Dear Potential Outbounds,
I am writing this letter to any of you who may happen to stumble upon, or regularly read this blog, because I know that the time is coming soon (if it hasn't already) for you to pick your top countries. The country where you will spend ten months of your life.
As you may or may not know, I have chosen to spend ten and a half months in the country of Russia. At the risk of sounding negative and rude, I do not encourage all exchange students to apply for Russia. Yet I have a good reason for this.
Being a future exchange student, you probably realize that exchange students are a rare breed of people. They are ready for anything and they like a challenge. They want to meet new people, learn new things, and learn more about themselves and the world around them.
Yet I do not encourage all exchange students to apply for Russia because spending a year in Russia is not for the faint of heart. It is for the rarest of the rare. i.e. it is for the exchange student who wants to go above and beyond the above and beyond. An exchange to Russia is not your grandma's exchange. If you're looking for a year of parties and good times, then you should pick Brazil or Spain, if you're looking for a quick language learn, then you want Chile or Belgium. If you want to meet a lot of other exchange students then go for Germany or Taiwan.
For those of you considering Russia, this letter is not meant to scare you off, I just want to let you know what you're getting yourself into. Russia has a unique set of exchange challenges not to be found in any other country. This includes Good, old Russian Bureaucracy (Read: occasionally not being allowed into libraries, having the threat of deportation over your head, filling out eight copies of official papers by hand, that sort of thing) A difficult language (read: six cases, and about a thousand verbs of going), and icy cold winters (Layers are not an option. Neither are thick coats and fur hats) just to name a few.
For those of you, who are still considering Russia, good for you, you've probably got what it takes. It's a hard country, that's no lie, but Like many extra difficult things, When you come out of it, the learning and growing you have done will be worth it.
I hope this letter has given you a bit of insight before making your choice. Whichever country you decide to choose, I wish you luck in your year abroad.