Planning an Exchange is No Vacation

Going on an academic exchange has always been a lofty fantasy of mine.

I pictured a life of traveling, meeting new people while getting school credit—without doing any actual work. So when I found out my school, Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, offered exchanges, I raced to sign up and began fancifully considering where in the world I wanted to go.
My fantasies quickly began to fade however once I realized that this process was going to involve actual work. Even just selecting a school to go to ended up being a significantly time-consuming process. Finding an institution that offered the specific courses I needed to graduate eliminated all of my top choices and I was soon left with only one option: Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. This suited me just fine—Singapore is hot all year round (a nice change from freezing Canadian winters) and everyone I knew raved about its beauty, cleanliness and cuisine.
After endless hours looking over foreign course curriculums and referencing them back to my program coordinator at Ryerson for approval, I figured the worst was over. Ha—I still had school, housing and visa applications, medical coverage, flights, packing restrictions and budgets to work out. Plus, all I really knew about Singapore at that point was that it was hot, pretty, clean and had good food.
Even with previous travel experience and my best attempt to remain organized, courses didn’t get approved, application deadlines came and went without my notice and flights exceeded budgets. My carefree vacation was quickly being replaced with a large pile of forms I didn’t fully understand.
Fortunately, my wanderlust (and the wanderlust of my other exchange-taking friends) kept me stubbornly committed. I appealed my course approvals, sent urgent emails, beged to fast-track my visa application so I could get my forms in time, and sought out and applied for exchange scholarships to help finance my excursion.
The months leading up to my actual departure seemed like a never-ending journey of solving one issue just in time for a new one to show up. But the moment I got on my flight with Singapore Airlines (the top airline in the world) and discovered I could watch Looper while eating a meal out of a meal out of a menu that came with a Singapore Sling while on the plane, I knew I was going to love this country.

Even though picking up your life and moving to a new country can be difficult, staying organized, connecting with other students going on exchange and asking for help when you’re unsure about anything can make the application process a lot easier. The experience is also worth over one hundred times the effort you’ll put in and I can’t recommend taking part in an exchange enough!

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Judi Zienchuk

Judi Zienchuk has studied her way across Southeast Asia and boarded down volcanoes in Central America. When she's not gallivanting the globe, you can find her on a bike or consuming large amounts of caffeine. Check out her blog, Travvel Sized.

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