Preparing for an exchange can be quite daunting and frankly, a bit overwhelming but if you take the right steps, it can be manageable and even fun! I’ve attempted to list down all the steps that I took to get ready for my exchange to France but these are applicable to most exchange scenarios 🙂
1. Find a suitable programme that suits you
This is the most important step in an exchange journey, finding a suitable exchange programme that works for you. I personally went with NZIIU( New Zealand Institue of Understanding) and so far there have been no problems and I’m happy with my decision. I heard about NZIIU after winning an emerald in the Language Perfect World Championships, where they sent me an application to be in the draw to win a $5000 scholarship( spoiler alert: I don’t!) At first, I was a bit discouraged since I knew that I couldn’t afford to fund my exchange without a scholarship but later decided to apply for an exchange anyways as I was informed that I could still receive a $3000 needs-based scholarship ( Which I did end up getting.YAY!) I would personally recommend going with NZIIU since they’ve been amazing at setting up my exchange, they’ve been really responsive and seem genuinely passionate about wanting to help me with my exchange. This brings me to the next step: Choose a country that you’re passionate to explore and a suitable programme length.
2. Choose a country and programme length
I went for the trimester programme to France as my exchange program, however, there were a range of options for me to select from, for example, a semester, a trimester or a year. I chose a trimester simply because I think three months is a suitable amount of time for an exchange since I’ll already be missing out on a term of school and don’t think I would be able to handle missing anymore, with NCEA Level 1 looming over my shoulder. Plus I know that I won’t be able to handle staying away from my parents and friends for more than three months, in a country where I can bearly understand the language. This is actually something that’s quite important, you need to be passionate about the culture of the country that you’re planning to visit and be sure to be open to new experiences and maybe even learning a new language. An important thing to remember is that the way you do things isn’t always how things happen in other countries, especially when you’re staying in somebody else’s home so make sure to have an open mind and Another key factor that made me go for this option was the financial costs. Even though I’m only going to France for three months, all the expenses add up real quick and before I knew it, I was staring at an excel budget sheet that displayed a total of A WHOOPING $10,000!! Which is why it is important to choose the right country and journey length for you, to make sure that your experiences outweigh the cost of the exchange!
3. Make sure that you’re prepared, financially and mentally
Like I just said, exchanges can be quite costly, even over a short period of time so make sure that you know how you’re going to fund your exchange, whether it’s using your savings or fundraising before your exchange, make sure you know how you’re going to pay off your exchange. Typically, exchanges cost around $10,000 or upwards but it can heavily depend on where you’re going and how long you’re planning to visit the country. Also, make sure you find out if your chosen exchange program offers scholarships as typically all exchange programs give out needs-based scholarships which can range from $1000 to $3000 🙂 The most important thing is to ensure that your parents are okay with carrying the majority of the cost and they support you on your exchange!
After you have your financial bases are covered make sure you’ll be okay with staying away from your family and friends for a long amount of time. You’ll also miss out on a lot of school events, community event and possibly sport start dates. I’m not listing these things to put you off going on an exchange but instead to make sure that you get a reality check and don’t go off to another country, come back and then, are completely shocked when some things have changed and not exactly the same when you come back. Also if you’re going to a country where they don’t speak English, make sure you have the necessary language skills to make it through your time there. Some helpful apps would be Language Perfect, Duolingo, HelloTalk, and Bussu.
To conclude, an exchange can be quite scary but if you find the correct program, the right program and know you’re up for it, it’ll be the experience of a lifetime and something that you’ll cherish forever and ever 🙂
For my next blog, I’ll be sharing some tips about fundraising for an exchange, so stay tuned for that guys! As always leave a comment down below and don’t forget to follow my blog if you enjoyed reading this post!