Thinking about taking some time to study abroad? Take it from me, it’s an incredible experience. My semester in Australia was the highlight of my university career. I did it in my 3rd year, but you can pretty much do it any time. So there’s no time like the present to start preparing. Here are some things to keep in mind before you apply.
1. Start thinking about your options early
While you can go on exchange or study abroad any time after your first year at Dal (provided you’ve completed at least 15 credit hours and are returning to Dal after your time abroad), the sooner you start thinking about and planning for it the better! Check the Dalhousie International Learning Experiences website for info on all the options available to you.
2. Meet with the International Centre and your academic advisors
The International Centre in Halifax has peer advisors who can help answer questions about exchange and study abroad options, and can walk you through the ins and outs of the application process. The International Office in Truro can help you if you’re on the Agricultural Campus. Academic advisors can help make sure your credits are in order before you leave and help keep you on track to graduate on time. They can also help advise you on what courses to take while away, ensuring that they’ll transfer back to Dal and your respective program without any major issues. Though nearly all undergraduate programs allow students to go abroad, some don’t (or they may have different rules about where you can go and when). Your advisor will be able to let you know what you’re able to do.
3. Complete required courses while at Dal
If possible, plan to take any courses required by your program prior to or after your time abroad. Taking electives while you’re away not only makes it easier to transfer credits back to Dal, but also helps relieve some stress and extra work while you’re abroad. Many students go on exchange or study abroad during their third year so they can complete all or most of their required courses before they leave. But as I already mentioned, you can go almost any time over the course of your studies.
4. Consider the costs associated
Going on exchange isn’t as expensive as most students think. As you’ll be paying tuition to Dal rather than your host institution, you’ll be able to avoid pricey international fees. That being said, the costs of housing/residence and general costs of living vary country to country and even between cities. When considering where to go, take a good look at the general costs of living in the places you’re interested in. As part of the application process, you may be asked to complete a budget, to demonstrate that you’ve considered the costs of your exchange.
5. Exchange vs. study abroad options
Most International Learning Experiences offered by Dal are exchange programs, but there are also study abroad programs. The main difference between the two is that for exchange programs, tuition is paid directly to Dal (the amount that you would normally pay for a full course load for the semester or year you’re planning to be away). But for study abroad options, tuition is paid to the host institution, and may be subject to international student fees. When considering where you want to go, bear this in mind, as study abroad options may be most costly than exchange programs.
6. Consider the city and country you’ll be living in
Give some thought as to what city or country you’d like to go to. Do you want to live in in a big city or a smaller university town? Do you want to experience a culture similar to your own or explore something completely different?
7. Research what school you want to study at
While there are some program-specific exchange and study abroad programs, most of them are university-wide. When considering schools overseas, it’s worth looking at the courses offered—as well as any course restrictions—to ensure that all of the credits you complete will transfer back to Dal, and be relevant to your program, if required.
8. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone
Don’t be put off by the idea of trying something completely different or new! It may sound challenging and intimidating to move someplace where English isn’t the main language or the culture is different than what you’re used to. But if you’re up to the challenge and open to new experiences, there shouldn’t be any unmanageable issues.
Interested in learning more about the exchange and study abroad programs Dal has to offer? Check out the Dalhousie International Learning Experiences website for more info.
Carter daydreams about his exchange in Australia every day.