Monique – Singapore Management University, Singapore & Aston University, England
Semester 2, 2019 & Semester 1, 2020
Bachelor of Business – International
As a student enrolled in a BS08 degree it was compulsory for me to undertake a year abroad. Aiming to make the most out of my time I decided to diversify my experience by splitting my year into two semesters in two very different locations – Singapore (Singapore Management University [SMU]) and England (Aston University). These locations were the definition of chalk and cheese, but the time spent in each revealed to me the ten commandments of making the most out of your exchange experience no matter what part of the world you are residing!
1. Be a YES man.
Much like Jim Carey’s 2008 blockbuster classic, simply saying yes to opportunities that present themselves to you is the best way to make the most of your exchange experience. Whilst in Singapore I was apprehensive about joining a club/getting involved with university life because it isn’t something I usually would do here in Australia. However, by taking the leap and joining the softball team at SMU I instantly made 30 new friends and was able to develop a sense of community through team dinners and activities. Respectively, my favourite moments in the UK were those that were planned on a whim!
2. Join the Buddy/Mentoring program!
My greatest advice would be to join the buddy programs that are offered through the universities. It is the perfect way to make contacts and friends with both locals and other exchange students and getting involved in the various activities set up through the program are always fun and a perfect opportunity to put yourself out there. I made some of my closest friends through these programs!
3. Take the opportunity to travel as much as possible.
The greatest part of living abroad is that you have the opportunity to travel surrounding countries without regret.
My advice would be to utilise the semester breaks and optimise your university timetable to allow a long weekend for short trips to better explore the country. During both exchanges, I was able to visit Japan, various cities in England, and Belgium through utilising my downtime to travel. HOT TIP! Utilise travel time (especially on trains in/around the UK and Europe) to get some readings/study done while traveling!
4. Try all the local cuisines!
Personally, my favourite part of traveling is the food! Singapore especially was a hot spot for the best that Asian cuisine has to offer. Although they may appear daunting to us here in Australia, I cannot recommend the Singapore hawker markets enough! A lot of the shops are Micheline star rated and prices are all under $10. If you are paying any more than $10-15 for a meal in Singapore, you’re doing it wrong! My top dish recommendations include dumplings, Hainanese chicken rice, char sew pork, satay, and bingsu for dessert!
5. Utilise group assignments!
Now you might think I am crazy for this one! But throughout both my exchanges, I found that group assignments were the perfect way to make friends with the locals and make the most out of my university experience. In my experience, speaking up and actively participating in group assignments positively contributed both to my learning and to my overall exchange experience as I made genuine friendships with my group mates. We often hung out outside of university, solidifying our friendships through karaoke, shopping, exploring outside of tourist hotspots and eating at the best local known restaurants.
6. Don’t be afraid to do things on your own!
As someone who was always surrounded by friends and family before departing for exchange, suddenly being on my own was quite daunting. It definitely took me some time to adjust to doing things on my own but once I started gaining confidence and enjoying my own company, being completely independent was one of my favourite parts of my exchange experience. So don’t be afraid to eat alone or go see a movie/explore a new part of the city! You’ll do so much more with your time if you aren’t always waiting around for other people!
7. Make friends with your flatmates!
Making friends with your flatmates is one of the best things you can do as it offers instant company, shared dinners, late-night dance parties, morning coffee, and travel companions! Additionally, it is much easier to talk about boundaries and set up a kitchen cleaning schedule (which is VERY important).
8. Diversify your friend groups!
During my exchange in England, I was fortunate enough to find a really strong friendship group from the get-go. The catch? We were all Australians! This was great since we had a lot of commonalities. However, some of my best friendships and experiences came from leaving my comfort zone of this group and befriending people from other parts of the world, such as Belgium, where we were able to spend a week living in our friend’s apartment (free accommodation? yes PLEASE!) and explored the country the way the locals do!
9. ALWAYS check the weather forecast!
This one is especially important for anyone considering England as a destination (PACK A STURDY UMBRELLA)! You really don’t want to be like me and get stuck in cyclonic weather while trying to explore the country!
10. Be grateful for every part of the experience!
Not every day is going to be a great adventure and some days you will really struggle with homesickness, anxiety, and sometimes loneliness that comes with moving halfway across the world. My suggestion is to try and appreciate every day as a part of the experience and aim to utilise these down moods to grow and empower yourself to keep giving the experience everything you’ve got!
Bonus tip: Get a disposable camera (or two!) and photograph everything! Trust me, you’ll love looking back on all the experiences you had.