Leaving Vaasa, Finland after my Erasmus Exchange year came to an end was a tough call.
It was a place I grew to love and called home for a very long time.
I had made endless friendships and started to become routed to my newly adopted city.
An exchange study period can do this to you, but there comes a time when you have to fly back to your motherland.
Time to say goodbye and it’s not going to be easy.
With a little preparation, you can make the most out of your final weeks, before its too late.
Here are some tips to make sure that you depart in the best possible way from your exchange period.
So what should you do to make sure you leave a lasting impact before you head home?
Go out with a bang
The idea to dissolve into the midnight back to your home country does roll around your mind.
Especially when you’re bogged down with final assignments and exams.
Its a easy option to make but it’s not the best.
Make sure you leave with a lasting impression amongst your peers, as it may be the last time you see them.
Goodbyes are always tough, but it’s important to leave in a top-notch fashion.
Hold a few parties or gatherings with your closest friends and enjoy a few drinks or a lovely cooked feast, do something special for your newly adopted exchange buddies.
Often, years later you will think back to the last time you saw your exchange friends, these last farewells will be gratefully appreciated in the future.
Remember to also say bon voyage to the people you saw every day such as your local bakery, The friendly local who helped you out on arrival, the kebab man that prepared your hangover food, your favourite Barista that brewed your morning coffee or the bartender who served your endless amounts of beer that you consumed during your exchange period (Buy them a drink, they have earned it!).
Thank them for being awesome and for making your exchange experience that little extra special, they will appreciate your final goodbyes and you may end up with a free chicken wing from the kebab man, Worth a shot!
Recycle your things
First of all try and sell as much of the stuff you no longer need.
It’s much needed travel money at the end of the day and otherwise it will just go to waste as your newly acquired sofa will for sure not fit in your already overflowing suitcase.
You can do so by using Ebay, Gumtree, online Facebook market spaces, posters around the university walls or local supermarkets.
For the remaining clutter you can’t get rid of (the Dutch orange hat you somehow ended up with on a drunken night) it might still be of use to someone else, so do the right thing and donate it to a charity shop.
Some Student associations arrange collections for the people that need it, so keep an eye out.
You could even try the Red Cross that often does clothing collections in many cities around Europe.
Or how about a local you have met, they are not moving any time soon and could make use of it, even a much needed student might take it for free, Students love free things!
They might even keep it to give to a new student in the future.
Make a mark
Engrave a tree, bury a time capsule, make a video and put it on YouTube, do something that you can come back to in the future and remember the place where you spent a small portion of your life. You might return in the future and this will give you something fun to discover.
Remember to arrange a group photo with everyone you met on your exchange, you did something rather extraordinary in your youth and it will be fun to look back at when your old and grey and feeling pretty boring.
When I departed from my old student house, it didn’t feel right, It was a place I called home for a long time.
I knew in a matter of months a new exchange student would move into my beloved room, So I wrote a two page letter and offered advice about how to make their exchange a blast!
This nice simple gesture may help someone in the future when they seek information for the coolest bar in the city to discover and how to make friends on the first day.
The wonderful thing about an International Exchange experience is new, people come whilst old people go, make sure you leave a legacy that future students can live up to.
Get everything done well in advance
Pay off those remaining phone bills, sort out the cancelation of your rental agreement in advance and get up-to-date with all your University work.
Around the end of your exchange period is the time when everyone is in a positive mood and wants to go out with a bang!
Lots of gatherings will happen, and most importantly, you won’t want to miss them!
You might not see these people ever again and as hard as it is to accept this fact, it is a reality in some cases.
It’s very important to make the most out of the small amount of time you have ahead.
So remember, get all your studying and work done well in advance so you can enjoy these treasured last days, you will regret it big time if you don’t!
Make business cards, buy a flag or put together a scrapbook
The best way to keep in contact with everyone you met on your exchange is by giving them your contact information, use Vistaprint to get some contact cards made up and hand them out like no tomorrow so people won’t lose contact with you.
You never know, your friend from Lithuania might call you up in 6 years time and ask you out for a beer, what a great surprise that would be.
Maybe put together a book that people can write down some final words, it’s great to go back to when you want to relive your exchange.
Trust me, this happens very frequently, its actually an illness called “missing exchange Syndrome”.
Everyone that has been on an International Exchange in the past can tell you this first hand, we all go through it.
You will return home with a rush of excitement to see your friends and family back home because you miss your home comfort foods and a hug from your dog.
Soon after they won’t understand your crazy need to party on a Tuesday and drink the cheapest shop brand beer.
Everyone faces this horrible time of missing your exchange so reading a well put together scrapbook is just what you need.
Maybe a student association arranged this already for you? Yearbooks are very common in many universities or see if you can organize one yourself so everyone can have a copy.
In Vaasa, Finland we had a sign in book at the International Sauna house, so future students can go back and read messages from past students, what a wonderful legacy to have and I can’t wait to re-visit some time and read it.
It just adds something extra and it’s great to be apart of something so special.
A flag of the country you have lived in is a great souvenir, but to have everyone you met sign their name & message onto it will be a great token to keep for the future and a wonderful keepsake.
Hang it on your wall and you can always remember the good times from your Erasmus exchange!
Help out the next person
Cast your mind back to when you first arrived and you were most probably a little lost.
Help the future people who arrive in the city by revisiting websites you visited when you first arrived such as YouTube videos and community websites such as forums and Tripadvisor and write reviews about your opinions of the place.
This really helps to give the next person a better picture and more up-to-date information about where they are choosing to visit.
Your home university might also have a helpful catalogue of past students that went on exchange and you can contribute a piece about your experience to help future students make the correct decision.
And lastly International student exchange programs are global, when you return to your home University see if there is any way you can help exchange students visiting your home university and offer a helping hand in any way you can.
This makes for a perfect opportunity to give back to an experience you enjoyed and make other student exchange experience’s worth all the while.
In Europe you can see if there is an ESN (Erasmus Student Network) in your home University, look into seeing if you can offer any help.
After all, you have first hand experience in doing an exchange and could offer to make a difference to future International students and show them the area you know so well.
It might even feel like your back in exchange land all over again!
It’s hard to say goodbye, but making the most out of your last days makes the whole process go with a breeze and when you return back to your real home, you can look back at the good times and smile at the fact you made the most out of all of it.
Did you find the blog post helpful? Any suggestions you have to make International Exchange students make the most out of there last days? Feel free to post in the comment section below, thank you!