Exchange is tricky. Visas are frustrating, courses are stressful, and almost every expectation before coming will be far too high. What's important is to take everything day by day. There is time to discover and savor the city and the culture and the language, so pace yourself. Speeding through guidebooks and streamlining experiences is exhausting and takes away from that underlying passion of wanderlust.
That being said, Netflix and FaceTime have never taken my breath away. So I say yes to almost everything, and sleep when I can. For me, studying abroad is not a limited experience with some international deadline. Moving away and changing almost every aspect about my life has always felt very comforting. I have studied in the U.S., Western Europe, on our beloved island, and currently in the Latin side of the Southern Hemisphere, and it is such a gift. After my year in Argentina, I'm planning on a Spanish-based internship and after that hopefully I'll start my grad in Capetown, or Roma, or Lisboa, or some other foreign land I've been daydreaming about, eventually making my way back to O'ahu.
I'm putting out this timeline because before my first exchange everyone around me wanted babies and a picket fence. I have no particular disdain for either children or suburbia, but I remember what it was like to have my aspirations demeaned as a phase. Traveling costs money. It consists of twenty hour bus rides, grimy hostels, pathetic conversion rates, and a lot of loner sightseeing. But traveling for school and work and self is absolutely possible, not to mention cost is almost always determined by lifestyle (and general scrappiness). So for anyone who's doing this exchange for more than the fast-lane credit, keep doing it. And if you're looking for a backpack buddy, I'm probably somewhere below the equator.