So I went for the INSTEP Talk today. It simply stands for International Student Exchange Program for NTU students. The talk was 2 hours long and it was highly insightful.

The talk is mandatory for those who wish to spend a semester in an overseas university. As an exchange student, you will be studying at the Host university for a semester, doing modules that are closely matched back at NTU. The talk gave a comprehensive overview on the things that you need to consider, and the things and documents that you need to prepare for a successful application to the INSTEP program. During the talk, 2 students who recently returned from their own student exchange program were kind enough to spend time and present their experiences abroad. One was an NIE student who did her stint in China, and another in Hungary. Two different locales, two very different experiences.

I came for the talk, not because im keen to apply to get into the program, but rather, im curious as to how the process of the application is done. More specifically, im interested in what are some of the overseas universities offering, which ones are more popular and more suited to the course of your study. It seems that Sweden, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are the top choice destinations for most students. But then again, there are several universities out there that are more popular to certain groups of people in their respective courses. I also know some basic advice and tips when travelling overseas kindly shared by the 2 students who gave a presentation as well as some other specific requirements needed by certain universities.

To be honest, its an interesting prospect. I think im underestimating the gravity of going to such an exchange. I think it is as experience of a lifetime. Indeed based on what I have seen thus far, it is a highly valuable experience to have to go overseas as an exchange student. The things you get to see and do in other countries are overwhelming. Given a choice i would definitely sign up for the program without a second thought. I would be willing to go through massive administrative hurdles just to be a successful applicant.

But when it comes to the cost of sponsoring such exchange, especially in the Americas and Europe, my heart sank. For a 5 month exchange to a host university of your choice, the cost can go up in excess of SGD15 000. As interesting as it may seem, seeing the cost related to such an expedition, it is dissapointing to say the least. The cost is such a burden, that even if I were to go, I will be going with a heavy heart.

But just for fun, given a choice, my top two destination would be either Sweden, or Canada. Especially Canada, University of Ottawa. I have looked as the modules offered in the University of Ottawa, in the science faculty, biology course, and based on my gut feeling, I feel that course matching would be relatively easy. I browsed through most of the modules offered, and I feel that I would be able to match courses back here in NTU SBS with relative ease. But I dunno, these are first glance observations. I do not know if there are underlying prerequisites for taking up any modules in particular. There might be complications in course matching that I might not be even aware of.

Overall, it was worth coming down to listen to the talk. I am only in my second year. Who knows? You can always hope that some bounty would fall from the sky with grace and then I would know if opportunity comes knocking at my door. I would know when it would be time to answer it.

If by some remote chance that i am given the opportunity to take part in the INSTEP program and be an exchange student, it would be an experience that I would cherish forever.  I’ll forever be grateful to be given this opportunity to experience something out of the ordinary. Right now, sitting down here, and writing about it, I cannot imagine what my mind would be thinking about if i were to make it through the program. My heart would be screaming in excitement, at the same time, i would be standing like a mile away from my comfort zone. Even the mere fact of going out there alone is scary all by itself. Mus, i salute you for your bravery and tenacity to see this through, going to Hungary all on your own. I dont think I would have the guts to do it if I were you. I would need the absolute support from all my friends and family to spur me on to take that first step through the immigration checkpoint at Changi Airport and board the flight out to the unknown.

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