For Nico Arnason, the decision to study abroad was clear.
It was an opportunity for him to embrace his love of travelling, while earning credits towards his university degree. Plus, it was a chance for him to expand his comfort zone – he had never been on a trip that lasted longer than a few weeks, and he was excited to get started.
“I realized I had to do it when a Study and Go Abroad ambassador came into one of my classes in first year and promoted the opportunity,” says Nico. “After hearing about it, I looked it up on the school website and saw all the different locations that were available. I immediately started deciding which ones I would want to apply for.”
Nico’s enthusiasm would eventually lead him on a trip to Europe, where he would experience life in Germany up close. TalentEgg had the opportunity to connect with him about his experiences abroad so far – read on!
Landing in Berlin
After examining many different destinations, Nico eventually settled on Berlin for a few reasons. He had visited Germany a few years prior for a few weeks, and his desire to explore it even further drew him back.
Berlin is also a central location in Europe, which is great for travelling to other countries in the area. Lastly, the cost of living in Berlin was relatively inexpensive compared to the other cities he was considering.
It’s important to do your research about a location before heading abroad. Here are a few things to look up:
- Cost of living – find out how much rent and your weekly expenses will be. You may be surprised how much it differs from home.
- Resources – where is your residence located in relation to the campus? The grocery store? The hospital?
- Local customs – from basic etiquette to city laws, it’s always good to brush up on your knowledge so you don’t commit a cultural faux-pas on your first day.
- Basic phrases – if you’re going to a city where English is not widely spoken, it might be handy to have some phrases in your back pocket. “Hello” and “Where’s the bathroom?” might come in handy.
Nico knew finding housing in Berlin was competitive, so he made arrangements to stay in a hostel for his first 3 nights in the country. It was very central, which allowed him to explore his new surroundings with the people he met during his stay.
“The place was really unique,” says Nico. “There were a lot of clubs and bars. Since these were the first places in Berlin I had been in, I didn’t know what to expect.”
While Nico’s initial living situation was unusual, he definitely made the most of it. For the next few weeks, Nico used this opportunity to travel while staying at various temporary homes around the city. He flew to France to meet with a friend, who was also on an exchange. When he came back, he stayed at the hostel again until he finally settled on a great studio apartment in student housing. His extended time moving around allowed him to really see many different aspects of Berlin.
“There was a lot of graffiti everywhere, and all the people seemed very ‘individual’,” says Nico. “A lot of people had different coloured hair and different styles. I’ve come to enjoy that about Berlin – it’s a place where people can be whomever they want to be.”
University life in Germany was a new experience as well. In Berlin, the school was very small compared to Canada’s large campuses. Nico says his school is the equivalent to 5 floors in an office building, with one and a half floors dedicated to teacher’s offices. Nico had classes that lasted 4 hours, but only happened once a week.
“It has its pros and cons,” admits Nico, ”While 4 hours is a long time for class, many of them finish earlier than that. Plus, going to classes only once a week is great!”
Nico’s time abroad taught him a lot of lessons, both big and small. When he initially set out on this adventure, he envisioned his trip to be constantly action-packed with sightseeing and making new friends.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about all the amazing things I’d be doing, which caused me to overlook the fact that there would still be time where I chill at home and watch Netflix,” he says. “Sometimes I felt pretty guilty, since I was in another country, and I felt like I should have always been doing something exciting.”
During the planning stages, Nico had been pretty picky about where he wanted to travel. While he doesn’t necessarily regret this decision, he says next time, he’ll be sure to keep an open mind and consider a wider range of locations. For example, in Berlin, there were a lot of people who spoke English. While this made things a lot easier for Nico, he says he would have welcomed the challenge of meeting people who spoke a different language.
3 reasons why you should study abroad:
- It gives you a worldly experience – immersing yourself in a new location and culture is a lot of fun, and you’ll gain a lot of new perspectives.
- It looks amazing on a resume – you studied abroad in another country? Employers love to see that. It means you have unique experiences most other grads don’t have.
- It’s an efficient use of time – working towards your degree while travelling allows you to “kill two birds with one stone”. Plus, it’s tons of fun!
“I have probably grown more from leaving my comfort zone,” he says. “You never know who you’ll meet or what amazing things you’ll end up doing!”
Nico’s unplanned trip to France taught him that travelling alone could be just as fun as travelling in a group. Visiting France by himself for 3 days meant that he could sightsee and do what he wanted with more flexibility.
“The most important thing I learned from my trip is to talk to as many people as you can,” says Nico. “You’ll hear crazy stories and make new friends. The possibilities are endless!”
The future ahead
During his travels, Nico connected with a lot of classmates, most of whom were on an exchange program as well. He also met a lot of people during his stays at the hostels, which really added to his experience. Because of these connections, Nico says he has a network of friends around the world.
“It gives me a different perspective on things,” he says. “Various cultures look at things in different ways, which is really interesting.”
Nico’s top 3 tips for students studying abroad
- Start practicing the language before you leave for your trip!
- Set a budget. Otherwise you might end up overspending – it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement.
- DO IT! What do you have to lose?
Nico stays in contact with his friends through Facebook, and he hopes to visit them during his future travels. He says a lot of them are interested in travelling to Canada, and he’s excited to show them around his home.
While Nico is still unsure of what he wants to do in his career, his experience abroad has opened his eyes to new industries and possibilities for his future. He’s considering the possibility of working abroad so he can continue seeing different parts of the world.
What Nico knows for sure is that there will be a lot of travelling in his future. He says this experience in Berlin has showed him it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to travel. In the meantime, he’s focused on finishing his degree in business.
“I do think I’ve grown and become more confident, which will benefit me in a lot of areas in my life,” says Nico. “I’ve also learned a lot about myself, which sounds pretty cliché, but it’s true!”