International Exchange poses many challenges to students. Packing your bags and studying abroad for a semester or two is just the end result. Preparation and various decisions before you start your Exchange stay are crucial to make your study abroad experience as pleasant as possible.
Choosing your University
First of all, you need to choose the host University. It’s not as easy as it seems. It’s best to make your choice based on what courses that University offers, how many International students study there every year and whether or not they offer dormitory placement for the International students.
True, sometimes you just want to study in a beautiful country, surrounded by a culture you desperately want to learn about. But if you don’t consider a more practical approach, you could find yourself homeless and lost in a completely unfamiliar environment.
If a University of your choice has a lot of International Students every year it means they know the challenges you’ll be facing and know the most common solutions. They will be prepared to answer most of your questions, because they’ve been asked similar ones before. They will also, most likely, have a support system in place to help their International Students settle in and acclimate quickly after their arrival.
And finally, if the University of your choice has their own Dormitories, it usually means that the rooms are close to the campus and are relatively cheap. Which takes away all the stress of getting to the right part of the City during your very first day of classes and guarantees that you will quickly meet people with similar interests to yours (after all, you’re all studying at the same University!).
Your financial situation is another thing you need to consider. If you want to participate in an International Exchange program it’s usually the best idea to study abroad at one of the partner Universities. A partner University is a University, which has a general agreement or an International Exchange Agreement with your home University. Why is it that important? Mostly because when two Universities enter an agreement regarding Student Exchange, they usually write a stipulation which says that the Student pays tuition at their home University, the tuition fee at the host University is waived for them and they get a guarantee the credits they get during their Exchange Program will be transferred once they return to their home University.
Before choosing which country you wish to study in, you might want to consider the general cost of living there. Some countries don’t allow International Students to work during their stay, and sometimes you simply don’t have the time. Sometimes you are eligible for a scholarship, which definitely help, but more often than not you’re required to be able to pay for all the expenses from your own pocket. In that case, it’s always better to consider countries where the general cost of living is lower of similar to that in the US. That will mean you’ll spend the similar amount to what you’re already spending, or you might even be able to spend less.
As an International Exchange student, you’re obviously interested in furthering your education but also in learning about new cultures. Which means making friends once you arrive should be very high on your to-do list. Natives are usually the best source when it comes to experiencing the culture and learning to get around the new city.
It’s good to start looking for friends even before you leave for your Exchange. Use the Social Websites like Facebook or MySpace to meet people who are already studying at the University of your choice, or maybe who were International Student there. People like that will be able to warn you about the most common problems, provide the solutions that helped them and save you time and money if you wish to live off campus.
Making friends before you leave for your Student Exchange is also very useful if the University doesn’t offer any additional services. You can ask your friends to pick you up from the airport, help you settle down and basically not get lost right away.
Friends can make for great roommates off campus, advise you how to save up on groceries and other expenses. Not to mention the fact that you don’t feel as lonely and as alienated if you have friends to talk to on a daily basis.
All in all, International Exchange can be a very challenging experience, but it’s worth it. Properly planned and thought out, it can only add to your educational journey.