10 Pros and Cons of an Exchange Year

The Year of Growth

Exchange years are becoming more popular nowadays! Even schools and universities are encouraging students to go abroad. Foreign exchange is far more than travelling and seeking adventure. It also comes with its challenges and struggles. Thus, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of an exchange year to assess if it’s the right option for you. Here are the 5 pros and the 5 cons of an exchange year.

Pro #1: Grow your life experience

Many students often see foreign exchange as taking a breather. Depending on the type of exchange you’re doing, you have few school commitments and time is in your favour. Many students take this opportunity to expand their personal development. Straight out of high school you may have little life experience and this is the year to expand that growth. Foreign exchanges are excellent ways to develop:

– Personal responsibility
– Maturity
– Self-confidence
– Improved communication
– And a better understanding of what you’d like to do after that year.

Pro #2: Travel the world

You have under 365 days to yourself, why not use it to travel and see more of the world.

The best part about doing a foreign exchange is embracing the array of exchanges you can do. From learning English in Canada to being an au pair in Australia. From volunteering in Sri Lanka to work & travelling in Argentina. The combinations of exchanges are endless, even when you remain in one country.

– Explore nature and our planet’s biodiversity
– Inverse with people from different cultural backgrounds
– Reflect on where you stand in the world

Pro #3: Gain work experience

Although taking an exchange year can mean taking time off school, it’s still a time for learning. Wanting to gain more work experience? Who said you had to be in your home country to do so!

Grab the opportunity to intern at a company. Or gain value from a work and travel program abroad. Exchange your work duties for free housing through programs like WWOOF. Keep learning and evolving your skills while being part of the future’s innovation.

Pro #4: Learn a new language

While foreign exchange has many personal growth benefits, it’s also an excellent way to learn a new language. Being immersed in a new country and community is a mega advantage for learning a new language. Spend your mornings in Barcelona learning Spanish, and joining the locals for tapas in the afternoon. Or join a high school in a suburb in America while living with an American host family. There’s no way of getting around not speaking and practising the language on a daily basis. You’ll become fluent within weeks of being there!

Pro #5: Make new friends

One of the greatest advantages of an exchange year is meeting new people. There’s something so special about bonding with a new culture and perspective on life. By coming in contact with international peers, you also expand your own worldview. Whether it’s a friend, colleague or host family, these relationships remain for years to come. The best part is being able to visit each other after the exchange has ended. Cheers to new holiday destinations!

The Year of Growth

Con #1: Expenses

Foreign exchange requires a sizeable amount of money. Whether it’s covering program costs, living costs, or travel expenses. Before making any plans, consider how much you’d like to put aside for your exchange year.

Low Expense Exchanges:
– Volunteer Work

High Expense Exchanges:
– High School abroad
– Study abroad
– Language Learning abroad

Paid Exchanges:
– Au-Pair
– Work abroad
– (sometimes) Internship abroad

Know that there are available scholarships that offer these opportunities as well. Remember to always check your health insurance & travel coverage when choosing an organisation.

Con #2: Falling a year behind

Foreign exchange may mean falling behind with your studies back home. Some schools don’t acknowledge an exchange year as an official school year. This can lead to your educational process taking longer than those around you. That also means falling behind a year on your friends and classmates.

In contrast, it doesn’t mean that they will have disappeared. Consider the amount of experience gained from one year of being abroad versus staying home.

Con #3: Feeling lonely and homesick

Although meeting new people abroad is a big win, you may encounter moments of loneliness. It’s difficult leaving your loved ones behind, and these moments can feel overwhelming. Despite being among people, you can still miss your family and friends. You may even miss the familiarity of your life back home and your everyday routine.

Luckily, we live in a day and age where technology can bring us closer together. Often times our loved ones are only a video or phone call away. It might not be a physical presence, though it’s sometimes enough to hear ones voice and warmth.

Con #4: Dealing with culture shock

While exploring a new country is always exciting, it does come with its challenges. Especially if the country is completely different from your own. You may struggle with speaking the language at first. You may even stumble into unfamiliar situations. Every country has a different culture, customs, beliefs and mentality. This can be overwhelming!

Always remember to remain respectful and responsible of our actions. If you’re finding it hard to settle, take time to reflect on where you currently stand in your exchange. What are the fear, struggles and thoughts coming up? Ask yourself what you need to soothe the disruption inside of you. Then take the first step towards that. Whether that’s forming a new friend with a local, or getting to know the city through a guided tour. Even a supportive phone call from home can do wonders.

Con #5: The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

If all your friends are at university and living the college life, you might feel like you’re missing out. Not only on the experience but also on the social aspect. And especially if your friends from home are studying out of your hometown.

While they’re experiencing a new life, understand that so are you. The format of “experience” may look different for everyone. Embrace your individual journey, and connect with your own why for doing an exchange. Ask yourself “When else in my life will I have the opportunity to live and travel like this?”


If you’re thinking of doing a foreign exchange, I hope these pointers can be a helpful starting point. Foreign exchange is a valuable and enriching experience, with certain disadvantages to consider.

Share your exchange year pros and cons in the comments below. I’d love to hear your story and how your experience was!

Keep dreaming and believing!

Yasmin xoxo

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