Exchange in a Pandemic

Written by Megan Chen

You’ve been searching for all the best universities in Canada or Japan, planning your courses and thinking about how pretty the maple leaves or cherry blossoms will look on your instagram feed until… happens.

Coronavirus ruins everything.

We know, it sucks.

But all you can do is improvise, adapt and survive.

It should be evident that no matter what your exchange plans were or how frustrating the situation has become, your health and safety should always be the number one priority.

In the meantime, here are some tips on what you can do when you’re planning to embark on exchange in 2020.

1. Check with your university’s exchange office.

Every university should have their own designated office to deal with exchange. This will be your first port of call if you have any questions regarding the future of your exchange plans.

Even though you won’t go overseas till next year, the repercussions of this virus are unpredictable. The exchange office might not be very clear about the future either at this point in time so please be patient with them.

For UNSW students, please contact the exchange office through this link.

As of the 25th of March 2020, the suggestion for UNSW students is to apply for T1 2021 exchange (applications ending May 1st 2020) in order to hedge the potential risks of COVID-19. To register for the exchange portal for T1 2021 Exchange, please click this link

If you are a UNSW student who was/is considering exchange, make sure to join our Endeavour Workshops. We’ll have a member of the Student Exchange Office available in our Q&A session to get all those questions answered for you and help make your exchange dreams possible!

2. Keep up to date on travel restrictions and warnings for your home country and your exchange country.

Times are constantly changing and your safest bet is to abide by government rules. For Australians, the Smartraveller website is an excellent place to get updated information on the virus, tips on how to protect yourself and advice on travelling in and out of the country.

Even if there was no virus, use Smartraveller (or another country’s equivalent source of information) to make sure there are no health issues in your chosen country. If there is, you’ll know how to prepare for it!

3. Research. Research. Research.

Conduct your own research about anything and everything that you might need for exchange.

  • Call or email the exchange university to see if there are any new guidelines or requirements for incoming exchange students.
  • Make sure that your degree progression isn’t affected by the classes available at the exchange university.
  • Consider other alternative exchange options that may be shorter in timeframe, alleviating the financial costs as well as risks associated with staying in another country.
  • Conduct a degree progression to see if delaying your exchange might have any consequence on your graduation or your attainment of major-specific qualifications (e.g. accounting).

The most important thing in a health crisis like this is to stay informed with the right information. Planning for exchange was already tedious and time-consuming but it’s more important now more than ever that you keep up to date with the way universities are dealing with the issue.

4. It’s not the end of the world.

Clearly, travelling anywhere as of this post being published (3rd April 2020) is a bad idea. Although that trip to America or the small vacation to South Korea might’ve been exactly what you needed to get through the rest of 2020, the safety of you and your community is the most imperative concern.

Know that for UNSW students, exchange is still a possibility! Do not shut down the idea straight away. There has never been a student who has regretted the exchange experience so don’t take all the cards off the table just yet.

Please join our Com(Int)Soc Facebook page or UNSW Study Abroad and Exchange Facebook page to stay updated on exchange-related issues. Come to our online Endeavour Exchange Workshop to get your questions answered.

Do your part to help the cause. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, maintain a high level of social distancing and hygiene, and don’t leave the house unless necessary.

Our hearts go out to everyone in the world who are fighting this virus. Hope prevails in times of darkness as long as we stand in unity and stay positive!

If you’re looking for inspiration about which universities you could look into, our blog has a compilation of returned exchange students and their tips and tricks on their universities from around the world.

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