My Exchange Experience: First in the Family for University and Travelling

Milan Italy
I’ve always been a very independent and hard working person but I never truly felt confident and comfortable with my independence until I came to university. Without that boost in confidence, I don’t think I would have been able to be the first in the family to travel overseas!

To put my experience into perspective, I’ll start with a little history about myself and how I got to where I am now, in my third year of university.


Nice France
After graduating from high-school, I took a few years off in order to gain some work experience because I didn’t know yet what I wanted to learn more about in school. I was interested in graphic design, website programming, entrepreneurship, retail management and more. I ultimately decided that I wanted to get my Bachelor of Business Administration at Nipissing University because I believed this program complemented my skills and that it would build the most variety of opportunities. Born and raised in the countryside outside of North Bay, Nipissing University was my first choice because I loved my lifestyle here surrounded by my friends and family. Yet, I began to feel really nervous because my parents didn’t go to post-secondary school so even though I was still close to home, I felt like I was tackling this big experience on my own.

I enrolled as a “mature student” where I was automatically placed on academic probation with a reduced course load of 4 classes per semester instead of 5. Minus the fact that I would need to catch up later (summer courses are actually really awesome), the university knew it best because they wanted to ensure that the course load wouldn’t be too much of a shock. Looking back on my first-year in school, I was very thankful for this because it took a lot of effort to transition from my working mentality to my new one as a student. Some of the key things that I’m very proud about was learning to balance a busy lifestyle, become very disciplined as well as network like I’ve never networked before! Most importantly, part of this incredible journey has been to fulfil my childhood dream to travel outside of Canada. Thanks to Nipissing University, I’ve had the opportunity to spend 4 wonderful months in Europe while going to school in Lyon, France.

Milan, Italy
Planning to go on exchange was scary and exciting and extremely time consuming. I applied in November 2011 (first semester in my first year), and didn’t go until January 2013 (second semester in my second year). Needless to say, when you’re the first in the family to do something new, it can take a lot time and work to get even the most basic and simplest tasks done. I second guessed, over thunk and quadruple checked every single detail. It wasn’t easy getting help from my parents either, they were as nervous as I was!! Thankfully, Nipissing’s international office had all the answers and they became my backbone throughout this whole journey.

From picking a country, a city, & applying to a school… Mailing stacks of paperwork for a passport & applying for a travel visa… Finding a residence, saving money, & paying deposits for everything.. Scheduling my classes and learning about the city’s culture and events… Buying a plane ticket, learning about European geography, understanding the city’s subway system.. The list is endless..!!!! Finally, the year of planning paid off because I had the time of my life!!

Lyon, France
My program was strictly comprised of over 150 exchange students from all over the world so the cultural experience was amazing!! I learned a lot about international business! I studied cross-cultural management, international finance, French and more. It’s common knowledge that the world is becoming more and more connected everyday so it’s very important to have that global perspective. I quickly made friends with other students in my program. We spent weekends travelling all over Europe together, we attended and planned a lot of different events with our group and of course, enjoyed a great deal of wine and cheese and chocolate.


Florence, Italy
Just like I felt making the decision to go to University, I felt like I had to hit the pause button for my life back home. There were a lot special events like birthdays, holidays and new babies that I missed because I wasn’t around. But… thank goodness for Skype & Facebook!!!! I stayed connected with all my friends and family so in the rush of life abroad, I never really felt that far away.

I’m very happy that I took the leap of faith and did this trip all on my own. Now in my third year of University, I’ve realized how much I’ve grown as a first generation and a mature student. I’ve gained so much confidence because I continue to put as much effort as possible into ensuring that I make the most out of my university experience! A big part of being a student is to find ways to add value to your degree with experiences in and outside of the classroom. It’s those experiences that will help you grow as a person and make the best out of your life as a student. For me, I really wanted to internationalize my education and grow into my image as a young, independent businesswoman. I encourage anyone who has the itch to travel to make it happen because it is a life-changing experience.

Rome, Italy Paris, France

Thanks for reading!

Racheal Costello
3rd Year Bachelor of Business Administration