Okay okay so I have not written a blog since February, but I guess that should tell you how much fun I’ve been having. Plus some extra time for the necessary procrastination of course.
So, Let’s get into the fun stuff. First off, If you love travelling, exchange is the place for you! Furthermore, if you end up in Asia you will be in a traveller’s paradise. It is affordable, beautiful and exploding with culture. From Singapore, you can get flights from as little as £26, with hostels in most southeast Asian countries starting at £1 a night ?!
You will find that most students on exchange travel multiple times throughout the semester with some students travelling every weekend. Trust me, at some point, you will give in to the peer pressure and make some trips yourself. But don’t worry, with proper budgeting and planning for your studies, a few trips a term is quite reasonable. You never know how many chances you will get to travel in Asia, don’t squander it.
Balancing your budget for travel:
So in your application for the exchange programme, you’ve written a budget. That’s great, but probably not that accurate in real life. (I hope you overestimated)
My advice is to stay in the country you chose for your exchange for the first month at least.
Well, firstly you should visit the new country you are going to spend 6-12 months in and get comfortable with your new colleagues and environment.
Secondly, you can get a real idea of what your monthly budget is going to be like as well as paying off your rent for that semester. (not the best time of your life to be homeless)
In any case, in Singapore, you are advised not to travel until you have you have your solar pass (takes up to a month upon arrival).
Now that you know what your budget will be like, you can calculate how much money you can put towards seeing new places. I found that in Southeast Asia if you look up flight and accommodation prices, you can be safe by doubling that amount to find what your total budget should be for that trip.
Thrifty trip tips:
-If you want to travel at the best prices, travel with just a backpack. It takes some getting used to but is the most efficient way to travel on the low.
-Travelling mid-week is always cheaper so if possible, schedule your classes so that Thursday and Friday are free or Monday and Tuesday to get a long weekend.
-If you aren’t the type for hostels, try to travel in a large enough group so that you can get big discounts on villas available on Airbnb. If you don’t have anyone to go with, you can always use the facebook groups to advertise a trip you want to go on. Exchange students are always on the lookout for the next adventure.
-leave the expensive destinations like Japan for last, they will clean you out. I personally think that many cheaper destinations are much more fun than one expensive one.
In terms of balancing school, try to keep assignment due dates and test dates well recorded and use these as guidelines for planning your trips. I found the best time to plan a trip was just after a test or submission, as it was the most rewarding and I had little to worry about while away. Doing work while away takes A LOT of discipline and can sometimes be impossible depending on WiFi availability and the fact that I would never take my laptop on some trips (too valuable to lose).
That brings me to another point, try not to take anything valuable when travelling. You will be staying in hostels and travelling on buses etc. Even with good insurance, it’s still a hassle to claim for lost or stolen items. I never experienced this first hand but It was definitely a common occurrence, don’t be an easy target!
Stay safe and have fun.