I had the honour to interview Anna Voinova, Lecturer at BUAS and international coordinator (games and media) for quite a few years now. She has a lot of experience with sending students abroad and welcoming them to our school.

As the exchange coordinator, what advice would you give to someone that is going on exchange?
“My advice would be to experience it to the fullest because it is a very unique opportunity. It really happens once in your study program. Once you finish your bachelor degree, that’s it. There is no possibility of exchange. Of course, there is your masters [degree] but that is not the same thing. Another thing I would say is to keep an open mind even though I think it is a bit of a cliché to say that. Don’t think what you're used to will automatically convert to your new environment, because it won’t and it’s a good thing. I think the enjoyment and having your heart open to new experiences that really is the main thing. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and when you come back home you will be looking back at it as one of the best experiences of your entire life, I am certain of it. Over a year I have sent a lot of exchange students abroad and I would say 97% came back happy with the choice they made. I can remember people who were not happy but you can count them on one hand. Mostly it was really more of a personal reason than the exchange experience themselves. Nothing is completely perfect in our life of course but the majority of the students have an absolutely fantastic time. I would also say that it really changes you for the better. It opens up your life to other cultures and to what people in a different culture are dealing with. The negatives of their lives as well as the positives. It makes you appreciate your life. It just enriches you.”

“What I have noticed is that all the student that have come back from exchange become more passionate toward the international students. They feel for them a lot more you know, they feel that it is hard to be abroad, to study in a foreign environment. They become a lot more open and helpful to the international students in comparison to how they were before. I know that all our students are open to the international students from the start but if they have been in their shoes, they understand it a lot more. I never really have a problem if I have a group of international students if I ask if they can help them the answer is always “sure”. Because they know what it means they lived through the experience themselves.”

What do you think students should know before applying?
“For one that there are limited places available per destination and that it is essential not to get stuck with one destination. Of course, it is natural to say “I only want to go there” but I really want to encourage students to select 3 destinations. Going on exchange is a really great experience in itself, the destination is secondary, more like a cherry on top of the cake. The whole experience of going abroad and being in a natural environment, it really is remarkable on itself. It is not that we don’t have enough places, more so that students limit themselves to one destination. Students enjoy the exchange no matter where they go. It is also helpful to ask yourself what is important for you in an exchange. I would say there are two different types of students that want to go on exchange. The first type is when you are actually going for education and contacts. Then you need to investigate the universities and see what they will offer you. Then we have the second type that goes for life experience as well as studying. The emphasis on courses is slightly less. Not all the destinations are of the same quality. Very understandable because education is different everywhere. If you go for more of a life experience, to learn about yourself/others and cultural development, you have a different set of locations as well. So it is very important to ask yourself why you want to go in the first place and be honest with yourself.”

Want to know more about going on exchange? Check out my previous article "Guide to a successful exchange" and make sure to check the hub and keep an eye out for part 2 of the interview coming soon!

More information can be found in; My portal > all applications> LMS > Info sources > General BUAS information > Student office > Exchange