Name: Derrick Tang
Home university: NUS
Exchange university: University of Texas, Austin
Country/ City: USA, Austin (Texas)
Period of exchange: 01/19 – 05/19
Hey! My name is Derrick from NUS Biz and I’ll be sharing my exchange experience to University of Texas, Austin (UT Austin) in Sem 2 of AY 18/19! I’ll be going through my exchange experience in 2 parts, first off the Planning and any miscellaneous tips and tricks that I’ve learnt over exchange, as well as the actual Exchange experience in the next article.
I went in Y2S2 primarily because all my seniors said it’ll be easier for Accountancy students to map modules at the Partner University (PU), since we generally cannot map accountancy modules overseas (other than ACC1701 and ACC2706 I think). With that being said, it being ‘easier’ to map mods was not actually true – I mapped 1 core BIZ mod (DAO2703) and 4 UEs (Finance mods for my specialisation) at UT Austin, and going in Y2S2 or Y3S1 would have not made a difference for my module mapping. Also it is a fact that if you go in Y2S2 you will be with a bulk of Y3 exchangers, and less so of your batchmates. But Y2S2 is also less competitive since most of your batch would only apply in Y3S1, and it’ll be easier to get a school of your choice. So this is a trade-off that you have to decide for yourself – your preferred school, or a school with most of your batchmates/friends. Alternatively, you can just tag with somebody when you apply for Y2S2 exchange to make sure that you have at least somebody to go with. For my batch, some schools like Maastricht (Netherlands), McGill (Canada) and HEC Paris (France) had quite a few Y2s going, so…. just gotta pick the right school!
To be frank, when I was applying for exchange I did not have much information regarding which schools end earlier (April/early May), which would be beneficial if you need to start on a Summer internship when you get back. For me, I picked a US school over Europe mainly because of my wish to travel around the States. I’ve been to Europe before and my parents said they are more likely to ever do a comprehensive tour of Europe, rather than the States. Hence, I picked the States and I travelled as much as I could, covering 16 states, as well as the cities of Vancouver and Ontario in Canada J. Generally, the rule of thumb would be Canadian schools end the earliest (April ish), followed by US schools (May), and then Europe schools end the latest (start of June). I did not plan to go with anyone on exchange in particular, as I wanted to meet new friends and have no restrictions on my explorations – and that turned out great: I had the chance to meet several of my friends across the States over the 5 months, and I had the chance to meet new NUS friends, new US friends, and even go on some solo trips myself. Again, this ultimately depends on your personal preference, so if you’d say you can’t drive/cook by yourself, always safer to apply for the same schools with your friends!
Just some parting tips – exchange is not just the rosy picture you see on your friend’s Instagram stories. Sometimes we really take Singapore’s safety (and the amazing food), and it might be a culture shock when you first arrive. Nonetheless, keeping an open mind and being open to trying things can really help you adjust quick and ensure you have the time of your life. I didn’t know how to cook either – just learn a couple of things like cooking rice and pan frying some meat and veggies and that’ll be sufficient for you to just try out random recipes and grocery shopping on exchange. Driving in the US is also extremely convenient so if you have a group of people to share a car just do it – the prices are pretty affordable, and gas is really very cheap there, at a maximum of $3/gallon (3.78 litres). If you want to travel a lot, be prepared to spend some nights sleeping at random Greyhound bus stations or airports, which could be pretty tiring sometimes. Use Google Flights to check for the best dates to go to destinations you wanna go to. But be prepared for flight delays/cancellations along the way – delays are pretty common in the US and I even experienced a flight diversion from Austin to Houston before due to bad weather, where I had to spend a night alone in a random Houston motel.
Additional tips – if you have an M1 line I believe you can convert your local data into data in a foreign country, gotta check with M1 for that. If not, I used an AT&T prepaid line that cost about 40 USD a month, including 9GB of high-speed data and unlimited texts/calls. However, this price requires you to sign up with 3 to 4 other fellow prepaid users to get additional discounts. When you arrive, also set up a US bank account because the US is extremely cash-free and you do not want to be stuck with random pennies at the end of your exchange which you will have absolutely no use for. Some applications that will be useful in the States are:
- Lyft/Uber – ride sharing applications
- Venmo – the PayLah equivalent
- Amazon Prime – all US students get 6 months free where you can get cheap stuff with an extremely convenient 2 day shipping time – you’ll get so reliant on online shopping!
- Turo – Car rental with AIrBnb concept – you are basically renting someone else’s car. You get a $25 off your first car rental, and every time you refer someone to sign up, so car rental can get real cheap if you have a few drivers within your group of friends.
- GroupMe – Most Americans only use GroupMe, Facebook Messenger and iMessage for chatting. Whatsapp and Telegram are not popular there (I have no idea why either) so downloading this would be a good idea if you wanna chat with some American friends
Hope this helps! Check out more fun adventures and things to do in my next post – Part II: An abundance of experiences in the US. Cheers!
Written by: Derrick Tang
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