I am selected as an exchange student, what now?

Sometimes in life you will be faced with the uncertainties of a new chapter, such as exchanging to another University. This is a big deal and will involve some administration processes for days. But, the support from your institution and hosting institution will definitely answer most of your pressing questions. Do ask them as many questions as will make you feel comfortable.

Some practical advise I could share before you embark on your new adventure. This might be most useful for South Africans exchange students.

  • It is always good to have certified copies of your passport, visa’s, ID and other important 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 anywhere abroad without any warning to your bank, a credit card might be pretty useless without your bank allowing you to use your card international.
  • On the topic of money, it is very 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 wise.
  • Maybe consider closing or freezing gym accounts or the like, that way you will not be charge membership fees while you are gone and you will not be benefitting from it.
  • Consider changing your health insurance policy to a cheaper plan. This save 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 though. If your stay will exceed 90 days, 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 sometimes have preferred health insurance packages. If you want to cover both travel insurance and basic health insurance you could consider “World Nomads”. From personal experience, 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 happen.
  • Booking flights could be another 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 airlines. If this is too daunting, a safe option is to use the app “Hopper” to track plane tickets.
  • 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 too much, 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, next of kin 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 always made for all cold climates.

These points could be loaded with admin, but will save you money and time in the longrun. What I love about traveling or living abroad, it create vacuums of expectation. In life we get taught to not live with expectations from people but in the travel sphere, the anticipation creates little vacuums and NATURE LOVES to fill these gaps with experiences! Happy travels and exchange. Take a lot of photo’s and try out many new experiences!

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