Help! How do I choose my exchange destination?

The deadline for exchange applications is getting closer and closer. Maybe you are still doubting whether to go or not, or maybe you just cannot decide where you want to go. In this blog, we will elaborate on an exchange, the possibilities and some previous experiences of students.  Hopefully help you a little further in your process of deciding and applying.

Why go on exchange? 

For IBA students, it is mandatory to go on exchange for one semester. However, this is not the case for other study programs. We recommend you to take the chance you have now and go on exchange! Studying abroad will truly be beneficial for your development and growth as a person. It enables you to try out another education system, in a new environment with new people. Since you will probably end up far outside your comfort zone, you will constantly be challenged to try and to learn new things, which means you are developing yourself not only personally, but also professionally. Even though this is certainly true, the main reaction from students who have been on an exchange is that studying abroad is mostly fun. You have the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and discover a country or continent that is completely different than ours. Together with the new friends you make, an exchange a life-changing experience that you most certainly will not regret.  

Experiences of students

We have asked some students who are currently on an exchange about their experiences, to give you an idea what studying abroad could be like.

Francine in Singapore

My name is Francine Hamelberg. I am currently a third year IBA students doing my exchange at Singapore Management University (SMU). People say that we have to go beyond our comfort zone, so here I am in Singapore; exploring new places, culture, and people. 

It’s funny when you move abroad. In the beginning, everything seems new, exciting, and weird at the same time. It takes time for the shock to settle down until you start becoming familiar with everything and how everything works. Everything is very convenient here and therefore, it was easy to adapt here, and obviously, a lot of good food to try since they have a big variation of cultures in Singapore (Chinese, Malay, and India). Even though Singapore is a small country, it still has a lot of things that you can explore!

I do not regret choosing Singapore and SMU as a place for me to spend my semester abroad. It has developed my education knowledge as well as connections. Not only that, but it has also broadened my perspective in looking on how important it is to have soft-skills in dealing with different people coming from different backgrounds.

For you who are going on exchange or still confused to choose which country you want to go to spend your semester, I would say that it is good to pick an extreme country that is entirely different from what you are used to because that’s where you can get the most experience. Get out from your comfort zone! Think carefully about where you want to go because this chance might never come again. Nonetheless, try to plan things early since there will be some specific requirements such as a minimum GPA so that you can start working to get a higher GPA. Last message from me: “Be Brave, take risks, nothing can substitute experience.”

Helin in Pamplona

Hi, my name is Helin and I am a third year IBA student currently on her exchange in Pamplona, Spain. Since I have wanted to learn Spanish for a very long time and I wanted to experience the Spanish culture fully, I chose Pamplona as my destination.

The university experience here is amazing, besides classes, there are a lot of activities the university offers for its students to get a full university life experience. Even though you obviously still have to study and work on projects, the workload is relatively low here which gives me the opportunity to travel a lot on the weekends with the friends I made here. During the week we explore Pamplona and hang out together and on the weekends we usually go on trips to other destinations. The most important thing when you go on an exchange is to stay open to new people, new experience and to get out of your comfort zone. If you do, you will learn so much from the people you will meet, the places you will visit and the cultures you will get to know at your destination!

Asmara in Melbourne

My name is Asmara and I am currently in Melbourne. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but flying there for just one summer is not necessarily cheap. So I thought ‘What better way to spend a lot of time there than spending my exchange semester?’. Unfortunately, Melbourne is not one of the sunniest locations in the country but it is definitely worth skipping the European summer for! Melbourne is a really modern and multicultural city. There are a lot of exchange students, which makes it easy to meet people and the food is very good! Many people think that Melbourne is not that fun because it doesn’t have as much things to see as Sydney. But it earned its 7 years in a row ‘most liveable city in the world’ for a reason, cause you really feel at home quickly and there is nothing you can’t find here.

RMIT is a really good university and the campus is beautiful. All buildings have been recently renovated and there are many good study spots with big windows and nice cafes to take a quick break. RMIT is the only partner university that is in the middle of the city center, which gives it great connections to all the companies in the CBD and means that if you decide to live on campus you never have to travel far from a night out. Next to that, RMIT organizes a lot of trips and activities for its students at a really good price. For example, I went to see the Great Ocean Road with them (the most scenic drive in Australia) and attended uncountable coffee, brunch and dinner trips to the most insta-worthy restaurants.

My biggest tip for students about to go on an exchange: Don’t stress too much about it! I remember I was nervous for a full month before flying to Australia, but once I was here everything went so smoothly and just fell into place. Don’t be scared, pick a city/country that speaks to you and where you think you have enough new things to explore and see for the semester to come. An exchange is never boring, and no matter where you end up everyone has a great experience!

Lisa in HongKong

Hello, my name is Lisa Conzemius, I am 21 years old and I am an exchange student at the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. When having to choose my exchange city, I was struggling quite a bit in the beginning. The VU gives you so many options that you are grateful and overwhelmed at the same time. After a lot of brainstorming, pro-contra lists and overthinking, I decided to go with my gut feeling. I had never been to South-East Asia and the idea of traveling this area gave me a feeling of excitement. I decided to choose 3 universities in this area. Luckily, I knew people who studied in all the 3 cities I had chosen, so I asked them about their experiences. My friend who had studied in Hong Kong got so excited talking about it and just went on and on and on about things to do, why those things were amazing and how the city was awesome and why she had the best time of my life. Her excitement was intoxicating so I put Hong Kong as my first choice and well, here I am.

As for the university experience, Asian universities are quite different from European universities. The level is not as demanding, taking that referencing is just not a thing over here and preparing a PowerPoint in class because you forgot about it brings you an A. However, I find yourself low key stressing about university anyhow because there are so many things to do in this city, and for most of my subjects I have a lot of small assignments and presentations, which keeps you busy.

Furthermore, living in the student halls of the university contributes to this extraordinary experience. I share a room with one other person and a bathroom with a total of 4 people. Almost every exchange student lives in the halls as they guarantee us spots. Thus, all of your friends live under one roof, only a minute walk away from your own rooms. I have made amazing and intense friendships in only 2 months of time. You just never feel alone as everyone is so far away from home, having the same experiences and emotions just as you. People grow together as a family. As some students also plan on traveling in January, we just booked our Christmas together in Thailand on a beach and then further to travel to Vietnam for a month. I honestly have to say that exchange has been the most wonderful experience so far. It makes you grow, face cultures you do not know anything about, gives you the opportunity to meet so many beautiful people, makes you see places so beautiful it brings tears in your eyes and just gives you a whole new perspective on life.

VU Worldmap

For more information about universities abroad, you can go to the VU Worldmap. On this website, you can find all our partner universities and useful information about the universities themselves, money, accommodations, and other students’ experiences. You can also find the application requirements here.

Applications and tips 

Before you go to a university, you have to apply, which means that there are some requirements you have to meet for you to be accepted. For some universities, you need to meet a certain GPA requirement. Of course, high grades are generally good, but they will certainly help you get into the university you want to.

There is a good chance that you will have to hand in your CV and a motivation letter for your application. If you do not meet the GPA requirement, this is your chance to compensate for that. Our Aureus Career Advice has a lot of tips on how to build a good resume and motivation letter, for which you can find the links down below. Hopefully, these tips will help you get into the university you want.

Study Abroad Week 

If you want more information about an exchange and your possibilities to study abroad, make sure to join the activities in the Study Abroad Weeks at the VU. From November 5th until November 16th, there will be information sessions and consultation hours regarding the exchange. You can sign up for these sessions via the email you have received about the Study Abroad Week or via this link. There will be a session about each continent, one about how to finance your time abroad and for IBA students, there will be a mandatory information session.

Do you have to hand in a CV and motivation letter for your future exchange university? Click here for tips on how to make a good CV and look here for tips on how to write a proper motivation letter.