The student exchange application process is all about coordination. I have learned these intricacies the hard way. This week I’m going to be giving you all of the details you might need to secure yourself your very own exchange experience, with advance warning of some of the roadblocks I encountered along the way.
The first thing you
will want to do: hire yourself as your own personal event coordinator.
Research until your eyes glaze over. Read about the country you would like to go to and the institution you would like to study at. Ask questions – that’s key. Talk to your friends who have travelled, and remember the Education Abroad Office has a wealth of knowledge for you to access. Start doing this early, well before you want to go overseas, as the application process itself takes around six months.
Once you’ve chosen the university you want to apply to, start looking at their course catalogues as soon as you can. Some universities don’t have this information readily available, so talk to the student mobility advisors at RMIT. When I was compiling my study plan for City University in London it took me almost three months to gather all the information I needed, and have the courses approved by several RMIT members of staff (lecturers, course coordinators, program coordinators, program administration officers). You’ll need to call upon your perseverance and determination here.
Be prepared for the situation where the courses you selected might not be offered. Originally, I had rearranged my program map to complete my journalism specialisation courses overseas, only to be told by my host institution that no journalism courses were being offered to exchange students this academic year. I’ve now had a mixture of media and politics courses approved, but my study plan looks a lot different than it did when I first applied.
It all becomes worthwhile when you check your letterbox one day and find a handsome envelope bearing your acceptance letter. Unfortunately in my case, the arrival of this letter was severely delayed, leading to some hefty organisational problems.
In June I had tentatively booked my flights to London when I found some particularly tempting discounts, without having received official details of my exchange. Here, I should urge anyone looking at an exchange program to consider buying flexible airline tickets to avoid what happened to me next.
I estimated my date of departure as mid-August. Next, I needed a student visa. However, to attain that visa I needed a letter
of endorsement from my host institution. Again, the delivery of this letter came much later than anticipated (arriving only two-and-a half weeks ago), and really putting the pressure on my visa application.
I lodged my application last week, and was met with a harsh serving of bureaucracy when told I was going to have to reschedule my flights to allow for my visa to be processed. Turns out the fine print on the visa website really is quite fine. What I didn’t know was that visa processing occurs offshore – Southeast Asia, actually – and at least eight working days must be accounted for in transit time alone.
One trip to the travel agency and $450 later, I had rectified the problem. Luckily I had factored in a small safety margin when booking my original flights, and had left a bit of time before my university courses started so I was able to simply change the date of my flight. I said sorry to my bank account and readjusted my countdown.
Sadly I won’t be leaving for London for another few weeks. Although, there’s nothing like a little anticipation to heighten the reward.
If you’re interested in your own exchange opportunity overseas, start lining up your ducks in a row now! Head to the Education Abroad Office’s website here to learn more.