Rebecca – Exchange to Mannheim University, Germany
Semester 2, 2016
One thing that is scary about being on exchange is not being able to contact family and friends with ease like you would back home. Especially when you first arrive and you don’t know anyone, the first thing you want to do is call home – but you might not be able to. Different time zones and different schedules can make things a little difficult, but since I’ve been in Germany I’ve realized it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Here are some things that have worked for me!
1 – Download an app such as Whatsapp
Instant messaging service Whatsapp makes is super easy to chat to people back home. Similar to texting, it allows you to chat to friends without meticulous planning and catch them up on what you’re doing for the day. It’s an easy and simple way to keep in touch without having to make sure time zones line up and you don’t have classes so you can chat. It also works as a good way to keep up with people on the daily – when something happens you can instantly send them a message and get anything off your chest!
2 – FaceTime and Skype
Being able to physically see loved ones is a great way to keep in contact, but it can also bring up some homesickness. When I first landed in Germany, I consciously made the decision not to Skype anyone until I was settled and had made friends. The first few days were quite tough and emotional, and I know seeing my parents would have made me extremely emotional. But once I was over the initial nervousness, being able to FaceTime my parents while they’re cooking dinner and dong things we would normally be doing was a great comfort and a great way to chat about what we’ve all been up to. With technology these days, as long as you’ve got wifi you can give them a quick call. Whether it be sitting in front of the University Palace, or in a local café, not only can you catch up with them, but you can share the exciting new places you’ve stumbled across on your study!
3 – Send Postcards
One thing I’ve tried to do since I’ve arrived is send postcards back home from the places I’ve visited, especially my grandparents. For only a couple of Euros you can buy a postcard and send it back to Australia. Not only is it a good way to let people back home what you’ve been up to with a picture, it’s a good memento for them as well. Plus, it’s always a nice surprise for them when they receive it in the mail! People back home will appreciate the effort you’ve gone to to let them what you’ve been doing and where you’ve been.
It might be a little bit embarrassing, but this is a great starting point for conversations with family and friends you might not talk to often. You don’t need to upload every single photo you take – I certainly don’t. But by uploading a bunch every couple of weeks, your friends will love seeing the photos and all the new experiences you’ve had. I was hesitant at first, but I’ve noticed how much all my extended family have loved seeing them. It’s also great to be able to have a quick chat with Aunty’s and Uncle’s you might not talk to often but who are intrigued with what you’re doing and proud of you for going overseas by yourself.
Just because you’re on the other side of the world, doesn’t mean you cant keep in contact with everyone back home. It may not be convenient as it usually is, but you’ll still be able to catch up on your family and friends daily lives and let them know what you’ve been up to!