Making use of the recent loosening of COVID-19 measures to plan out your overseas student adventures? Read on for real-life tips from YouTrooper Pei Ling as she shares the deets on how to have the best student exchange experience possible.
Ask anyone about their exchange experience and you’re more than likely to be hit with the phrases “best time of my life”, “amazing memories”, or simply the word “awesome” — unless you’re a COVID-19 graduate, in which case your phrase would be “I didn’t get to go” (sorry!). Thankfully the pandemic is under control and travel is more or less back to the old normal (thank you governments and scientists). If you’re one of the lucky ones approved and en route for student exchange 2022, you might be in the exciting phase of planning your exchange now. If so, read on as I share some tips from my student exchange experience in sunny Los Angeles, USA, that will help you have the best time ever!
💜 Student Cheatsheet:
– How To Save Money On A Student Exchange Programme 2022
– How to Get a Student Loan in Singapore 2022: Bank Comparisons
– How I Conquered 14 Countries in 4 Months on Exchange
– How to Choose an Internship: My YouTrip Internship Experience
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 1: Do You
The first key decision you’ll have to make is which exchange location and school you’ll head to. I had my student exchange at the University of Southern California, a choice determined entirely by location and availability of modules — not by where my friends wanted to go which was Europe.
This is my first tip: pay no heed to where your buddies are headed and strike out bravely on your own — you’ll make even more friends and memories this way!
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 2: Safety & Accommodation
One of the perks of living on campus? Easy access to school event venues such as game stadiums!
This will be your home for the next few months, so invest some time into looking for a suitable spot to cosy up. At USC, I stayed on campus in Troy Hall, but other options included private housing (The Lorenzo is a popular condo-type apartment within walking distance), and Airbnb.
Factors to look out for:
✅ Location: You’ll want to find somewhere near the school and key attractions
✅ Amenities: Proximity to supermarkets, laundries, and recreational spaces
✅ Safety: One thing to take note of specifically for USC — the surrounding areas in South Los Angeles are pretty dangerous. So be sure to Google your neighbourhoods thoroughly, especially if you’re going for the Airbnb, off-campus, route.
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 3: Planning Your Pre, During, and Post Exchange Adventures
It was a little out of the way, but Cuba was one of my pre-exchange stops before settling in LA.
Here comes the fun part! Now that you’ve got your home base sorted out, you can start searching for must-visit spots and side trips to take during your exchange period.
If you’re craving a crowd after 2 years of lockdown, the US is no stranger to large scale music festivals. You’ll be able to catch big names at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and even go to a few raves at Ultra Music Festival or the Electric Daisy Carnival if you go during the Fall semester.
Factor in the major sights and cities on your exchange bucket list — in my opinion, LA is a great springboard for weekend trips to San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, Portland, and of course, Las Vegas.
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 4: Making Friends
Tapping on the exchange or international student network is a great way to check off country visits (and another reason to pick a different destination from your friends). I scored free accommodation and “local” guides in San Francisco, Georgia, Canada, and Spain during my time on exchange — so reach out and organise some mini exchanges (it’s fun to host too) between friends for an even more international experience!
Exchange student Facebook groups are also one of the best ways to get to know fellow exchangers; often, there will be a page set up for each incoming batch of students by the host school, so look out for the invite to join! Otherwise, local student groups or the university’s Singapore Society Groups are good places to start as well.
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 5: Budgeting & Saving Up
Now that you’ve planned out the main cost items — i.e. accommodations and experiences, you’ll have a rough idea of the budget needed for your student exchange. Don’t forget to add in a healthy amount for miscellaneous items such as food, travel insurance, visas, bills, souvenirs, and emergency funds!
At USC, I got by with the help of prepaid meal coupons (these give you access to a buffet-style cafeteria), occasionally eating out, and cooking at home. The portions in the US are huge, so one meal can become two by taking away whatever you can’t finish in a doggy bag.
Pro-tip: Depositing a set amount into my YouTrip multi-currency card each month instead of spending directly from my savings really helped me to keep within the limit. Additionally, the card’s easily accessible transaction history was great for keeping track of my spending — and nipping any errant costs in the bud. This way, you don’t have to create a whole new US bank account while still enjoying sweet wholesale exchange rates and zero bank fees. Score!
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 6: Learn To Sleep On The Go
The moment you land at LAX, time is ticking — the countdown towards the end of the exchange begins, so go on as many adventures as possible. Try and get as much rest as you possibly can when you’re on the plane, or on your way to the next destination. I suggest investing in some good eye covers, earplugs (for noisy dorms), and neck pillows. Most importantly, say yes to as many invitations as you can!
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 7: Leave Space For Spontaneity & How To Score Cheap Tickets
As much as planning is key, part of the fun of exchange is being surprised by new and unknown experiences. Maybe a new friend will invite you to their house for Thanksgiving, or bring you to their cousin’s apartment in Texas — anything can happen! Sites like Secret Flying were my go-tos when class got too boring (which was rare if my parents are reading this), it was here that I found a ton of error fares and super cheap tickets to fill out my free weekends.
Student Exchange 2022 Tip 8: Health Is Wealth (aka Try Not To Get COVID-19 Overseas)
It’s easier said than done but it is necessary given the current circumstances. It’s never fun to get sick overseas, especially if you run the risk of endless quarantine when you could be out having fun. So eat healthily, work out, sanitise frequently, and bring along your vitamins!
Have A Blast On Your Student Exchange 2022 With YouTrip!
While it may seem daunting to plan for a whole life overseas (albeit a very short-lived 6 months), especially after years of being grounded, I hope this guide has been a little useful in shining a light on some stuff to look out for in the process. Here’s to making student exchange 2022 one of the best times of your life!
Just don’t forget to pack along your YouTrip card to enjoy Wholesale Exchange Rates with zero bank fees when booking your trips and when travelling around.
If you don’t have a YouTrip card yet, use <BLOG5> during your sign-up to enjoy a free S$5 in your account!
Stay safe, and happy travels!