8 Tips For Choosing the Ideal Overseas Exchange Travel Destination

From scenic Australia to magical Iceland, there are plenty of universities that would offer a place for a once-in-a-lifetime experience — exchange! Whether your dream is to check out Croatia for its numerous Game of Thrones filming locations, or to bask in the beauty of nature in New Zealand, each travel destination holds its allure, and it’s up to you to discover its secrets.

A gorgeous aurora in Nusfjord. Photo by @stianmklo. #modernoutdoors

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With so many places to choose from, here are 8 ways to shortlist that ONE ideal overseas exchange destination!

1. Map your Modules

Making sure that you are able to map your university modules over is essential, otherwise there is no point in going to the country in the first place.

Pro-tip: Ask senior batches which universities they have been to as you will be clearing very similar modules!

2. Experience a Different Culture

Having lived in Singapore all my life, I would want to venture out of my comfort zone to immerse in a new world. Akin to stepping through the wardrobe in Narnia, this is your ticket to try out something different for once.

Of course, you can never truly understand one’s culture unless you interact and live like a local for a substantial period of time. A 2-week vacation to Japan, Taiwan or Philippines does not count as having experienced culture. Hence a revisit to these countries would guarantee a new experience every single time, and shouldn’t be crossed out for an exchange experience!


3. Define your purpose

Your purpose in exchange makes a huge difference in defining the best experience for you. Whether you’re travelling to learn, or to… travel even more, your purpose will definitely affect the type of universities you choose.

Pro-tip: Check whether the universities you intend to apply for have compulsory attendance / punishments for missed classes. I know some South Korea universities do impose a rule that missing class three times would result in an immediate fail 😭😱

After school club 👨🏻‍🎓

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4. Improve your Career Prospects 

A possible factor to consider is also doing exchange in a country that is well known for its expertise. If you dream of working abroad one day, living in the destination for six months could help you realise your dream, or better understand the reality vs. expectations of working here.

Some examples:

  • For the techies, and innovators, an exchange in California, USA would allow for a visit to Silicon Valley.
  • For marketing, journalism, and public relations, UK would be a great place to be.
  • For engineering and lots of beer, you’ll feel right at home in Germany.

Rainy days like this. #Berlin #thattoweragain #HUAWEIP10PLUS

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5. Embrace Seasonal Timezones

This is a HUGE factor for me! Usually, students in SMU would embark on exchange in Semester 2. Our university time zones are:

  • Sem 1 –  mid-August to late Nov/early December (depending on when finals end)
  • Sem 2 – early Jan to late April (depending on when finals end)

I’d always wanted to go in Semester 1, as I want to experience WINTER and celebrate Christmas abroad. Having lived in sunny Singapore, seeing snow and being in a cold country hold more appeal than another hot tropical country.

Snow day in NYC ❄️️✔️ Check out @nybucketlist for more! 📸:@jssilberman

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Pro-tip: Check out the seasons of your top choices, and travel during your favourite seasons to immerse in the full beauty of the country ☺️😇 Not to forget – festivals to hit during the six months you’re abroad!

6. Check your Wallet

Living abroad for six months is no easy feat, and costs can easily amount to an extraordinary 5 digit figure — if you don’t plan your trip well. Make sure to read more about the financial grants your university offers, and to shortlist destinations that are generally cheaper to be in if you face a financial constraint.

That said, it is not an impossible feat to travel to Europe for a cheaper price with travel deals (Scoot has sales every Tuesday!) There are also places in Europe that are cheaper than others, so keep on reading and asking from friends who have been on exchange!

In addition, travelling in groups would allow you to split costs for accommodation and travel, which will be a huge financial lift while on exchange.  To make your dollar stretch to its fullest, you can also opt to cook your meals and save your money for more flights around the region.

7. Safety First

With the recent spate of terrorist activities in London, UK and Marawi, Philippines, it may not be a great choice to head over to these areas at the moment for an overseas exchange.

To remain on top of the news, keep a tab on areas that you’d like to travel to for a few months. This way, you’ll be more aware of places to avoid if you still want to hit that country.

In addition, do check if the places you aim for are more prone to earthquakes, natural disasters and what not. This may not be a big deal if you’re headed over for two weeks, but travelling for 6 months would be a different story altogether. 😣😎


8. Find your Prince Charming

Attracted to a certain type of guy or girl? Travelling to particular destinations would definitely open doors to your love life 😌 Love is an open door, and it’ll be like nothing you’ve known before ❤ Whether tall, dark and handsome, or white and charming, going for exchange could be an opportune time to find the one to settle down with!

Shared a moment with a couple taking their wedding photos by a church. Romantic much? ❤️#TheTravelIntern #Santorini #Greece

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There is no exchange destination that is the ‘best’ for any student. The ideal travel destination is one that suits your needs and your personal preferences to its fullest. Planning for exchange can be a headache, but it’ll be worthwhile when you immerse in dream destinations and live like a local for 6 amazing months.

Have you been to an overseas exchange trip? Share your tips and tricks in choosing an ideal travel destination! 

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