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Busting study abroad and student exchange myths

7 March 2017
Think you know about student exchange? Think again

We bust some of the most common myths about studying overseas. Find out what the real deal is with travel costs, degree completion times, requirements, language fluency, and more.

Myth #1: Going on exchange means it’ll take me longer to finish my degree.

FACT: You’ll remain enrolled during your exchange and receive credit for your studies. Exchange shouldn’t delay the completion of your course requirements.

Myth #2: My options are limited because I can’t speak another language.

FACT: Many of our partners in non-English speaking countries are home to students who study and speak English. Find out what’s available on our brochure pages (use the Advanced Search to look for programs offered in English).

Myth #3: I need a high weighted average mark (WAM) to go to competitive destinations.

FACT: Your WAM is not the sole factor in deciding where you will be offered a place. We take into account your whole application, including your statement of purpose and eligibility for chosen subjects at your preferred universities to find the best fit.

Myth #4: Studying overseas is expensive.

FACT: It doesn’t have to be. Remember that you will be living and studying abroad, not travelling on holiday. Living costs vary incredibly across the world, even in different regions of the same country. Food, accommodation and transport can be much cheaper than Sydney in many locations. Consult cost of living information for each destination on the ‘Living’ tab of the program page.

Plus, you’ll be paying the course costs of your University of Sydney degree, rather than the international study costs of your host country, and there are a number of scholarships, grants and loans available to help

Myth #5: Exchange won’t fit into my degree.

FACT: Even if you have a lot of mandatory or core units of study, you should still be able to go on exchange – you may just need to rearrange the order of your units, so plan early. Otherwise, you could also take a short-term exchange over the summer or winter break.

Myth #6: Studying abroad won’t help my job prospects.

FACT: Studies show that employers associate learning abroad with the development of key skills such as tolerance, open-mindedness, creativity, initiative, empathy and adaptability. (Crossman & Clarke, 2009). Studying abroad will give you an invaluable global perspective and show employers that you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone and try new things. It could also give you an international network of connections!

Myth #7: I’ll be all alone in a foreign place.

FACT: Some students like to get out on their own, while others would prefer to have a familiar face around. Ask an exchange adviser to recommend partner institutions where we send larger groups of students, and don’t forget to attend the meet and greet and pre-departure sessions held by Sydney Abroad to meet other students going to the same destination.

Myth #8: I'll have to commit to a whole semester or year in another country.

FACT: You can complete one or two subjects in as little as three weeks on student exchange in the winter or summer break. A number of opportunities exist to add an international flavour to your degree while making the most of the time between semesters.

Myth #9: I am limited to exchange partners that have agreements specific to my faculty.

FACT: You can choose any of our partners that offer your study area within the scope of the exchange agreement. For example, Engineering students can go to an Engineering-specific partner, such as Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or one of the many university-wide partners that offer Engineering, such as National University of Singapore, the University of Minnesota or the University of Manchester.

Myth #10: I need to find units of study at my host institution that are an exact match of those offered at the University of Sydney.

FACT: One of the benefits of spending a period at an overseas institution is that you can access units of study that may not be taught University of Sydney. For example, at the National University of Singapore, a film studies major could take an elective on South Asian Cinema, which is not offered at the University of Sydney. Similarly, government students could study the Politics of Crisis and Austerity at the University of Copenhagen.

Myth #11: Going on exchange is academically risky because a new academic setting may adversely affect my grades.

FACT: Exchange units of study are not normally counted towards your WAM, as long as you pass all your subjects.