Early exchange prep

In less than a week, I’ll be boarding a plane at Pearson Airport. Seven hours later, I’ll be in the UK, ready to start my year abroad at Durham University. It isn’t far away, but it’s an experience I’ve been anticipating for a long time.

My desire to study abroad started years ago, but it only became palpable last September when I attended the Queen’s Go Abroad Fair.

Applications for most exchanges are due in early January, but a lot of planning and research is necessary to get to that point. It’s never too early to get a head start, especially while the fall course work is relatively light. Here are a few initial things to think about when deciding where you want to go on exchange.

Exchange goals

Think about what experiences you’re looking for. Do you want to immerse yourself in a drastically different culture, pick up a new language or be surrounded by history? Figure out why you want to travel and study abroad.

Semester vs. full year

One of the first things to consider is how long you want to go for. A semester can fly by, but a year may be too long for some. It’s important to consider what time period you’re most comfortable with. Once you’ve decided this, it can narrow down your choices. Some universities only offer one semester exchanges (such as the Australian ones), while others only offer full year exchanges. Your degree

When researching different universities look into the courses they offer. There’s no point setting your heart on a school that doesn’t offer the courses you need for your degree. Exchange is also the perfect opportunity to take electives and try out courses you wouldn’t normally study.


If you’re looking at universities in non-English speaking countries, make sure you look at the prerequisites. Many universities require you to have a certain level of fluency while others may offer courses taught in English. I only speak English and it certainly narrowed down my choices.

Cost of living

While abroad you’ll be paying Queen’s tuition, but accommodation, food and travel costs will be local. Some countries will have a higher cost of living than Canada, but your dollar may stretch further in others. Be sure to look into these details to save.


Is it important for you to live in university accommodation or would you rather rent with other students? Look into what’s available and what fits for you. Not every university offers an international student residence like Queen’s and you may find yourself living in an apartment.

Flexibility with universities When you apply for exchange in January you have six university choices. Spots are given out based on grades, references and a personal essay. There’s no guarantee you’ll get your first choice or even your second, so make sure you find multiple universities you’d like to attend. Look at universities all over the world and remember to keep your options open.

Applying for exchange might seem like a daunting task at first. The International Programs Office is a great resource and they are always happy to help. The process is lengthy, but now that I’m less than a week away from leaving, I couldn’t be more excited.

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