Religion On The Mind

Today’s entry marks the last Easter-themed one for the week, and as usual we end with a psychological perspective of religion. It seems that people have tried to study religious behaviour psychologically for a long time, dating back to as far as the 18th century. Not much seems to have been found in the way of conclusive theories about why religion causes positive and negative effects on people, and most studies aren’t adequately validated either. There have been questionnaires created to measure people’s religious dimensions and religious experiences, and it has also been found that prayer and rituals have emotional and social benefits.

Good news for religious people, religion not only has benefits on emotions and social status, it also benefits physical and mental health as well. Mortality rates are lower for people who consider them religious and spiritual, and it may be due to lower rates of alcohol consumption and improvement in mood (therefore lower rates of alcohol and mood improvement mediate this correlation between religion and health; which is a term I’ve just learnt in psychology statistics). So really, the main factor is still the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, which is a relief to atheist me.

Mental health, on the other hand, is a bit iffier. Religiosity is associated with mental disorders that involve an excessive amount of self-control. However, to most of us healthy fellows, religiosity is still good. It mainly offers coping strategies to deal with stress, which are characterised by Pargament as 1) self-directing, characterised by self-reliance and acknowledgment of God; 2) deferring, in passively attributing responsibility to God; and 3) collaborative, involving an active partnership with God and is most commonly associated with positive adjustment. This does indicate that people with troubles may find solace in having a discourse with God (though I would extend this beyond Christianity).

Evolutionary psychology largely scratches its head when it comes to why there is a universal propensity towards religion. Adaptationists have tried to explain it, but Steven Pinker argues that it doesn’t meet the criteria for adaptations. It could be that religious psychology is a by-product of some parts of the mind that evolved for other purposes, such as folk psychology. Religious cognitions also interestingly purposefully violate innate expectations about how the world is constructed, such as bodiless beings with thoughts and emotions. So maybe it marks the beginnings of fantasy and imagination? Who knows.

In any case, religious thoughts are mainly transmitted through social exposure. However, in certain historical — and perhaps modern as well — tribes, drugs are used to induce “religious” experiences in people and thus persuade them of its authenticity. For instance, cannabis is used in Indian and African communities. There is also the ayahuasca, which apparently grant healing powers and clairvoyance, and do produce the sensation of flying. There is also the datura, which produces glorious visions in warriors before battle and is still used by natives in North and South America. These plants are quite scary and I do wonder why they exist. Wouldn’t it be self-detrimental for the plant to produce godly feelings in people and animals that eat it? Wouldn’t they want to eat it more instead? How does the plant protect itself this way? Then again, maybe the animals know better than to touch such ghastly things, and humans are the fools to crave it and even grow and harvest it for more. At any rate, such plants still exist in big quantities today, so whatever their regenerative strategy is, it sure works.

A possible reason why the study of religion in psychology is not quite advanced may be because some psychologists reject religion altogether. For example, Sigmund Freud viewed religion as an illusion and a sign of psychological neurosis. However, I think researchers understand now that excluding anything — especially a global phenomenon as religion — from psychological study is going to limit its findings, so we’ll probably see more scientific insight into it in the days to come. Cognitive science and many other fields promise to use computational methods to study religious thought processes, and that sounds quite exciting to me if nothing else.

Decorate Your Very Own Easter Eggs

Happy Good Friday to all of you! (even though we aren’t supposed to be commemorating a pleasant occurrence today) It’s a holiday, which means all the children will be at home, shouting boisterously and causing a din complaining of boredom. Well, you can always stuff their mouths with a toy, or if you don’t have one, start an art activity! Get everybody to design Easter eggs together!

But what if those pesky kids start drawing on the walls and floor instead? You’ll get into an even greater mess than before. The cleanest solution is to go hi-tech and let them do it over Photoshop!

Photoshop is a great and flexible tool to make impressive art without having to know how to draw or colour. The newest version of Adobe Photoshop now is CS6, which allows you to do web design with greater ease and can even edit videos now. This isn’t a tutorial entry on Photoshop, so I recommend that you consult the website itself for help on how to use the features in the program, but I do want to encourage you to try it out. It really boosts faith in your artistic prowess once you discover the miraculous fabulous creations you can concoct with just image manipulation tools and techniques!

I would say that the Adobe creative suite is hard to master at first. For beginners, it may present an array of choices with technical names that you aren’t sure how to put together into a coherent whole. It has many effects, but many of them are also highly situational. You can learn a lot from experimenting on your own, though, so don’t be frightened to grab a picture off the internet and do all sorts of stuff with it. Click on everything and see which techniques suit you best. I think Photoshop is the most useful software out of the Adobe selections. Flash is pretty popular and funky, and so is Audition. Premiere Pro is a good substitute for Windows Movie Maker, but I think that’s about all that you will ever have to use if you’re not a designer.

Along the way, though, I realise playing with Photoshop teaches you not just computer skills, but also a greater sense of what constitutes a good artistic effect. Certain effects will look fantastic together, and there’s a lot to learn about things like colour theory when you can physically manipulate the colour and brightness of every object immediately. Some say Photoshop artists aren’t true artists, because they rely on the computer to do all the hard labour, but I beg to differ. The computer can only do what you command it to do; it doesn’t have an independent artistic sense of its own. The computer is just a tool to the artist, but the artist is the one who controls what the computer should do, and what the final picture should look like. It’s as if an artist isn’t an artist if he uses a paintbrush instead of his finger.

But of course the main point of contention is that Photoshop can only work on existing images, so the artist isn’t creating something from scratch. I believe in media studies, we call this “bricolage”, a “piece of makeshift handiwork” or “a construction made of whatever materials are at hand”. I still call this art because it is a process of creatively piecing different images and effects together. If an artist has a creative product in mind but not the means to sketch it himself, but uses existing images — with their own limitations to overcome — I think he is as much an artist, or even more, as someone who creates things specifically to suit his purpose.

So do your inner artist proud and make that perfect Easter egg!

The Birthplace of Christianity

Continuing on the Easter theme, we’re going to go travelling today! Most religions started out in a specific country before spreading around with the help of missionaries, and Christianity is no different. Some of you may know that it started out in the Levant region, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Hatay Province and other parts of southern Turkey, some regions of northwest Iraq and the Sinai Peninsula. And among them, Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, is commonly mentioned in the Bible and other biblical references. Over the long weekend, why don’t you visit the religious city and feel the aura it permeates?

Jerusalem is really home to 3 religions, rather than only Christianity. The other 2 Abrahamic religions represented are Judaism and Islam, so you can see it represents holiness. However, it was also because of religion that it had a violent past, being fiercely contested between Christianity and Islam during the Crusade era. It has a unique history, and maybe because of that its people cherish their heritage all the more. However, even today, adherents of each religion congregate in different districts, though with considerable overlap.

Generally when I think of the Mediterranean area, I’m not sure what image to think of. Is it a desert region like the Arab, or is it like a beach, since it’s close to the sparkling Mediterranean sea? Well, it has a distinct seasonal split between summer and winter, with the former between May and September and having virtually no rain. Its temperature is probably bearable to us Singaporeans though, with the highest being 30 degrees Celsius and dropping to 15 at nights. Winters are wet and cold, with January having temperatures between 12 to 4 degrees Celsius. So be careful when you travel between October and April! Don’t underestimate the temperature over there!

If Jerusalem is a holy Muslim city, does it mean all its food are halal? Well, not all of its food chains are certified, and if you’re uncomfortable they do have American food over there, such as Burgers Bar and New Deli, though hygiene is not a guarantee. If you want to try Arabic food, Abu Shukri and Hashipudia have delicious and cheap meat skewers and hummus and falafel, not to mention the pita bread we all know about.

During the day, there are interesting places to visit in there, such as the Garden Tomb, since we’re talking of Christianity. It is believed to be the location of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus, and is located in a lush beautiful garden. It’s open in the afternoons, which is the best time to appreciate the greens, no doubt. There is also something known as a Biblical Zoo. I’m not sure what it is, but I wonder if it’s related to Noah’s Ark. And of course, don’t forget about visiting the Old City, where all the historical religious sites are situated, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the holiest Christian spot in the world! Being the number one site for Christian pilgrims, built by Queen Helena, it is horribly crowded, so be prepared to listen to an hour’s worth of songs on your MP3.

I must say one part of travel that I really enjoy is learning about culture and looking at the daily way of life of its people. It can differ so much from ours back home, and yet people still live in harmony and contentment. This goes to show how resilient and creative people can be, to construct a social entity for themselves. For those who want a real feeling of Easter, do consider heading to Jerusalem for the next few weeks!

Religion That Sounds Good

I seem to have a love-hate relationship with religion, no matter what religion it is. I visit temples every year during the Lunar New Year, and can sing to some Christian/Catholic hymns from what I learned in primary school. And yet I’m an atheist. I guess I do understand the concerns of religious people. If one is an atheist, one seems to lack that crucial core that determines the meaning of one’s life. Once in a while I feel that my life seems to run on and on without a purpose, and people who have read one of my Sunday articles in the past would know that I hold a pretty pessimistic attitude towards life. I’ve been rather comfortable with this view for the most part, that we shouldn’t be seeking or chasing a furtive promise of reward, but to make our every moment count instead. And yet, one can get weary from making meaning for oneself, and wish that someone is out there to watch us try and know the efforts we put in to live each day.

Religion would, I think, be a good solution to that, but the simple fact of the matter that hinders my entering into any religious community is that I simply don’t believe. I don’t believe a god exists, or that there is really anything in this world who will help you except yourself. And so there is an evident clash. I want to believe, but I just don’t. And I don’t think it’s respectful to join a religion for my own personal benefit, with no intention to serve an entity that doesn’t exist. And so I must find some other means to enlighten myself.

But in the meantime, I do listen to my hymns, and in the modern age, whoever said hymns cannot sound good? Contemporary religious music is an up and coming category of music, and they are  just as legit as their secular counterparts. We have Christian rock bands, idol groups, R&B, and the only difference is that they specialise in religious lyrics. And some of our English singers such as Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan dabbled once in a while in Christian music. I believe I listened to a song by something known as Jars of Clay, but I’ve forgotten what it sounded like. It sounded normal, is all I can say. Normal and English. I can imagine it getting fashionable among the English-speaking community.

There was this thing that I’ve been trying to search, but my memory eludes me. I believe there is a musical group out there (not sure if it’s Linkin Park or something else) where their musical direction changed after their exposure to religion, and it was interesting because a certain portion of their fans hated their music after that, whereas they gained a new fanbase as well. I don’t think it was Linkin Park, as search results didn’t bring up much about them. Or the source I heard it from could be telling blatant lies. But what would you say? Would you stop liking a band after its tone changes from religious exposure? What happens if their musicality is the same but the words change then? Listening to foreign music often, maybe it doesn’t affect me as much. But I’d be interested to hear from fans of English songs.

Easter Usagi!

Konbanwaaaa! It’s difficult to tie Japanese anime with Easter, I found at first, until I realised that they both have a symbol in common, the bunny!

The Easter Bunny shows the fun side of Easter. It’s usually depicted as a rabbit holding a basket full of colourful Easter eggs, eager to share them out with kawaii children like me! And as for anime, the usagi is probably one of the common animal motifs, right behind the neko. I really only see the cat, rabbit and dog being portrayed in most anime, but do tell me if I’ve missed something out. At any rate, most of you would imagine the kind of rabbit in Easter to be different from the ones you see in anime. For example, simply take a look at Kuro Usagi, the black bunny in Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara kuru sou desu yo?

But really, the Japanese anime industry has, believe it or not, evolved beyond rabbit stereotypes. There’re other kinds of bunnies out there who aren’t puffy-tailed waitress personas. For instance, look at this one.

Wait what? How is that a bunny, you ask? Well, you obviously haven’t watched Tiger & Bunny. Neither have I, but I know enough to know that it was a pretty big anime of its time, which was really not long ago. Tiger & Bunny was aired in 2011 by Sunrise — the studio name may catch your eye, and it’s about a futuristic setting (which you may have guessed from the mecha) where superheroes fight crime and promote real-life sponsors at the same time. So it’s like the capitalist version of superheroes. For some reason, the Incredibles comes to mind. This might turn out promising.

So why is this guy a bunny again? Well, the main reason is really that his name’s Barnaby Brooks Jr. Geddit? Bunny, geddit? But comments seem to be very positive about this show, saying it’s akin to a Western superhero animation, and it’s gone on to spawn movies and video games in its name.

But enough of bunny characters. My mind may be straying a bit but I’m reminded of a particular quote I heard from an anime movie. I’ve forgotten the precise line, and it wasn’t so important anyway. But basically the male lead compared the female lead to a rabbit, and he was ridiculed by his friend who said she didn’t look like she couldn’t do without a companion. So what film was it?

Kara no Kyoukai 2: A Study In Murder I. For those who watched the show, did Shiki strike you as having any rabbit-like characteristics?

I must say the movie struck me deeply when I watched it. Maybe the volume was loud enough to make an impact, but I thought the movie was great — maybe also because the male lead Mikiya was voiced by Suzumura Kenichi (and Shiki by Sakamoto Maaya). It is a strange mystical fantasy sort of romance, probably accentuated by how the story doesn’t quite seem to have a complete end. The books, and subsequently the movies, are arranged in a non-chronological order, and one must watch all seven films to understand the complete picture of the story.

But it may be because of its sinister mystery, and the fact that the suspense was never solved, that I loved the movie. I didn’t continue watching it though, mainly due to lack of opportunity, but I think it must be a great feeling to watch everything in its deliberate sequence.

And from a study of rabbits, I’ve mentioned 3 different anime, all catering to different tastes — whether you actually adore bunnies or not. May you have a happy Easter, and don’t spend it all glued to the TV screen watching anime!

Self-Help And Other-Help

I think now is a good time to talk about self-help, because I do think I need it. I’m suffering a sudden, undeserved cold, my write-up’s taking longer than expected to finish, and I haven’t (and don’t want to) studied for my Sociology midterm tomorrow. I’ve read my notes well enough, but I haven’t re-looked at the readings, and a nagging feeling tells me that it’s going to be quite important, even critical, to revise my readings again. And when your gut feeling tells you you haven’t done enough for exam preparation, you’d do well to believe it.

And it seems a large number of people need self-help too. Self-help tends to be one of the bestseller genres in bookshops and libraries, but what happens when you’re like me and don’t want to be trawling through thick volumes of motivating words, only to find that once I’ve mustered enough inspiration to get started on revising, I’ve already wasted my revision time on reading self-help? Convoluted, but I assure you it happens more often than we want. But not to worry, because bite-sized encouragement can be found on the internet too, and not just from friends or websites of inspiring quotes. The internet may not be just a haven for flamers and trolls after all.

http://www.raptitude.com/

Raptitude is a website full of positivity. Some wise guy sits behind the computer screen every few days and churns out sagely advice like a machine. We all need a dose of wisdom to get us back on the right track every once in a while, and Raptitude provides such a service free of charge, in the privacy of your own home so that nobody knows you’re a weepy depressed sniveling piece of turd.

I realise that this is a good article to kick off the week moving towards Good Friday as well. This period is all about Easter and being good to each other, and what better way to help somebody than to help get their lives back on track? But if you help them get back on track, why is this known as self-help? I suppose you help that person help themselves, because as they say, the only person who can change one’s mindset is oneself.

But I really think the reason for “self-help” is to give dignity to the person needing help. That, and “other-help” sounds difficult to market. I mean, it doesn’t sound so bad if you’re finding a guidebook to help you find yourself again, rather than seeking help to do what you can’t do alone anymore.

So yeah, don’t be embarrassed to consult self-help. On the same note, don’t be afraid to consult astrology either. I like reading astrology when I’m alone, free and near a bookshop or library. Astrology tells you the type of person you have the “potential” to be, and even though you may not fit the description at all at first, research shows that we’ll subtly change ourselves to suit the description. And astrology will never paint you as a thoroughly bad person (for practical reasons surely) so you may change into a better person after consulting it, or at least feel better about yourself.

Time Is Up!

Before writing this blog, I’ve never noticed how many online publications and blogs are out there talking about important findings in our lives. I knew of Cracked, of course, but I had never found the incentive to visit it (not as much as TVTropes, certainly). But ever since my blog, I’ve found greater curiosity in places like Kotaku, Psychology Today and also the links that I find in forums and as recommended by friends. And we know in a previous Saturday article that we learn better when we process the semantic meanings of texts, so by writing about them, I learn and remember a lot more from them than if I merely read them without thinking them through.

And of course, not to mention the many videos that have broadened and enriched my mind while entertaining me immensely.

And today, we talk about an article that has to do with time. Or rather, time that exists in our minds.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/06/10-ways-our-minds-warp-time.php

So interestingly, the whole deal with relativity and time was right. I’d always thought that Einstein had been kidding when he gave his quote about pretty girls and time (he didn’t look like a very successful playboy to me). Old people really do perceive time differently — my father and great-aunts like to theorise that time is moving more quickly now than before — and the second hand illusion doesn’t occur to me alone. A watched pot really never boils!

I wonder if these phenomena have implications for time travel. If time is not perceived on a constant basis, would people miscalculate the amount of time they should be going back? Ideally, time is objective outside of human consciousness, that a second is a second even though happy people see it going more quickly and sad people more slowly. And so there are definite unquestionable fixed points in time when things happened. Even if the person in the cave thought he took 34 days, the true fact was that he took 59 days, and this information was provided by a mechanical clock rather than observer accounts. Time travel, being governed by machines, should be quite free from human error.

But what about something that is closely related to observer accounts then? What of eyewitness testimony? Are eyewitness accounts of time ever reliable then? Unless they looked at their watches at the time of the crime, there is a possibility that their estimated time of occurrence is grossly inaccurate, as well as the duration of the crime. This is quite an important negligence in crime detection, and  is essential in alibi cross-examination. Most people use indicators to signal to them the time, such as “oh, I remember it was 9.18 pm because that’s when a certain TV show begins” but you don’t get such a luxury everytime. So maybe we need more technological computerised ways of measuring out time.

It’s funny that whenever we think of human errors, we think of computer technology that we can invent to counteract them. Because computers are perfect and systematic; if they’ve an error it’s rarely a random one. We’ll know when they’ve an error, if that ever happens. Just as how clocks won’t lie about the time, only humans will. Such a dangerous prospect to rely on machines. Then again if we don’t rely on them, will we ever get anywhere with certainty?

What’s The Deal With Humans and Computers?

I’ve talked a bit on this column about media design and how important it is to design media and systems bearing in mind the needs of users. Some of you may think this common sense. Of course we design things to be used. But there’s a whole area of scholarship behind human-computer interaction, and sometimes there may even be contradictions between theories of HCI, interactive entertainment and interactive art.

I’ve tried to understand the whole deal about human-computer interaction, but due to limited access to scholarly documents about the field, can’t say anything vaguely legible about this. However, Wikipedia tells me that ignoring HCI can lead to disastrous consequences, such as the Three-Mile Island incident.

The Three-Mile Island accident was a partial nuclear meltdown on one of the two Three-Mile Island reactors in 1979. Aside from the engineering problems that emerged from the incident, part of the reason attributed to this power plant catastrophe is the ambiguous control room indicators in the power plant’s user interface. In fact, the worker misinterpreted the indicator and manually made it worse by doing the opposite of what he was supposed to do. Even though this was a 1979 incident, and supposedly unrelated to the modern intellectual human today, accidents in aviation still occur when new and apparently “better” programs are used, and pilots still operate them with the old system interface in mind. This is, as you would know from reading previous entries, a problem with conceptual models.

Christopher Wickens came up with a whopping 13 principles of display design to make the user experience that much more fulfilled.

1. Make displays legible. Duh.

2. Avoid absolute judgment limits. I’m not quite sure if I understand this correctly, but it suggests against asking users to determine the level of a variable based on another sensory variable, such as colour or size, because user perception may vary.

3. Top-down processing. Users have certain expectations of what they see, and they may be blind to changes contrary to what they expect. This means that if something is wrong, make it very very clear to the user, or else they will overlook it.

4. Redundancy gain. This is one of the models that encourage redundancy. Present a signal in many forms to ensure that users really understand what is going on. For instance, aside from flashing a red light, include an emergency siren sound to ensure that users really know there is an emergency. This is the same design for traffic lights, because both the light colour and the position of the light indicate the same thing.

5. Similarity causes confusion. Users cannot tell the difference between AJDGE#&#73632 and AJDGE#*#73633. Ensure that differences stand out.

6. Principle of pictorial realism. Make sure that pictorial displays are intuitive. If temperature is high, show a thermometer with a high temperature indicator, just as what would happen in reality.

7. Principle of the moving part. When something is moving, let it move as it would in reality, in concert with the user’s mental model. It should slow down as it moves higher or reaches its destination, for example.

8. Minimising information access cost. When you’re sure that users will require information from other sources together with this one, try to put them close together so the user doesn’t need to switch around.

9. Proximity compatibility principle. While Number 8 was about physical proximity, this one seems to talk about mental proximity, that users can link concepts between two information sources closely and easily.

10. Principle of multiple resources. Users can process information from two different sources more easily than processing things one by one in the same source, so try to integrate pictures and sound rather than presenting all pictures first followed by all sounds.

11. Replace memory with visual information. Users should not have to rely too much on memory to enter commands. Provide a list of available commands for them to refer to.

12. Principle of predictive aiding. Try to provide clues on what will happen later on so that users can think about them now. Something like how road signs indicate the distance to a particular town.

13. Principle of consistency. This is of course most important, and what designers easily overlook. New programs should be compatible with what users have already been doing. This may be the reason why the QWERTY keyboard’s still so popular today.

And guess what, this is only about display. I haven’t even begun to delve into the operations of systems. So you can see that in the design of any software or hardware, you need a specialised user designer to ensure that everything is communicated effectively to users before products are released into the market.

The cool thing is that human-computer interface combines multiple aspects, from computing and media studies to cognitive psychology and visual arts. This is a domain that may truly integrate the knowledge of the world in ways we thought were completely disparate before.

Soul Ransom

Which is another phrase for exchange. You know, when students go on exchange in another country they leave their soul hostage there till their return, right? Or it could only be me wanting a cool title for my blog entry.

But anyway, now that we’re towards the second part of the semester, some of you may be thinking of your trip on exchange next semester and starting to do some research for it! And some of you, hearing of your friends’ exploits overseas, may also be thinking of applying for exchange in the next semester, in order to have the time of your lives next year too. Well, even though I’m not going on exchange, I have picked up a few exchange students, so I know certain things you have to take note of before you even step out of your homeland.

1. Have a positive attitude!

I always think that unless you really truly 100% want to go overseas for such an extended period of time, then you should go on exchange. Wishing to go on exchange just to freeze your CAP is the wrong idea to go about it. If you want to freeze your CAP, exchange at a local university. It’s not worth the money and most importantly, you’re going to face many obstacles in your journey and without complete passion, you may not survive it.

I think that when planning your exchange destination, you should indicate the country that you really wish to go, and settle for nothing less. Exchange takes a few months and I find that schools like to give you a random country if you’re not eligible for the country of your choice. If you’re open to new experiences, it’s a great chance for you to explore a place you’d never think of otherwise. However, if you really dislike the place and are just going there for the sake of leaving the country, it’ll only be an insult to the country when you go there and become totally miserable.

Of course, when you go to your destination, you must retain your positive attitude too! Learn and try out as much as you can with an open mind, and also be prepared for any hiccups when you get there. It is highly likely for misunderstandings to happen, and for you to lose your things, and also for you to be lost or clueless about everything. It’s a frightening thought, but just stay strong and everything will turn out all right in the end!

2. Research and paperwork

It’s important to research about the country beforehand, even if it’s just to procure a map of the city and the school you’ll be in. In addition, take your module mapping seriously. Many people end up in quite an academic mess when they fail to map their modules correctly, and end up having to overload in future semesters, which may harm rather than help your CAP in the long run.

Before you go, you may also want to seek accommodation early. The school has limited hostel rooms, but some people hear of cheap boarding-houses outside too, so you want to do research on that in case you find yourself homeless or have to pay hefty fees. While finding accommodation, do also check what facilities are available. You don’t want to end up in a place with no WiFi or internet cable, and have to stay overnight in school to use your computer.

Generally most schools — NUS included — have a team of students that help welcome foreign students and make their stay comfortable. Such services have to be applied for, so look out for such things. Having a guide help you from the airport will make everything so much smoother. However, some of these teams are on a voluntary basis, and students may not always pick up everybody. We don’t know if foreigners are biased against Singaporeans but there’s always a possibility that you’re not picked up due to your nationality. If that’s the case, well, tough luck. Give it a try anyway.

3. Equipment

Aside from the usual necessities, remember to bring extra money. You never know if your iPhone is locked for international use and you’re forced to either buy a smartphone there or just a cheap disposable phone. Also, you may have to buy a phone card even if your phone works, and all these costs add up over the long run. Remember that your room is most likely sparse too, and you’ll need quite a bit of money to furnish even the simple decorations!

I would suggest you not bother with electronics such as cables. They most likely don’t work in another country and it’s a hassle to get a converter out and all that. Bring a converter just in case you need it, but buy the local cables as much as possible. I must say that electronics is one of the most perplexing problems to settle overseas, so research on that thoroughly and bring everything you have to bring. Remember that stores don’t always stock everything you need.

This is the limited advice I can give for people going on exchange. Hope you have a wonderful time and venture lots! And don’t be afraid to try out the food, no matter how exotic they may look or taste!