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Written By
Name: Ching Sue Mae, 21
Course: Business Administration
Home University: National University Of Singapore, Singapore
Exchange University: York University, Canada
Semester Travelled: Fall 2016
Enjoys: Scenic views, Videography, Food

Why I decided on York University:

  • Modules. York offers an incredible range of modules and allow us to take a maximum of 5 modules, so I could map BSP3001 as well as 4 other marketing modules. I have friends from the Science and Arts faculty having their exchange there as well so the school does not just have Business module options.
  • Location. To be honest, I applied for other universities in Europe as well but ultimately got York, my only Canadian option. I didn’t want to study in a university in the USA either. I chose York in my application over other Canadian universities because I wanted to be on the East side of the country, nearer to cities in the USA like New York that make it easy for me to visit during my long weekends. The east side of Canada also has popular cities like Quebec and Montreal that make great travel destinations. I can also drive down to Niagara Falls!
  • Schooling Period. My school term starts second week of September and ends latest on 23 December (if my last paper is on the last day of the examination period). Starting in September means that I can have an entire month for my own travels after doing a summer internship and before school starts. This is a HUGE plus factor for all exchange students because we all want to travel the country before settling down into school life. Ending mid-December also means that I have at least 2-3 weeks before school starts back in NUS (early Jan). The biggest factor to consider is that the ending date of your semester on exchange DOES NOT CUT INTO YOUR FOLLOWING SEMESTER (unless of course you have plans that does not include going back to NUS immediately).

Sharing a few of the main things you should settle before going to Canada for exchange.

#1 Modules 

Many of you would have roughly mapped your modules before choosing your exchange university. However, each semester is different and sometimes the modules available last year might not be available anymore. Sometimes the exchange university also does not allow exchange students to take certain modules.

Check with your home university regarding modules you wish to take in your exchange university. Your home university might give you some flexibility in module mapping. For example, I’m about to take Social Media Marketing as well as Digital Marketing, both of which I will be mapping under Topics In Marketing (MKT3422) in NUS. In a way, your home university gives you the opportunity to explore modules which are not directly offered in NUS.

For York University, we’re required to submit a Course Selection Form which we will in our top 8 module choices in order of preference. Remember not to miss the deadline although the coordinator from York will email you.

Basically, just make sure the modules you take can be mapped as modules in NUS. Also plan your timetable wisely, you might even end up with a 2-day work week that allows you freedom to travel more.

#2 Accommodation 

My friends and I had 2 main options. To stay in the hostel or to stay off-campus. We chose to stay off campus because:

  1. It is cheaper. Their hostel is about CAD6000 a semester.
  2. Most of us have a 2-4 day work week which means we don’t need to go to school every day anyway.
  3. Meal plans are compulsory in the hostels. With our long weekends we will probably be travelling a lot so we might not even eat the meals provided. Also, we want the experience of cooking for ourselves.

I was lucky to have 4 other NUS students going over to York with me – NUS managed to help link us up through emails. So we decided to stay together and rent a house on Airbnb big enough for the 5 of us.

This actually becomes a cheaper option for long stays as there are monthly discounts. Okay, actually we are still spending quite a lot on accommodation, at about 700CAD per month PER PERSON. But our location is great, 20 minutes away from school and 10 minutes away from a mall with an Asian supermarket.

#3 ESTA 

You need apply for this thing called an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). It is not a visa but this ESTA allows you to travel into the USA. An ESTA will suffice as Singapore is a country under the Visa Waive Program (VWP) which means that we don’t need a visa to travel into the USA. ESTA processing time is really fast, unlike applying for a visa.

When applying for ESTA you will need your passport information. It also requires a payment of USD14. Once you click submit and complete the payment, it takes barely a minute for the site to show that your authorization has been approved and state that you can travel to the USA under the VWP. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes.

Note that you will not need a study permit as our exchange is not more than a period of 6 months.

#4 Flight

Book your flights early and confirm if you want to book a return flight as well. What I did was to book my flight to Los Angeles (going to do some travelling first) through STA under Emirates at SGD2350, transiting in Dubai. As it was cheaper to get a return flight, I have my return flight scheduled from Toronto on 30th December with one time changing of the return date.

But if you want to accumulate airmiles, you should just stick to the airlines you always fly with.

#5 Drivers’ License 

I have plans to travel the United States and Canada during my entire exchange period and this includes a lot of driving. The Singapore Driving License is recognized in many countries and I have friends that just used their Singapore License overseas.

There’s an International Driving Permit (IDP) you can apply for. My friends and I applied for this as it might come in handy and save us from any inconvenience when we rent cars. The IDP is valid for one year and can be easily applied online.

#6 Bank Account

In Canada for a period of 5 months, I think it’s wise to set up a bank account there. I have friends that just carry cash all the way – sounds crazy but it’s possible, especially if your parents go over halfway and can pass you more cash. A local bank account makes it easier for you/your parents to transfer money from your Singapore account over.

However, do note that the money transferred will be subjected to the exchange rates as well as transaction costs, which means you might lose more than a few dollars with each transaction. Currently my plan is to use an online money transfer service that can help me lock in a good exchange rate throughout the entire period.

Hope these 6 tips have been helpful as you prepare for your exchange!

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