My preparation for going on exchange began in June 2017, a full year before now. The exchange process is crazy difficult to navigate and although QUT will try to help you as much as they can, you have to figure out the application process for your individual institution mostly on your own. So, if by some kind of miracle, you know anyone who has been on exchange where you want to go exploit them to the ends of the earth. Orignally, as I was studying Mandarin at the time I was dead set on going on China and reached out to any Chinese university I thought might take me. Unfortunately, despite my best stalking efforts of these universities I could not find one that a. would reply to my emails and b. had subjects that lined up with my degree. After being seen no reply’d by a whole country for a couple of months I decided to look elsewhere.
I applied for a Singapore university, but my application was knocked back by QUT. At this point I was feeling desperate. A QUT advisor provided me with a list of the 3 universities still accepting applications that fit my degree. KAIST appealed to the most but I only had 4 days to submit my application to QUT. After a mad scramble, during which I neglected my actual uni work this application was accepted and I was able to apply for KAIST.
I had to supply KAIST with a written application. I had my friend help me with this in exchange for pizza. It was the best margarita I ever spent. I found out I was accepted by KAIST about 3 months ago and finally told my mum I was going on exchange. At this point all hell broke loose.
Preparing for exchange
I started preparing for my exchange about a month before it began. There is far more preparation than you think from dormitory applications to intensive health check-ups (including x rays), mental health screenings and a constant barrage of emails. The thing that’s going to scare you the most is that you don’t really know what you’re doing; you don’t understand the systems and you never know what is coming. I leave in 5 days and I still don’t know what dormitory I’m staying in and I won’t know till arrive and have to pay. Try not to freak out about this too much, it’s not going to help but if you know a native speaker from the country you’re going to they can be hugely helpful in getting you some information.
I also haven’t started packing despite my approaching departure. I have already found that the important thing to remember is that you are not going on a holiday. You are going there to study so along with all the normal holiday things you also need to bring what tools you use to study including calculators, computers and even stationary if you don’t want to buy it over there. Remember also, to account for the time that you are going to spend saying goodbye to everyone you’ve ever met. It still hasn’t hit me that I am leaving but I am excited to experience independence in exploring a wholly new culture and country, that I admittedly know very little about.
At the end of the day my advice is to be tenacious, keep positive and seek help when you need it. The application process isn’t easy but there are lots of people and resources to help you. You might not get your first choice but that doesn’t mean you’re not still going to have an amazing experience. Also, tell your mum about the exchange when you apply not when you know you’re going.
This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.