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SFU Student

Ali Najaf
Going for exchange or a study abroad trip to a different university and country is a great experience in itself. But to make that experience remarkable, a bit of planning is required.

One of the best things you can do during your undergraduate degree is to go for an exchange at another university in a different country. Going on exchange gives you not only ample opportunity to study at a different university but is also a great platform to grow with like-minded students while learning from and engaging with various cultures. Travelling to another country is, in itself, a great experience as you learn more than knowledge. You get the chance to experience different cultures, cuisines, and it’s an opportunity to communicate with local people and to learn their language(s), customs, traditions, and ways of life.

Choosing a Country and University

Choosing a country and a university is the most important thing that you have to consider before planning to go on an exchange. It will help you decide what courses to take, whether you are eligible to go to that particular university, visa policies and what to pack, etc. Talk to your Academic and International advisors and do your research to see what classes you can take there and how the transfer credit system works to make sure you are on track with completing credits for your degree. Ask as many questions as you can as this will help you plan better.

Budgeting and Funding

Prepare an estimated budget based on travel cost, accommodation, food and leisure expenses. This will help you track your expenses and to make the most of your trip. With a planned budget, you can quickly analyze how much you can spend and how much funding you need from other sources. After budgeting, apply for funding if required. Financing can play a significant role when deciding whether or not to go on an exchange as sometimes costs are way higher than a typical student’s budget. The good thing is that a lot of universities and faculties have such funding to support incoming students. SFU has a particular fund called the International Mobility Award (IMA), which is open to all students, that you can apply for as well as some available faculty-based funding. Remember to talk to the International Advisors, and book an appointment with them whenever you have questions as they have information regarding the various resources available to students.

Logistics and Accommodation Planning

Once you get your funding approved and you know your budget, start planning the logistics of your trip early. For flight bookings, the earlier you book, the better the deal you can find. Always look for sales and ask for student discounts, as there are a lot of companies who offer this. To book a flight, I would recommend looking at Flight Network as they have plenty of discounts and other offers. Choose accommodation based on your budget and put your first preference as campus accommodation. This will give you an opportunity to be close to or on the university campus and a chance to fully enjoy the student life of that university. If this is not an available option, try to find a homestay through the school. Doing this will allow you to live with local people in the area, and will make it easy for you to integrate and learn about the culture and community.

Be Open-Minded

Once you have landed at your destination, it’s time to learn. This involves not just in-class knowledge, but also exploring the place you are in, the sights, sounds, people and, of course, the cuisine! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, so learn new things. Spend some time searching for different cultural events that happen during the particular time of the year you will be there and then plan your activities and travels around these as well as the different places you would like to visit and sights you would like to see. Don’t forget to adjust your schedule to accommodate schoolwork, as this is also a very important aspect of your exchange or study abroad experience.

Travel Around and Blog

As I mentioned above, one of the other things that you may consider doing is travelling around the country and also to neighbouring countries. Usually, travelling between neighbouring countries is affordable and may easily fit into your budget. For example, if you are going to study in a European country, consider doing a European tour as it is cheaper to travel in between countries. I would also highly recommend blogging your experience. This will be a document of your experience, a recording of what you did, as well as a source of guidance for those who are going to the same country so they too can make most of their journey.

SFU Student
Connect with Ali on LinkedIn and Twitter Ali is a 3rd year student, pursuing a Bachelors in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management and Accounting. Currently he is an elected Senator and working as a Community Advisor at Simon Fraser University Residence. He likes to assist others to overcome the challenges that they face because he believe that: “Life is not measured by the number of days you live, but the number of lives you inspired, so be someone's inspiration.” He has volunteered more than 2000 hours with 25+ organizations in Canada and Pakistan and have mentored 100 plus students at Simon Fraser University in different facets.

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