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!

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