As one who believes in taking every opportunity that comes along, third-year student Blake Reilly shares his experience of living in Denmark on a semester exchange.
‘I came into my arts degree thinking two things: one was that I wanted to go on an exchange, and the second was that I wanted to do my graduate law degree afterwards,’ says Blake.
While he’s still polishing off an undergraduate degree focused on politics and ancient history, Blake has officially ticked the first box, having just arrived back at Trinity after a semester abroad.
Blake admits to spending a long while deliberating where to go, but chose Copenhagen for its democratic structure, political system and design traditions. ‘I think so many exciting things are happening in that part of the world at the moment and I wanted to immerse myself in it,’ he says. ‘It just stood out more than anywhere else.’
After seven months abroad, Blake credits his exchange as a grounding experience that reminded him how lucky he is to live in Melbourne.
‘It can be a surreal experience with the opportunity to travel, but an interesting thing you take from an exchange is learning that, no matter where you are in the world, you still have to live. It’s easy to glorify the experience but there's always daily routines like grocery shopping,’ he says. ‘The independence is grounding too – especially when you come from a college environment where it’s hyper social and you always have things going on and people all around you. It means you have to make that extra leap to study overseas.’
That’s not to say Blake didn’t enjoy the experience – he credits it as one of the most inspiring and memorable experiences of his life so far. It was during this time that his love grew for the architecture, the art and lifestyle of the Danes, and he learnt a thing or two about living a balanced life. ‘The Danes have a really healthy approach to life in terms of work, family and friends,’ he says. ‘They have this understanding that, when it comes to the way you live or the way you structure the physical environment around you, making a small change – even if it’s just a light in a room – can make a big difference to a house. They live this way literally and symbolically, and I realised it’s something you can do wherever you are in the world if you’re mindful of it.’
Blake also relished the opportunity to shake up his routine and push his personal boundaries. ‘Two years of college had been fantastic, but by that stage I'd really found a rhythm and was ready to branch out a bit more,’ he says. ‘I was so excited to travel and explore. I was really ready to go.’
For Blake it’s been an easy adjustment coming back to Trinity. ‘A lot of my friends stayed on to third year, and I knew it was the perfect environment to return to for my final semester. I came back with a greater appreciation for all that Australia, and all that Melbourne, has to offer, as well as the community that's offered here,’ he says. ‘I think most people realise how strong and important the sense of community is when they leave Trinity after two or three years, but then they can't go back, whereas I was reminded of it, and could come back. I walk around now and realise just how lucky I am.’
Given his positive experiences in both living and studying overseas and returning to Trinity, Blake thinks more students should take up the opportunity, particularly given an exchange experience is compatible with the Trinity experience. ‘The people who come here tend to be those who are ready to embrace opportunities and are willing to push their comfort zone and try to be the best version of themselves,’ says Blake. ‘The same types of people will likely find an exchange to be really worthwhile.’