As mentioned before at the beginning of 2016, I went on a university exchange to Australia to a direct partner of my university. Here I want to share some things to consider prior to doing so. I will be talking about the procedures my university had but these might vary for yours so best to check with them directly. Nonetheless, I hope this might give you some idea about what to expect. This is only for overseas exchanges through either ISEP or to a partner university, not Erasmus exchanges. I will talk about that in a different post in the future, hopefully.
Why go on exchange?
In my case, the exchange was compulsory as a part of my degree. I always wanted to go to Australia, so I decided to do so for my semester abroad. Other than that, it can help you experience something new and you will make amazing new memories. Further, it allows you to add overseas experience to your CV which has become more and more crucial for finding a graduate job. There are also many other reasons why you should try and get some international experience. Here are a few listed that I think really apply.
Further, for me, it seemed like an easier opportunity to go and see a country that far away that would not be a destination to go to for just a week or so. Therefore, having five months in Australia seemed a better idea. Nonetheless, universities usually offer all kind of exchanges, within all countries depending on their partnerships and the subject you study. More in the next section.
Getting your University’s Approval
Usually, when you get approved to go on exchange the subjects you take abroad will count towards your degree. This is also the reason why you have to get approval from your university for the exchange, the university chosen and the subjects you will do abroad. Often, there is a capped number of places available for exchanges and you need to ensure that the university you choose overseas offers relevant subjects in general but also within the agreement of your university. Often if you can go also depends on other factors.
For one it depends on how many other students applied to go to the same university abroad. Your academic performance and attendance as universities want to ensure that their best suitable students get the opportunity to go. Also, why you want to go and how well you are prepared to do so. Of course, your university might have some other factors as well, but these are some to consider. If you choose one of the already existing partners of the university, you will compete on these matters with the other students applying. Often you can also find a university yourself and start a partnership with the help of your own university but that is also more hassle that needs to be considered and worth doing.
Direct Partner Exchange
Direct Partners are universities that your university has agreements with all over the world. The number of partners depends on if the university has made many agreements or not. These direct partners can also be found sometimes by you and added for the university, but this process is quite extensive so decide if it is worth the hassle. These direct partners usually have an agreement that states how many students they are willing to receive or send themselves. This is often specific by subject too. So, if you for example study business there might be different options available for you then someone who studies graphic design. This depends on your programme structure but also what other universities offer. It is best to discuss your options with your exchange coordinators and look at your own university’s website usually under outgoing exchange.
Another option is ISEP Exchanges. I did a direct partner exchange but ISEP also often applies when looking at options where to go. ISEP stands for International Student Exchange Programs and they offer university choices for all kind of degree programs. Further, they have an extensive network of over 200 universities in the US and elsewhere. Of course, these institutions still need to be able to offer the right modules for you and need university approval to ensure that your credits can be converted after the exchange. You can choose up to 10 options for institutions through ISEP with an order or preference. Also, ISEP often includes meals and accommodation and therefore this must also be considered financially.
How much does it cost?
When it comes to costs, I tell you what I know from my university, but you need to always check with your own as this might slightly vary. I just hope it gives you some indication about what to consider. Also, these things constantly change so make sure you stay up to date with the costs. This is more just a general framework of what to expect. Further, a good resource to check out is this website which allows you to calculate international costs of living. I thought this was useful to understand how much more or less it will cost me to live somewhere else
When going to a direct partner due to the agreement your university and the partner have often you don’t have to pay tuition fees. They see it as exchanging one student for the other, so you only pay fees to your own university if that is always the case. Further, there is usually no application fee. Nonetheless, you will have some visa costs depending on where you go. Some countries are higher than others. Canada, for example, is CAN$150 for a year whereas Australia starts from AU$575. These things you can find out on the governmental websites of the countries. Also, you need to consider health insurance which often is advertised by the host university or you can find your own. Next, you need to consider flight costs. This depends on from where to where you fly and when you book.
More costs will be accommodation and meals. When going to a direct partner usually accommodation and meals are not included. For me, I was able to apply for campus accommodation, but it was financed individually. Meals were not included. Therefore, depending on what you chose and what the destination is the prices will vary. Other things to consider are also daily travel, course materials, utilities and socialising but that is dependent on your lifestyle as well. When going to some exchange countries you might have to provide proof of finance, either through savings or through some kind of income you have. This is often part of the visa process and depending on the country you go to. Australia was approx. AUS$10,000 per semester but I was never asked to provide the proof. This does not mean it is the same for you. These are the main things to consider I would say.
ISEP has some other costs associated. There are also usually no tuition fees to the host university but other costs apply. Here is some current information to it. Usually, there is a $100 application fee and a $325 placement fee if placed. For Visas, the same applies as direct partners. New Zealand, for example, is about NZD$250 and the US is about $340 ($160 MRV visa application fee + $180 SEVIS fee). Next similar to direct partners you have to consider health insurance. The amount depends on the destination, but your host university often advises you about some common options, but you can also opt for a different one. Of course, you will also have to consider flight prices. Depending on the destination and when you book these will obviously vary.
Then for ISEP, this is a bit different, but accommodation and meals are provided which is usually around £3750 per semester and £7500 per year which is paid in instalments but also varies from destination to destination. But this means you don’t have to worry about finding accommodation or providing yourself with meals. Also, you will need to consider daily travel, course materials, utilities and socialising. Lastly, for ISEP you won’t need to provide proof of finance as they will vouch for you.
Can I work?
In Australia, exchange students can work 20 hours per week during the teaching period and 40 hours per week during vacation periods either on or off campus. In Canada, if you have a study permit you can work up to 20 hours a week during the semester and full-time during the vacation period either on or off campus. If you don’t have a study permit you can only work on the campus of the host university. These kinds of jobs are often difficult to obtain. In these circumstances, you may need to apply for a work permit. When looking at New Zealand you can work up to 20 hours per week on and off campus throughout your whole stay. Lastly, in the US you can work up to 20 hours per week but only on the host university’s campus which is often difficult to do.
Is it worth it?
I think it for sure is. You will learn so much new things and experience so many great new things. It will allow you to make new friendships and see new things. It really changed my future and I am glad I did it. Having such a long time available to study and travel is a great opportunity to get to really know a new country. I can only recommend it and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I hope this helped and good luck with your exchange experiences.