Exchange FAQs

Hello there (:

Here are some questions that students in Singapore might face when thinking about going on exchange and I just thought I’d try to answer them here! I’ve also received many questions from my friends so I thought it’d be nice to make them into a list for everyone. SHARING IS CARING.

(Check ouy my other posts on exchange here)

*WARNING: full of repeat pics as I’m running out of storage for pics :(((( WHY U DO THIS TO ME WORDPRESS WAIIII*

Should I go on exchange? 

Me on Santorini’s beautiful black beach Kamari

You have to ask yourself what you want out of your university education and how much you want it. If you really want to have the experience of studying overseas, there’s always a way to work around other concerns. Honestly, i would encourage everyone to go for it. It really changed the way I viewed the world and myself. I would like to think that I have become more independent, more sure of myself, and learnt how to solve simple everyday household problems that someone else in the family usually takes care of. My negative experiences also challenged me to learn and grow. Initially I was pretty bitter; I kept asking myself why must this happen to me when all my other friends seem to be having so much fun. Now, I realised I learnt how to be vigilant, how to be safe, and I now value treating people with respect and kindness more than ever. Plus, whenever I think back now, i always recall the fun times first!

If cost is an issue, you can always opt to go for countries that have a relatively cheaper cost of living (or a local exchange), or even just a summer school experience. You can also think about bursaries or financial aid as well. If that’s still not enough, working part-time and managing your savings is a good idea.

Is it difficult to get selected for exchange? 

This one is pretty tough to give a definite answer. It really depends on how many people are applying for the limited slots at the particular school that particular semester. Demand and supply, guys. Obviously if the school only allows 1 slot, it is more competitive than a school offering 20 slots given the same number of applicants who applied for both. But there is no sure way of knowing how competitive it is, so just try your luck!

Write something interesting for your application – why did you choose this school as your first choice? Is it the culture? How will going to this school be relevant to your education or your future? What is so special about this school?

As for the “above 3” criteria, I got accepted when my grade is scraping the criteria and I know many who have gotten below 3 and have happily enjoyed six months of foreign air.

How much does exchange cost?

This is just the tip of the iceberg with my shopping addiction…. My room is about to explode. Carousell anyone?

Ah, the one question that never fails to pop up. This might be a sensitive question, but the truth is it really depends on 1) where you are going 2) what’s your budget and 3) how good you are with sticking to your budget. Obviously, if you go to countries that are known for being cheaper like Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico etc, it will almost always end up being a lot cheaper than going on exchange in countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK etc. I would say a safe range is 12,000 – 20,000 is a reasonable gauge for Europe exchange depending on how many places you travelled to, how much you shop, whether you are a frugal person etc and you might even surprise yourself to find it being cheaper than expected.

Rent took up about 20% of my entire expense, and flight about 10%. For me, I went to 11 countries (20 cities/towns in total) and I did a lot of shopping. So if you want to spend less, obviously shop less and travel less! Prioritise where you want to go, as I’ve said on my Exchange Money Saving Guide before. Or just find ways to fit into your budget that you are comfortable with – couch surfing, hostel, cup noodles etc.

Is insurance a must?

Check to see if your exchange university insures you. Lund University covered me, but it is only limited to school incidents. I managed to successfully claim my hospital bill when I had my health scare in Lund. I also got the NTUC insurance and topped up a little to extend my coverage that I think cost me a few hundred. My stand is that it is better to be safe than sorry.

How should I prepare for exchange?

Get your vaccines. I got a flu jab and it kept me from falling sick during exchange, at least from being so sick until i had to go and see a doctor. Trust me, it is much more troublesome to go see a doctor so just get the jab before flying!

Follow your pre-exchange checklist that your school will probably be providing you with.

Photocopy all your identification documents and please keep the original and photocopied in separate locations. Photocopy one set to keep with your family and pass them any additional details.

Buy insurance if you want to.

Get a credit card/allow overseas transactions for existing card for online booking and emergencies.

Change all the currency that you would need. For instance if you are like me and staying in Sweden but you plan to go UK and the rest of Europe, please change Swedish kronas, pounds and euros. It would be less worth if if you change currencies twice when you draw from the bank!

Get a travel money wallet if you are concerned about the amount of cash you’re bringing and try to bring loose clothes so you can hide it under your clothes. This shouldn’t be difficult in winter season though.

How much cash should I bring?

I think I brought around 1 to 2 months worth of expenses in cash.

What should I pack?

You should definitely bring an open mind, a thirst for adventure and some curious feet! 

On to more pragmatic things…

Here are some things I consider essential:
a mini rice cooker
loads of sheet masks and a very good moisturiser because of the change in climate (for both skin and face)
hairdryer
Xiaomi (or any other good portable charging device)
any soft toys that you hug to sleep
camera
laptop (which you’ll need for school) and laptop charger
power adapters (get the universal one and try to have min 2)
shavers (more for guys)
hand sanitiser & wet wipes (Germaphobe)
any medication that you might need (my skin is rash-prone so I have a cream for that, I brought some probiotics and some antacid for my stomach and loads of muscle ache patches)
loads of disposable underwear (especially useful if you’re travelling around for a bulk of more than five days!)

For girls, please bring your own brand of sanitary pads because the ones that I see in EU are mostly scented and scratchy that irritated my skin. Please bring your own!

Of course all these are just my own opinion so you might find some items missing.

Other items to consider:
food items like sauces, soup powder, seasoning powder (try Nor Hao Chi if you can’t cook for nuts)
towels & blankets (preferably choose those that you’d want to throw away and not bring back)
a good travel pillow (MEMORY FOAM!!)
recycling bags (for grocery shopping, loads of places charge you extra for plastic bags)
beauty products you use regularly here like toner, conditioner etc
some photos to decorate your wall
first aid kit

For clothes, I would advise you to create a capsule wardrobe that can last you at least a week in case you need to share your washing machine. For me I brought over way too many clothes and I ended up shopping too much so…. yup.

What’s Arrival Day about?

Of course you can travel and explore before that and only arrive on Arrival Day itself. For me, they had students stand outside the arrival hall to guide you to take the train, and then help you carry your luggage when you reach Lund and then have vans driving you to pick-up all the necessary things like keys, SIM cards etc before driving you to your apartment so for me it’s damn convenient lah! Arrival Day is basically just to help students get settled with all the essentials, be sure to check if your school has any arrangements for Arrival Day. Just don’t expect fun and games for freshmen camp like the high-level ones we have here.

Should I stay at hostel?

My Student Apartment Area, Gunnesbo

Obviously weigh the pros and cons. There’s hostel rooms, student apartments, and even private apartments you rent from outside or airbnb that you can choose from. Be sure to explore all options such as cost, distance from school/airport/supermarket/public transport, safety etc.

I stuck to student apartments because I am a super light sleeper and I don’t understand college parties. Wasn’t very interested in mixing with locals/international students as well. Plus, I HATE DIRT. Dorms usually have shitty kitchens and they’re very messy so that was a major turn off for me. Recognise your needs, and choose a locale that suits your needs.

What if I don’t know how to cook?

My very salty stir-fry noodles that is SUPER easy to cook!

Then learn lah! Exchange is all about learning new things right? Aiyo, like that also must teach. HAHA Kidding, i’m no master chef myself. Bring more pre-mixed stuff and loads of seasoning. Soy sauce makes everything taste better. LOL

Honestly just search for easy recipes!! Stir fry is the way to go. Just cut your vegetables, pour some oil into the heated pan, add some garlic and onion, throw your vegetables in, pour some oyster sauce, DONE. I managed to cook lemon chicken, katsu chicken, dumplings, ABC soup, and baked like chocolate cupcakes, blueberry muffins, brownies, chocolate chip cookies etc etc. It’s really not that hard. Try to search for cooking videos so you can see exactly how it’s done. Before that I only tried baking in Singapore, never cook before. Instant noodles count or not?

Try using RasaMalaysia – that’s where I found my lemon chicken and salt&pepper chicken recipes!

If all else fails, just cook eggs. Can’t go wrong… right?

Okay lah that’s all I can think of for now!

XOXO,
HuiMin

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