As an engineering student at Waterloo, you have the opportunity to apply for an exchange. The process is fairly long and requires a lot of documentation, but trust me, it’s worth it. I’m currently an exchange student in Singapore, studying Computer Science at the National University of Singapore. These last 4 months have been the best of my life.
I started my exchange application in October of 2A. I talked to several upper years, and they strongly recommended the opportunity to study abroad, for many good reasons.
You will be immersed into a completely different culture. This allows for a lot of personal growth, and teaches you the different lifestyles of people on the other side of the world. You will have the chance to try new and authentic food, speak new languages, learn different habits and many more!
In my case, I got to dive into the delicacies of Singapore cuisine. I tried out chicken rice(the bomb), laksa, satay, and many more. I started crossing streets looking on the left first, because cars drive on the left side and drivers sit on the right. I improved my mandarin communicating with locals, and learned how to speak some of Malay(Selamat Tunggal!) and Hindi(Namaste!).
Being placed in a different school means that you will be studying with different people. You’d be surprised at how different the study atmosphere can be in a different school. The reason this is the case is because the students and the school have different priorities than your home school. This is a result of a different culture.
Being placed in a country in Asia, grades is a huge factor of your image, your career success, and your future. As a result, students in Singapore study extremely hard. As I walk home back to my residence at night, I often see students still studying at 2am on a Friday night. And it isn’t even close to exam time. Being a part of this community of students shows you how different expectations can be for students in different countries and how it affects their lifestyle and behaviour.
On the flip side, I studied at NUS as an exchange student. Here’s the news you’ve been dying to here: it’s pass fail. Yup, this means that when you return to your home university, on your transcript, you’ll either get a pass or a fail. Hopefully a pass, because it’s honestly hard to fail in Singapore.
The hugest advantage to this is that I can optimize for learning instead of grades. As a result, I won’t have a reason to spend an extra 10 hours getting that last 5% I’m missing. That’s an extra 10 hours I can spend exploring the city!
For those of you who are planning on attending grad school, you’re out of luck, because grad school will request the actual grades you worked for on exchange.
This one’s my favourite. Going on exchange means that you’ll be surrounded with other exchange students, from all over the world. Learn from these people. Everyone of them has a different culture to bring to the exchange community, and you should learn as much as you can from them. Everyone comes into exchange with the mentality to make new friends, to be friendly, and to have a good time.
NUS did a good job at bringing people together. During orientation week, they organized events with free food(always a motivating factor), and tons of exchange students came to mingle, meet and chat! Through these events, I’ve made most of my closest friends on exchange, many whom I traveled with across South East Asia.
Outside of school, there are organizations in Singapore that specifically organize events for exchange students. They have parties every couple of weeks, and they’re a ton of fun! You’ll always have more opportunities to meet other exchangers after orientation week.
I’ll end this list with one of the main reasons why you should study abroad. Being an exchange student, with pass fail courses, what do you end up doing with all of your time? Explore the country?
Of course not! Being situated in a completely different part of the world makes you a neighbour to all of the other countries near it! All of a sudden, traveling to another country can be just a 5 hour bus away, or a $50 flight away. My flight back from Krabi in Thailand was only $25(and I had a whole row to myself)!
On my next few posts, I’ll talk more about which courses I took, as well as where I’ve travelled. Thanks for reading, and I hope this convinces you that exchange is a worthwhile experience to be a part of. If you do have any questions, feel free to email me, or Facebook message me! I’d love to chat :)