhagen) stolen halfway through my exchange. But, really, when those are the majority of your problems, well let’s just say you don’t really have any problems.

To sum up, I made some great friends, who I had some great times with to make some great memories to last me a lifetime. So, all in all, I guess you can say my exchange was pretty great. Well, except for catching that damn travel bug.