How to Prepare for a Semester Overseas

Written by  January 14, 2013

After working in India, Hunar prepares for her next challenge: a semester in Singapore.

It’s almost that time of the year. After finally finishing a semester that felt it went on for years, I can finally start preparing for my exchange term in Singapore! But let me tell you—it’s not that easy.

Visas, health insurance, budgeting, residence, student cards.  . .the list just goes on. There is a lot to do and just no time left. I am three weeks away from the adventure of a lifetime and I am just going to make sure to go with no expectations and just see where this journey takes me.

My school offers a study abroad program, so I decided to apply, which involved submitting essay questions, a presentation and minimum GPA requirements. With only four spots available, I was admitted to the National University of Singapore.

I chose Singapore because I have always wanted to travel around Southeast Asia and felt Singapore was a safe country compared to a lot of other places. (Plus my parents weren’t totally on board with my decision, so this made it a little easier).

Here are just a few things that you need to make sure you do before your departure:

Visas. These may be required for the country of exchange and any other countries that you will be travelling to during your stay.

Airline tickets. Make sure to get them as soon as possible because the longer you wait, the most expensive they get. I purchased mine through a travel agent because I was flying to multiple destinations. (Also note that most airlines only allow you to take one piece of luggage and you have to pay more for your second or third one.)

Health and travel insurance. It’s really important to have coverage in case something happens. Check with your university, because some schools cover up to two months of travel and health insurance.

Vaccinations. I needed to get new immunizations because of the countries that I'll be travelling to while I’m studying abroad. It’s always better to book a doctors appointment just to be sure.

Phone. See if you can get your phone unlocked and buy a SIM card from the country.

Residence. Ask past exchange students which residences they would recommend. My school has a residence specifically for exchange students, but I could apply for others as well. Also be sure to submit your documents as soon as possible. If you are even a day late, your spot at your residence can be taken by someone else, your documents might not reach the university in time, etc. (I didn’t end up receiving my top choice for my residence because I decided to take my time with the application for my exchange school.)

Budget. It can be really easy and tempting to splurge while travelling, but it’s important to have a set budget for food, travels, spending money, shopping, etc.

Banks/Credit Cards. Figure out how you will access money abroad. Usually you can use the credit card provided by your bank, or they might have access cards that you can use to withdraw money at specific ATMs abroad. Traveler’s cheques are another option, but tend to be expensive. You can also opt for a cash advance but if you don’t pay your bill in time, there are high interest rates. It is also important to have some local currency on hand upon arrival and some USD.

The planning can get a little overwhelming and nerve-racking, but I am hoping for an incredible experience. I have my checklist for my trip, things I want to do and places I want to see planned ahead of time so I can plan everything accordingly. Keep reading for updates about my study abroad experience.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Hunar Chandhok

Hunar Chandhok is a third-year BBA student studying at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto. She interned in Mumbai, India, at Ogilvy and Mather as a marketing intern, then hopped over to Singapore where she is currently on exchange. Follow Hundar to see what it’s like to study in Singapore.

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