I am selected as an exchange student, what now?

Many times in life you will be faced with the uncertainties of a new chapter. Although exchanging to another University is a big deal and will involve some administration processes, the support from your institution and hosting institution will definitely answer some of your pressing questions. Do ask as many questions as will make you feel comfortable.

Some practical advise for that I could share before you embark on your new adventure. Mostly for South Africans.

  • It is always good to have certified copies of your passport, visa’s, ID and other documents with you electronically. I normally just scan and email this to myself.
  • Remember to inform your bank that you will be using your bank card abroad. Although your cheque card could be used abroad without any warning to your bank.
  • On the topic of money, it is so easy to withdraw foreign currency from an ATM when you arrive in the new country, especially arriving on an airport, but if you want to arrive with some local currency in your pocket, that is also not a bad idea. Keep in mind that sometimes you can not exchange ZAR in all countries, and to travel with heaps of cash is in anyways not too safe.
  • Maybe consider closing or freezing accounts that will charge membership fees while you are gone and you will not be benefitting from.
  • Consider changing your health insurance policy to a cheaper plan. This saves you the penalty fees on your return and save you a few rands while you are gone.
  • It is always worth migrating your phone contract to a cheaper package and this way you also get to keep your number while just paying a small amout monthly.
  • On the topic of health insurance, take note, travel insurance and health insurance are two different things. You get a basic free travel insurance option when you buy your plane ticket with your credit card. This will only be for 90 days. If your stay will exceed this, consider taking out an additional travel insurance package. TIC is a good option. With regards to health insurance, perhaps the hosting Uni could assist in this. They have preferred health insurance packages. If you want to cover both travel insurance and basic health insurance you could consider “World Nomads”. Out of personal experiences they are really very good in any crisis situation. Obviously we do not go on a travel adventure to get ourselves into accidents and sticky situations. But unforeseen things sometimes happens.
  • Booking flights could be a very daunting thing. Most of us want to get to our destination as quick as possible, spending as little as possible. This might be counter intuitive but the general rule of thumb is to book your ticket 50 days before departure. This sounds wrong, but according to some experienced travelers this is how the algorithms work for most airliners. If this is too daunting, a safe option is to use the app “Hopper”.
  • On that note, while you will have the opportunity to broaden your horizons, it could be worthwhile to book a small interlude adventure before or after your exchange abroad. To find hands-on information around travel options and best ways to connect between destination, you could use the app “Rome to Rio”.
  • Another option would be to register on the website “workaway.info“. This is a work/travel exchange program. Most hosts will allow you to volunteer for 4 hours a day in exchange for meals and accommodation. I can tell may good tales about my experiences with this website.
  • If you would like to embark on a solo mission, and the idea scares you, it is always good to select a ‘spotter’. This would be someone back home or anywhere else that knows all your detailed information around your itinerary and travel insurance. It gives a certain level of peace of mind, but could also be good in sticky situations.
  • When you are off to a real cold country, its worth it to rather save your money to buy a proper jacket in the country itself. Our jackets and coats are not made for all cold climates.

Okay, so these points can take some admin but will safe you money and time in the longrun. What I love about traveling or living abroad, it creates vacuums of expectation. In life we get taught to not live with expectations from people but in the travel sphere this anticipation creates little vacuums and NATURE LOVES to fill these gaps with experiences. Happy travels and exchange. Take lots of photo’s and try out new experiences!

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