Being at University seems a long distant memory, when in actual fact it was only a few years ago, that I was taking my last exams and getting ready for graduation. I remember it all like it was yesterday. The most memorable part of my University experience was travelling abroad to Singapore.
On January 14th 2013, I left the UK on my study exchange adventure for 7 months, to the Lion City – Singapore. It was a dream come true and actually one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far. In other posts, you will learn exactly why, but for now I want to share some tips on studying abroad.
Now I know it was a while back but I still think there are some lessons that can be learnt from my study exchange.
Believe me it’s real, even though I thought that I can brave it out. I couldn’t.
Hang on, before you judge me! I lived at home with my amazing family when I was at University and as much as I loved living in Singapore, there were plenty of times when I couldn’t wait to get home to gain a sense of normalcy. I remember that the first week was the hardest for me (except the sun and clubs of course). My room key wasn’t working, I didn’t like the food, my laptop broke 3 days before I left and I was having issues with just adjusting to the time difference (Singapore is 8 hours ahead of the UK). So, you can imagine my stress levels!
However, after a few weeks I settled in really well, adapted to the time difference, made friends with the locals who showed me where to eat, my Auntie sent me my fixed laptop and my room key was also fixed. I started to enjoy the beauty of the country and her people.
2) Keeping On Top Of Your Studies.
I must admit that keeping on top of my studies was extremely difficult for me. Being in a new country in the heat made me feel like I was on holiday for a long time and made it almost impossible to stay motivated to study; but as I was in my final year and with a Dissertation due at the end of the year, I knew I had to snap out of holiday mode.
It’s important when you’re abroad, to know the modules you are taking and how they are marked back home. You don’t want to be like me and later find out that an A grade is a B grade back home! Trust me I wasn’t impressed!
Devise a plan of work that you need to do and stick to it – because you don’t want your school work to get on top of you.
Moving to Singapore worked out well for me. I lived at home so I had saved so much money from working part-time, but I know other people’s circumstances might be different where they live away from home. My only advise would be to plan your finances accordingly.
Some study abroad exchanges do allow their students to work on a student visa but in Singapore that was not permitted. If you can work on your study exchange go for it. If you can’t, good planning and strict budgeting is key.
4) Another travel base
Living in Singapore was amazing. There were also so many other countries around Singapore that I could travel to. Countries that seemed a world away from the UK – like Australia – became so accessible for me to travel to… so I did.
I travelled all of South East Asia – which wouldn’t have been so accessible to me without the study exchange programme. Places like Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam where under £100 round trip! The prices would have been over £500 if it had been from the UK! If you are looking for cheap travel, this is the best way to go about it.
5) Applying And Preparing Can Take So Long…
Wooow. If I remind myself of the application process, I may just say to anyone thinking to do a study exchange to forget it! I first had to write why I wanted to do a study exchange, then keep my grades to an acceptable level (this bit was the easy part for me).
Once I was accepted, I then had to apply for my student visa, accommodation, pay for my accommodation, flights, meal plans, etc, etc….. the list was endless! I was lucky enough to have my family and friends behind me who supported me all the way; and it was all worth it once it was all done.
The process is long and tedious, but well worth in the end!
6) Friends across the world for life.
Do you like travelling?
Well now you have your friends places to stay when you travel. Studying in a new University does mean you will inevitably meet new people. Some people you will never see again (trust me, these people you don’t want to see!) but some people you will be able to build lifelong relationships with.
Even today, I have a friend from Malaysia whom I call whenever I need to speak to her. She has also come to visit me in the UK and spent Christmas day with my family and I.
Such friends are friends for life and it’s always great to meet up with them whenever you go travelling!
7) Embracing Another Culture
Living in Singapore showed me different types of culture – nothing like the UK! For one thing, the country has so many laws that I honestly couldn’t keep up with by myself!
Chewing gum is banned! Drugs, public affection, the usual jay walking, littering and even eating on public transport were and are most probably still all forbidden! Trust me, even my friend got caught and fined for eating ice cream on the metro (tube) – to which she was later charged to court!
Whichever laws there are, obey them! You don’t want to get charged to court, trust me!
8) Learn A New Language
Now let me just stop you there and say that Singapore speaks English so I never learnt a new language.
Although I learnt Singlish (which is broken Singaporean English), I never learnt any specific languages and I’m afraid I didn’t make any attempt to but I do have friends who have also done study exchanges and have learnt new languages. So, if you can learn a new language, go for it!
I do hope these tips help you and if you have also done a study exchange, do not hesitate to share the tips you have learnt from your experience.
Remember: It’s ok if life knocks you down, it’s just not ok if you stay down!