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Preparing for study exchange - several tips to keep in mind

Hello everyone reading this blog! J

Good day from Singapore.

In one of the previous blogs I promised that I would devote several blog posts to the topic of my study exchange in Singapore. So, the time has come and I am fulfilling my promise.

In this blog today I would like to familiarize the readers with the preparation associated with the exchange. As I already said, preparation matters have to be seriously and carefully attended to. Otherwise, you might encounter problems that will put your whole exchange trip underthe threat of cancellation. You don’t want it to happen, right? And I don’t want this happen to you, too, so I would like to share several pieces of advice I have got from my personal experience.

Do you know one of the main principles of financial success? Any guesses? It is “start early” principle. You may wonder why I am asking you this question. It might seem that I am deviating from the topic, but I am actually driving at it. Starting early makes everything way easier, and it allows you to play safe, because you do not want to risk your strongly desired and highly-anticipated exchange. Now that I am in Singapore, I can say with confidence that this principle perfectly applies to exchange preparation too. Why is it so? Just think about the following: Saimaa University of Applied Sciences has approximately one hundred partner universities all over the world. Last-minute choice right before the application deadline might not work out well in this case. I am sure you would like to consider various factors before choosing your place of exchange. Believe me, it will take you some time to identify several preferred options of where you would like to go for an exchange. Not to mention choosing university and exchange timing, calculating overall costs and checking travelling opportunities. Last but not least, you will have some time to familiarize yourself with the upcoming preparation process, which might save you nerves and a considerable amount of money. Start your exchange preparation early, and don’t postpone decision-making until the last minute.

I made my mind on the exchange place pretty fast. As to me, choosing and applying for the exchange place were actually the easiest steps of the exchange preparation. Reserve a month or two before the exchange application deadline, review the list of partner universities, identify several preferences, read exchange reports of students who went there in the previous years, decide on exchange timings, make sure they fit your study plans, calculate costs and inquire on the particularities of exchange preparation process for your preferred exchange destinations. Later on, I will give you a good example on “particularities of exchange preparation process”. As soon as you have identified several exchange options, you are good to go. Fill in the exchange application form, list your choices in the order of preference, and arm yourself with patience, as selection process will take some time. Selection results will be ready in two weeks after the application period ends.

When exchange selection results are announced and you know your place of exchange, I strongly recommend you to write a plan. No matter how far your exchange seems to you, write a plan and keep it in sight. Write down all the main preparation milestones: ordering and submitting travel insurance, filling and submitting exchange documents for the university (application for financial support, obligation, learning agreement etc. – you can request a full list of them on Valtteri page), applying for visa, paying for accommodation and booking flights, choosing study courses, getting all necessary vaccinations, arranging bank and credit card matters.

The process does not seem very stressful and complex, right? And it wouldn’t, if you reserve enough time for preparation by starting early. If you fail to do so, you will find yourself under time pressure. It does not feel good at all, when you have to make an important choice in a few days’ time, and the risk of making a fatal mistake is particularly high in this case.

Let me now tell you about “the particularities of exchange preparation process” that I mentioned two paragraphs above. I do not know very much about other exchange destinations, but there are some peculiarities in the exchange preparation process for Singapore. A very valuable information source of such peculiarities are student exchange reports. From those reports you can find out what difficulties other students faced. As for Singapore, the major inconvenience is that students are advised not to buy flight tickets before you receive your visa approval – quite reasonable advice. The whole thing becomes more complex when you consider that students generally receive their Singapore visa approval one or two weeks before the suggested arrival date. It is not very convenient and economical, given that you are advised not to buy flight tickets before that. Besides buying tickets, you should also pay accommodation rent in full prior to your arrival. It is reasonable, if you have your visa approval, but what if you haven’t received one and the payment deadline is coming. Quite a stressful situation to be in, I would say.

It nearly happened to me. My exchange started on the 17th of October, but suggested arrival date were 13-14th of October – it is associated with the Student Pass issuance. Unwilling to remain in the state of uncertainty and wait until the visa approval, I had my insured flight tickets bought for the 12th of October already in September.

It was already 27th of September, but I hadn’t received any emails regarding visa application by that time. There was not much time left, so I asked other students going for an exchange to Singapore, whether they had received any emails. It was a big surprise for me to find out that they had already received their emails with visa instructions, and had already submitted visa applications! Visa consideration takes a minimum of five and a maximum of ten working days. I counted the days, given that it takes ten days. It was right one the nose. If it took a maximum of ten days, I would have to make accommodation payment without having visa approval, which does not make life easier and less stressful.

I contacted Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) right away, and it turned out that the email had been sent to me four working days ago. It just didn’t arrive to my e-mail for some unknown reasons, and I was not the only one who had this problem. My groupmate didn’t receive the e-mail to his university account too. I asked our exchange coordinator from NYP to resend the instructions to another e-mail. When I opened it, there were quite many things to sort out. In just one day I made a soft copy of passport photo according to the guidelines, filled in visa documents, payed all the fees, and finally submitted the application. I could only hope that it won’t take longer than ten days, and I won’t have to rebook my flight and make rent payment without visa approval. All my expectations were exceeded when I received visa approval just five working days later. It could not turn out better for me. I think it was approved so fast because our NYP coordinator new about the problem and had a direct contact to the Immigration & Checkpoint Authority. Big thanks to her!!! I received my visa approval, made accommodation payment and started to pack my things for the exchange, but my small nuisances did not end there. I will tell you about one more of them in one of the coming blogs. It awaited me on my way to Singapore.

Concluding this blog, I would like to ask you to remember three of the following tips: start early, plan thoroughly and do not leave important things to chance.

This is all for today.

Have a great day and see you soon J

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