Info about doing exchange in university

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Info about doing exchange in university

Post  JYip09 on Sun May 17, 2009 9:35 pm

Hi, I will be going into McGill university next year and I heard about doing exchange in other countries such as England. I want to know more information about exchanges. Is it recommended? Are there more countries to choose from? What is it like? How much does it cost about? How long is it? Basically as much as information as possible would be really appreciated.

Thank you so much. Very Happy

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Exchange

Post  stsuei06 on Fri May 29, 2009 8:55 am

If I were Chuck Norris, I might be able to describe everything you need to know about exchange in the limited space here. But I'm not. So I'll try my best here to outline what I think are some important points to note. They are rather general, and lack real life examples. If there are certain areas you're interested in, do let me know in your reply, and I'll focus on those areas in the future.

1) What is international exchange?
It's an experience abroad in another university at another country for a predetermined amount of time. The university you'll be studying at will be referred to as Away University (Away Uni.) and the Home University will be called Home Uni.


2) Why do people think about doing exchange?

The two main reasons I've discovered are a) To learn of another culture by actually interacting with the locals there, and b) to verify if the people are as amazing as they imagined them to be. Don't laugh, it's true. I'm in the UK, and many people came over here because they idolized the classy lifestyle in movies and whatnot. It's funny, but it's actually true.

3) What is exchange actually like?
I really want to stress on the difficulty of exchange. The paper work necessary is amazingly annoying. You'll be dealing with visa, bureaucracies within the home uni. and away uni., finding out the equivalent courses (which there usually aren't), and many other preparatory nuisances. Once you get here, you start to realize just how different life actually is in another country. I remember realizing just how much I took for granted when I lived in Vancouver--like knowing how to read the skytrain maps, where the skytrain takes us, where to go for whatever errands you need--because I had to learn the basic stuff all over again.
Then there's the cultural shock of course, which I think is the most interesting, educational, and entertaining part of the exchange. My bagful of experiences include: faking British accent on buses and getting told off by the driver to pay up like all Americans should (Cdns really sound like Americans apparently), learning to shut up on the british equivalent of skytrain (tube) and stare at my feet because research from my friends show that speaking on the tube = terrorist, and what not.

4) What do you think are important traits for a successful international exchange?

Versatility, adaptability in as many aspects of life as possible would definitely help, because most of the times customs, languages, and various other areas of everyday life are going to be different--if not drastically so--than your expectations. Learning about a culture, and imagining it are rather different than actually interacting with it. There're loads of examples that I can offer.

The previous traits go hand in hand with observational skills. You must have a more-than-basic grasp of human interaction, and be able to pick up new modes of interaction by observation. People rarely have a completely lucid understanding of how they interact, so it is almost impossible for them to teach you everything you need to know about their culture. The onus is therefore on us to be able to exercise our observation and learn independently. What a nice intro to my next paragraph!

Independence is extremely important. One thing I learned is that you have to be extremely self-reliant on exchange. Few locals will understand your background, and, therefore, have little ability in helping you out. Take organizing my time schedule for biotech/econ in England, where I'm placed in biology. Nobody does economics courses in the UK biology program, so I had to talk to the Head of the department to work out my time table. That was after approaching several tutors and departments (e.g. international student office, school of economics, registrar's office). You'll need to be rather persistent as well. People are resistant to change. Office administrators tend to disregard new requests, because it's annoying to them to have to work out new ways for every new exchange student, especially if they are not used to dealing with exchange students. They tend to brush me off, and just say that this is not how things are done. Then I'll have to convince them that I am in a new situation, and beg them to reconsider/side-step the usual protocol. It can get frustrating at times, especially if you're from a well-managed univ.

Having outlined all these characteristics, it is encouraging to note that these traits can be trained. If you're willing to learn, and eager to open your eyes to the possibilities out there, you probably have the most important factor: curiosity. If you have a strong desire to discover, you'll want to improve yourself, and this will probably drive you to achieve all of the other skills. At least, that's what I think.

6) Cost?
It is more expensive than if you stay at home univ, mainly because of travel, and re-establishment. The cost of living may be higher too. Having said that, some schools do offer scholarships, and I have heard of government sponsorships. Many have also worked part-time to make the necessary money to achieve their dreams.
In the case of the UK exchange to Newcastle Univ, the exchange director's e-mail said that it may cost about nine thousand pounds a year, which now roughly equates to about $13,500/year. Before the economic crisis, it was slightly more than $18,000/year. Compare that to my cost at Waterloo, with tuition for two terms and accommodation for two terms is about $10,000/year (tuition: $3000*2, house: $500/months * 8 months).

5) Any last comments?
This is going to sound cheesy. I decided to do an exchange, because 1) it's my dream to come to Europe, and 2) it's a once-in-a-life-time experience to be able to study abroad. And as attractive as this dream is, it isn't for everyone. As described in the traits section, it takes an adaptable, observational, independent, and persevering person to succeed in an exchange program. I would therefore recommend this experience selectively.

Do please let me know if there's an area you would like me to focus on more. I would love to answer your questions, as I have been on an exchange at the UK for the last 10 months. = )

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