Tag Archives | exchange

Three Ways To Travel Cheaply and Easily

Image by Miquel González Page, Flickr

Image by Miquel González Page, Flickr

Bonjour! I am currently spending the semester studying abroad in Paris, France. Four months in, and it is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had. If you go on exchange, you probably want to travel as well but don’t want to break the bank. So, here are a few tips to travel cheaply and easily:

Act Fast!

Some people say the best time to book a plane ticket is on the weekend. Others say the best time to book is on a Tuesday. The truth is, the best time to book is as soon as possible! My favourite website is Skyscanner. They include flights from big to budget airlines, always resulting in the best deals. Since the website simply redirects you to the actual airline’s website, there’s no chance that you’re being scammed.

There are awesome features you should look into. First, check out the “Map” option, which allows you to choose a destination and then see a graph of the different prices on different days. The other option is the “Everywhere” destination. Instead of typing in an actual city, simply type in “Everywhere” and Skyscanner will show you the cheapest destinations based on your desired dates.

Hotels or Hostels?

Hotels are always going to be the best option in terms of your peace of mind. Since you don’t have to share the room with strangers and your room is going to be stocked with amenities, there’s no need to worry about a lot of things in hotels. If you stay at a hostel, you’ll need to remember to bring a lot of things such as sandals to shower with, a towel, some soap and a lock for your bags. However, what hostels may lack in safety, cleanliness and amenities, they make up for in character and price. Hostels have a great vibe where you can meet fellow travellers or grab a cheap beer if they have a bar – and don’t forget about the huge savings!

Sacrifices Need to be Made

That 7AM flight to your next destination is $15 cheaper than the one that leaves at 11AM, which means you arrive at your destination earlier and you save money, right? Wrong! Well, you do arrive at your destination earlier, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll save money. You have to keep in mind that you need to somehow get to the airport well before 7AM. A lot of public transportation won’t run that early, so you may end up paying crazy prices for a cab first thing in the morning.

The same kind of situation can occur when you buy a ticket from a budget airline or train that doesn’t land at the city’s main airport or train station. These other airports and train stations are often far from the city centre. Although you save money getting near the city, you still need to find a way to get into the city.

Another example is when you choose where you want to stay. You may save money by staying at a hostel just outside of the city, but getting to and from your hostel can be a pain. It is even worse if you miss the last train or bus back to your hostel!

All in all, budget travelling requires a lot of research and planning. However, if you’re really desperate to get out, do look into last minute deals, especially with trains that want to sell extra seats. Just remember to relax and have a great time!

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Guide to Studying Abroad: Packing and Everything Else

Image from Jan Natividad

Image from Jan Natividad

Bonjour! I am currently spending the semester studying abroad in Paris, France. Two months in, and it is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had. As much fun as I may be having right now, the process of getting to this point was very long and complicated. Here is some advice for avoiding the stress of pre-departure. Although some of these tips are specific to Paris, you can use them for practically any exchange location!

Packing

Tip 1: You don’t need to pack everything that you own, but don’t forget to pack essentials that you take for granted. I am having a difficult time finding baking soda here in Paris and a friend of mind couldn’t find any heat protection hair spray! Although you probably won’t find out if you can buy a product locally or not until you actually arrive, be sure to pack favourite hygiene products, food and anything else that you absolutely cannot live without. In some cases, they may sell what you need, but not in the brand that you prefer.

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of the $100 extra baggage fee on an airplane. The contents of your extra bag are probably worth more than the $100 fee. This also gives you extra space for any souvenirs and gifts that you plan on bringing back home. Remember that things in France are in euros, meaning it is probably going to be significantly more expensive for your favourite shampoo or cereal in France than it is in Canada, so do the math! The only problem you may encounter with this is lugging it from the airport to your new apartment by yourself.

Tip 3: You should also remember to pack both regular sized and travel-sized hygiene products. If you plan on travelling while on exchange, $1 mini toothpaste from your local drugstore is a lot cheaper than buying €1 mini toothpaste in France.

Paris Tip: Parisian street fashion is very stylish but monochromatic. So, when packing clothes, you may want to skip your neon-green top. This may sound silly, but a decent sense of fashion is a matter of self-preservation! Aggressive beggars and pickpockets are less likely to attack you if you don’t have that neon-green “tourist” target on your back.

Everything Else

Tip 1: Don’t worry too much about banking, meeting new people, public transportation, cellphone plans and most other things. The international team at your host school will cover a lot of this during orientation week. Just remember to bring necessary documents, photocopies of IDs and an unlocked cellphone so that everything else will go by a lot smoother.

Tip 2: Remember to have fun! School is important, but don’t spend your whole day inside school or inside your apartment. If you’re not exploring your new environment and soaking all the culture in, you’re more susceptible to getting really home sick. Your new place – as great or as dingy as it may be – will be your new home for the next couple of months. Try to find the positive aspects of your new place such as a really cool nearby bar or your kind neighbour.

Guide to Studying Abroad: Visas and Housing

Image from Jan Natividad

Image by Jan Natividad

Bonjour! I am currently spending the semester studying abroad in Paris, France. Two months in, and it is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had. As much fun as I may be having right now, the process of getting to this point was very long and complicated. Here is some advice for avoiding the stress of pre-departure. Although some of these tips are specific to Paris, you can use them for practically any exchange location!

Visa Application

Tip 1: I don’t want to bore you with all of the technical information because everything is all laid out very clearly on the French consulate’s website. Just make sure you are getting the visa that best suits your needs. Most students will get the basic student visa that will allow them to become temporary residents for a specific period of time. There is another visa that allow students to work and get paid as well as receive a housing subsidy from the French government. They are two different visas with different requirements, so check carefully.

Tip 2: The process of getting your visa is extremely fast and simple. The process of getting all of your documents for your visa can be a nightmare. Do not leave this to the last minute! Make sure you read over the visa requirements and get the necessary documents as soon as possible.

Housing

Tip 1: If you want a (relatively) hassle free way of finding a place to stay, just stay in the student residence that your host school offers. If the residence isn’t that great in terms of price, location, amenities, etc. you can find places to stay online. Websites like airbnb.com and lodgis.com are great because they’re catered specifically to foreigners. Fully furnished and cheap places are hard to come by and so are highly competitive. Search for places early and book as soon as you find one. Just be careful of any scams!

Tip 2: Make sure you research the neighbourhood of your potential new place very well. It may be cheap, but it’s not going to be worth it if it’s in a bad area. If you know the address, search it up on Google Maps and use the street view function to explore the neighbourhood. Look for nearby laundromats, grocery stores, metro stations, bus stops and restaurants.

Paris Tip: If you’re going to Paris and want to live in the “typical” Parisian apartment (the ones with a beige façade and on top of a boulangerie), you’re probably thinking of an apartment in a Haussmann building. Although not all of them are atop a bakery, they are everywhere in Paris. Just note that they can be expensive, especially considering the fact that a lot of them are very old. Some don’t have elevators and others don’t have toilets inside the rooms! The toilet may be outside of the room and shared with neighbours on the same floor.

A Change of Pace – Why You Should Study Abroad

Image by The Leaf Project, Flickr

Image by The Leaf Project, Flickr

If you’re looking to expand your horizons, studying abroad can be a fun and safe way to travel, as well as a brilliant way to gain academic credit.

Explore!

Studying abroad is so much more than classroom lectures. It smashes the walls of the classroom down so as to immerse you into a whole other culture. The host country becomes your classroom, as a new language, a new cuisine, and a new way of life are just a few of the things that confront you. In this new setting, studying abroad affords you the unique opportunity to travel with the mindset of a student, not a tourist. This is what is most valuable about the experience, as it truly encourages you to make the absolute most of your time abroad. Further, being immersed in a different culture opens you up to new perspectives. As the trite, yet truthful, saying goes: “travel broadens the mind” and certainly studying abroad will give you a more global outlook on life.

Make Connections

One of the benefits of studying abroad is that it will bring you into contact with a wide variety of people that you would have never met otherwise. Whether it is new friends from class or from your host country, studying abroad gives you an opportunity to forge life-long bonds with rare individuals. It is the people that you will interact with that will make your experience unforgettable and this is really the major reason to study abroad. However, studying abroad also allows you to create contacts with professors that can come in handy down the road too. Whether you need a letter of recommendation for graduate school or a reference for your resume, the contacts you make studying abroad can be very useful in pursuing either an academic or professional career.

Develop Life Skills

For someone who still lives at home with their parents or someone who has limited travelling experience, studying abroad offers a crash course in valuable life skills. For instance, the amount of independence you experience forces you to become disciplined when it comes to following a schedule, lest you be left behind because you were late for the bus. This independence can also foster growth as a person. Whether it is mastering a foreign subway system or picking up some of the basics of the local language, studying abroad affords you an opportunity to navigate your own way. You slowly discover that you can successfully do things on your own or perhaps you find out that you are more adaptable than you previously thought. Studying abroad offers the chance to test your mettle and hopefully, grow as a person, plus, it doesn’t hurt your resume either.

Many students can be constrained by their finances from studying abroad, but most programs have bursaries and awards on offer. All you have to do is apply. Don’t let finances hold you back from an experience of a lifetime!

Looking To Study In The UK? Here’s What You Need To Know

Image by Tim Morris, Flickr

Image by Tim Morris, Flickr

The UK is home to around 430,000 international students from 180 countries each year, of which 125,000 are from outside of the European Union (EU). These students will be required to fulfill visa requirements before being allowed entry in to the UK and being given the green light to commence their higher education course. Because of this, the process of choosing the right course at the right university and then getting a visa can be a very complicated procedure; here are some helpful tips to help you understand further what you will be required to do.

The first step is to decide upon the course you wish study and at which university, come up with a shortlist of choices in the order that you’d like to attend them and then visit the UCAS website. UCAS is the “Universities and Colleges Admissions Service”, which is responsible for all admissions to higher education in the UK and will be the middle men for your applications with the different universities. Search for the courses you want to do on the UCAS website, write down the responding reference number and then fill in an application with them. Remember to note each individual university’s entry requirements and application deadline dates as well as the UCAS deadlines as they may differ.

Provided you fulfill all of the entry requirements to the course, you have achieved the grades, and you have the required tuition payments, then you can move on to sorting out your visa. To study in the UK you will require a tier 4 student visa. The vast majority of people will want either a ‘general visa’ or a ‘student visitor visa’. The general visitor visa allows an adult to enter the UK for a post-16 education. In order to apply for this visa you will need 40 points from the points-based visa system. 30 of those points will come by providing confirmation of acceptance on to your university course. For more information on where the rest of the points come from, get in touch with an immigration specialist who can offer advice such as the IAS Immigration Advisory Service, which has offices all over the UK, from London to Manchester and Birmingham.

The difference between the student visitor visa and the general visa is the length of stay. With a general visa, you can stay to the completion of your course whether that is 3, 4 or even 5 years. However, with a student visitor visa you can only apply for 6 month short-term courses. Once you have sorted out the correct visa for your requirements, you have everything in place to move to the UK, commence your studies and have the time of your life.

This article was submitted by guest author Stephen McCance.

Making the Most of Your Exchange Experience

Image by The-Lane-Team, Flickr

Image by The-Lane-Team, Flickr

Having the chance to study abroad is definitely going to be a highlight of your post-secondary life. However, some people end their exchange feeling as if their time was too short to do anything spectacular. Follow these few tips to help maximize your experience while on exchange.

Set goals

Don’t end your exchange feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing. Make a list of everything you want to do. It can be as simple as using the tube in London or as adventurous as bungee jumping in Singapore. You can also challenge yourself to become conversationally fluent in the local language. Be as creative as you want! Don’t expect to complete everything on your list, but you can rest assured knowing that you’ve had plenty of new experiences.

Immerse yourself in the culture

Take a stroll through the city’s old district, learn about the country’s history, visit temples and ancient sites, and order food in the local language. Learn and experience as much as you can in your new surroundings. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (this idiom works even better if you’re actually in Rome)! By the end of your exchange, you should feel like one of the locals.

Make local friends

Speaking to and learning from locals can help you make your stay better. They’ll help you find the best restaurants, bars, places to visit, places to avoid and other important information only locals would know about.

Try the local food

Don’t be tempted to just grab a hamburger at a nearby fast-food restaurant. Make sure you try the local delicacies. If you can’t afford expensive restaurants, street food allows you to taste the local flavours at cheap prices. However, just like street food vendors at home, it’s best to make sure you aren’t purchasing your food from a place that looks unsanitary.

Keep a journal

It will help you reflect on your experiences and make you appreciate your time there a little more. Better yet, start a blog or a vlog. It’s a great way to keep your family and friends overseas updated.

Pace yourself

Don’t get yourself sick because you wanted to try all of Germany’s ales. Getting sick or even injured abroad is really expensive. Take caution when trying new things and make smart decisions.

Be mentally prepared

Being on exchange requires a lot of open-mindedness and independence. Don’t be surprised if you experience some sort of a culture shock. Different cultures have different lifestyles and attitudes. Be sure to read up on social customs beforehand to prepare yourself. Also, being far away from family and friends can make you feel very lonely. Beat the homesickness by getting out of your room and exploring. If you really need to, call mom and dad but try not to dwell too much on how much you miss home. You don’t want to be sad for most of your exchange.

Enjoy the little things

Not everything has to be blood-pumping adventures or fancy excursions. Find the joy from all the little things your host country has to offer. It can be the melodic way in which people speak, the fact that fresh ramen is always available just around the corner or the picturesque view of the sunset from your window. You might even enjoy il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). Cherish every second because these are the things you’re going to miss most!

Things to Do Before Going On Exchange

Image by kthread, Flickr

Image by kthread, Flickr

Preparing to go on exchange isn’t that different from preparing to go on a trip. However, there are a few extra things you need to do before going on exchange. Don’t get caught unprepared in a different country by reviewing this list of exchange essentials: 

3 Months or More Before Leaving:

  • If necessary, apply for your passport and visa(s).
  • Get to know where you’re travelling. Read up on climate, transportation systems and tourist spots in guide books and on websites like Wikivoyage. This can help you figure out what you need and don’t need to pack.
  • Learn some key phrases and words in your host country’s language. Even though a lot of people around the world can understand some English, it never hurts to know how to ask for the nearest bathroom or for directions in local language.
  • Learn the culture’s social customs. Did you know that direct eye contact is considered rude in some Asian cultures? To avoid accidentally offending someone, Culture Crossing is a great website for learning the etiquette, taboos and gestures of different countries.
  • Create a budget. Allocate a specific amount of money to spend each week on food, entertainment, transportation and any other expenses. Use this to estimate how much you plan on spending for your whole term on exchange so you can start saving up now.

1-3 Months Before Leaving:

  • Get any necessary immunizations and prescriptions. If you require some sort of prescription medication, be sure to bring enough to last you for the whole trip. It is important to note that some medication that is available and legal at home may not be in other countries, so check beforehand that you can bring it. Keep a copy of the original prescription and a letter from your doctor describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs with you. If you need to fill a prescription abroad, ask your program coordinator for help finding an English-speaking doctor.
  • Apply for a credit card that works around the world. Find one that has low foreign transaction fees or one that doesn’t have them at all.
  • Find the best way to communicate with others back home. If you need a cellphone, research your current provider’s fees for using your cellphone in a different country. Alternatively, consider getting an international cell phone or international phone card. You can save money by using apps like Skype and Viber to call or text home.

A Few Weeks Before Leaving:

  • Notify your bank that you are leaving. This prevents them from freezing your accounts, especially when you need it most.
  • Introduce yourself to fellow exchange students. Ask your program coordinator if it’s possible to contact your fellow exchange students beforehand. This can help make your first encounter less awkward and you can go straight to having fun and making memories with them.
  • If you’re staying with a host family, contact them before you leave. Get to know them and tell them about yourself. Get them a gift from your home country to thank them for letting you stay with them.
  • Pack light. You can live without all of your shoes and clothing for the next few months. Bring only the essentials. This will also save room in your suitcase for anything you may buy during your exchange. With that being said, make sure to pack any necessities. This includes a power adapter or voltage converter so you can plug in your camera or laptop. If you’re away for more than one season, you may need to bring a jacket and boots but also shorts and flip flops. Don’t forget that you’re there to study! Bring some school supplies so you don’t waste money buying it there.