Inge Wessels - study exchange to Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.
My semester abroad was truly amazing.
Looking back on my exchange
I see my semester in Australia as one of the best experiences in my life so far. I became very interested in different cultures and religions. Many times it struck me as fascinating how a ton of people with such different backgrounds as ourselves could work together as a team and become best of friends in no-time. I learned so much from every single person I met, all with their own different life story. It was truly amazing. It really broadened my horizon and opened my eyes.
If you ever feel alone, and I know I did at some points, I would advise you to just go out and explore the city and/or its surroundings by yourself. It’s a good training to become your own best friend! After all, you’re the only one who can take care of your happiness, right?! Being completely alone at the other end of the world really helped me become more independent, it’s actually amazing to go out exploring by yourself. And the funny thing is; when you come home from doing so, you will have a ton of stories to share with housemates or potential friends, which works as a great icebreaker!
How to prepare
Preparing for exchange all might seem like lot of work now, and trust me, it will be frustrating at times. But it will also be over before you know it and then the fun stuff can start! Just make sure you do start figuring everything out in advance so that you don’t have to deal with setbacks close to your departure (or worse, during your time abroad). I left the Netherlands July 9th to travel before the semester started, and I had all my administrative work done by June.
Of course you won’t be able to control everything yourself. In my case, Swinburne University didn’t send out any e-mails until the end of June or beginning of July. They also tended to take a long time to reply to enquiries. In the end though, it always worked out. I must admit I was a bit worried at first about all this since I always like to get things done way in advance, but worrying really is no use. I just had to get used to the Australian mentality: things will work out. No wonder their catchphrase is: “No worries”.
Financing the stay abroad
I applied for multiple grants, as I found it hard to scrape the money together to finance my exchange. I encourage you to do the same, because going to Australia is going to be expensive! Unless you have rich parents or a well-paid job, you’re going to need financial aid. I applied for the ESHCC International Fund, the A.A. van Beek fund, the ATP fund and the Holland Scholarship program. I experienced the whole process of arranging financial aid as quite difficult, and so I was very glad when I was picked for the Holland Scholarship! They gave me € 1250, which were all well spent. I don't know whether I could have gone abroad without it.
In total, I spent around € 13000 on my exchange semester, travelling included. I think once you start to realistically take a look at your preferred exchange destinations OUTSIDE of Europe, you will realize that many of them will come close to this amount. I managed to get by financially because of a grant, a big student loan, some help from my parents and most of all: all of my savings from previous jobs… Even though I’m completely broke right now, it was all so worth it! Living in Australia is definitely worth the splurge!