By Luna Erica
The semester is well on its way, and for many first- and third-semester students that means that a decision is coming up: Will you apply for an exchange semester?
At UCR Open Days, the possibility of an exchange semester is often emphasized as a very exciting element of your studies in Middelburg. That does not take away, though, from the fact that a lot of UCR students opt not to go abroad in their time at UCR. I wrote this article from my exchange destination in Australia in the hopes that I could help you wrap your head around the process a little.
Before having to decide whether to go, you need to see if you can go at all. The minimum GPA to go on exchange at UCR is a 3.0 both at the time of application and leaving, and you need to be able to finish your degree even if you go abroad. That means that you might need to find some equivalent courses to the UCR ones on exchange!
Choosing to Go
Any student of UCR can vouch for the tightness of the community and the hecticness of a semester: so much happens in fifteen weeks. Both those things can be vital elements in making the decision to stay at UCR. Do you really want to miss your friends for half a year, and miss out on all that is happening in Middie? Basically, is it worth it?
Personally, I really struggled in making my decision. I’ve always wanted to go on exchange and was certain I would, but when I entered my second year at UCR I started to realize what I would miss out on. For me, going on exchange has still been one of the better decisions I’ve ever made. I have learned so much, made so many friends, and just had such an overall amazing experience that all of that really makes up for the missing out at UCR. I read somewhere that going on exchange isn’t for everyone, but I believe that anyone can benefit from it and, if they’re lucky, even have the time of their life while abroad.
The Next Step
So, say you choose to go on exchange. Your next move is to figure out where you actually want to go. Some people may have something in mind right from the start, which is great – go get ‘em! But if you don’t, not to worry. What I did and what I recommend you do is just go through the destinations UCR offers first and see if there’s something you like. Applying for a UCR exchange destination is a lot less paperwork than going to a Universiteit Utrecht destination, but either one can be done. Make sure, even if you like one of the UCR options, to also take a look at the UU destinations list to see if anything strikes your fancy even more. Once you have a small list of possible places to go, just run through their websites and send some emails if necessary to see the options for courses (sometimes called ‘units’ abroad), accommodation, and pricing. Take note that meal plans can get really expensive, so always check if there is an obligatory one at the program you’re looking at!
Picking a destination, for me, was one of the hardest parts of my exchange, so kudos to you if you got that far! The first deadline you’ll run into now, which is the one that is most talked about at UCR, is the UCR application deadline. There are several requirements you need to meet to be allowed to go on exchange, and you will need to submit an official application to the Board of Examiners. The submission is often due before the Fall break, so keep your eyes open for that deadline or contact the board about it directly.
Next up, for those of you doing a UU program, is the UU deadline. That deadline is usually 1 December, but I suggest you start on it a little early in case you run into any problems and need to ask anyone questions. After the UU deadline passes, there is going to be a short while where you’re anxiously (or not so anxiously) awaiting their response. There’s not really anything you can do in that time. When you hear back from UU and the response is a positive one, your application to the partner university begins.
All the Rest
My main tip for anyone going through this process is to stay organised. Make lists of the things you want to do and contact people as soon as you come up with a question for them. It can take ages for someone to get back to you, and calling might not always be a cheap or easy option if your destination is far away. That being said, you can always email or message me personally. I’m sure that any former or current exchange student would be happy to help you out.
If you want to know more, I address all of the above and more in detail on my blog under the following link: https://wingmouse.home.blog/category/exchange-tips-tricks/. I will update it over time and add any questions you may have about your exchange to hopefully help future students with their going abroad. For now, though, good luck. It’s time to go global!
Luna Erica, Class of 2020, is a Rhetoric, Linguistics, and Literature major from Eindhoven, the Netherlands. She is currently on exchange in Australia.
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