Some of my Glendon friends were shocked to see me roaming around campus because they thought I took off for exchange already.
“Ana, you’re still here? Weren’t you gonna go on exchange?”
Worry not my hypothetical concerned friend, your girl is still going on exchange to Utrecht University in the Netherlands next semester!
It’s generally recommended that you go on exchange in your 3rd year as you’ve already had 2 years of experience living that university life, and you presumably have already taken most of the pre-requisite courses. This means that most students go through the application process during their 2nd year.
In the meantime, here are some things that you could do while you’re still in your 1st year to prepare for the application process!
Connect with at least 3 professors
You have to submit a reference letter from 2 of your professors. It’s a great idea to get to know them by actively contributing to class discussions and visiting them during office hours. eAmbassador Rebecca has a great post on how to get on their good side, so check that out! Simply put, they can’t recommend you if they don’t know you. Take it from me, I emailed one of my profs from first year to see if he could give me a reference and got no response. I don’t blame him though, although I admired him and we spoke a few times during class, he couldn’t give me an accurate reference because merely speaking to him a few times wasn’t enough.
Luckily, I managed to get 2 references anyway. One of them replied to my email right away and said he remembered me as “one of his highly motivated students”. One was actually my prof in 2nd year and told me that I was “a good student and a pleasure to have in class”. As you can see, it’s really important to connect with at least 3 professors, just in case you get left on “read” (not gonna lie that hurt my feelings a bit).
Once you know which professors to approach, ask them way ahead of time. My exchange application wasn’t due until December, but I started emailing them in October. This goes without saying, but be aware of proper email etiquette ! Keep in mind, they are busy people and at the end of the day, you are the one who’s asking them for a favour so just be considerate and don’t email them last minute. Don’t be afraid to follow up either as long as you’re respectful about it. Finally, once you get accepted for exchange, writing them a thank you note or a simple email is a nice gesture 🙂
Keep those grades up!
Even if you don’t end up going on exchange, it’s still a good idea to keep your grades up for grad school, internships, etc. The minimum average to go on exchange is a B (6.0 GPA). Always keep up with your readings because once you miss a week, it just snowballs from there. It’s always okay to ask for help if you’re struggling with a concept, and use your agenda to stay organized!
Start thinking of schools and destinations
Keep in mind, this is an academic exchange so you should base your final decision on the institution itself. Maybe you really want to go to France because it’s a beautiful country; however, if you’re not proficient in French and they don’t have courses that you’re able to take, it would be in your best interest to look for another institution. Research the institution by watching YouTube videos, reading the school’s site itself, Wikipedia (it’s a good place to start), connecting with students who went to the same exact institution in previous years (you can email York International to see if they can connect you to a previous student, worked for me!). Also, be aware of the country’s academic system. Instead of assignments that make up your final grade throughout the semester, there might only be 1 final exam that’s worth 100% of your mark, some assignments may be assigned but are not part of your final mark, etc.
Personally, I wanted a host institution where English was the language of instruction, and preferably in Europe because I’ve never lived there before. I chose the Netherlands because they had courses in my major, Psychology, and most students who went on exchange there absolutely loved it.
Exchange can be one of the highlights of your degree, and potentially the most expensive. You’re still paying your regular York tuition so you don’t have to worry about exorbitant international fees! Phew. However, you do have to pay for your own accommodation, flight costs, health insurance, daily expenses, textbooks etc. There are scholarships available such as, YIMA (York International Mobility Award), external scholarships not offered by York, and of course, OSAP.
Your participation in extra-curricular activities also adds to your application. On top of getting good grades, it’s a balancing act but it can be manageable! Remember, quality over quantity! Joining 1 or 2 clubs and committing to them is way better than joining 5 and spreading yourself thin. Also, what a great way to make friends! ☺️
If going on exchange is something that you’re thinking about, it’s a great idea to start building your application in your 1st year. I guarantee you, you’ll be glad you did so when your 2nd year self is scrambling to put together your application on top of juggling your school work and whatever other commitments you may have. All the best, and as always, you can contact me and I’ll try my best to help 🙂
I’ll see you next Monday!