Becoming an Exchange Student

Hello world!

Have you ever wondered what it is like to study abroad?
In 2013, I took advantage of the opportunity to do just this and believe that if the opportunity arises, you should too!

Over several (long) posts, I will detail my exchange experience with you all as everyone has a different experience.  The first few are likely to lack photos and contain many words, but afterward, there will be a plethora of photos and less words!  If there’s any exchange questions you would like me to answer in future posts, comment below and let me know!

I will also be referring to most places as they are known in the particular country, but when first mentioned, the English translation will be available!

It started in February 2012 (yes, unbelievably already five years ago).  I had started a Bachelor of Photography at university and knew right away that I wanted to do some of this degree overseas as I missed a couple of study abroad opportunities while in high school.

Within a few weeks of starting this degree, I was already looking at the Outbound Study Abroad section of my university’s website to start my research.  It displayed all partner universities around the world a student at my university could study at without accruing extra student fees.

I had my heart set on one very particular country as I spent two months on a holiday there in 2010-2011 and absolutely adored it.  This country was Sweden. I believed this would be a perfect opportunity to be able to go back and experience it in a different way. Being very set on one (small) country did have its limitations though.  I had the choice of only four universities in Sweden that were partnered with my home university.

These universities were Karolinska Institutet (Karolinska Institute), Lunds Universitet (University of Lund), Stockholms Universitet (Stockholm University), and Göteborgs Universitet (University of Gothenburg).
This unfortunately automatically reduced my choices by one university as Karolinska Institutet is a medically specialised institution.

This however did not deter me from applying for a Swedish university!

I further researched the remaining three universities to see which had courses that would fit into the coursework of my degree at my home university.  The closest one available was a Bachelor of Fine Art in Photography at Akademin Valand, Göteborgs Universitet (Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg).

This looked like a hopeful choice, until I looked into it further and realised the courses are only taught in Swedish.  While I had a basic understanding of Swedish and could speak it to a degree as I was doing a night class at a language school at home, there was no way I had enough of an understanding to undertake a semester of classes in 100% Swedish and really, it would be advanced Swedish as all the photography terms would also be Swedish.  The coursework also did not fit into my Photojournalism Major, which was a little upsetting, but I knew I had enough credit points within my degree to essentially use for whatever full time classes I would like to take.

After this part of the research, I went to the head of my degree’s department to discuss going on exchange and finding out how it would have an effect my studies upon my return. The best solution was for me to use all my elective credit points toward going on exchange and pick anything I would like to study at my host university.

Even with the possibility that I may not be able to study photography in Sweden, I still applied to study at Göteborgs Universitet. It was also strongly recommended to have three places where one would like to study overseas, so I picked a couple of universities in England that I had a slight interest in (specifically which ones, I now forget unfortunately)!

Applications were due at the beginning of July 2012 for a Semester 1, 2013 start. Having submitted my application just before the due date, it was now a matter of playing the waiting game to find out if I would be approved.

I found out that there was an extra requirement to apply for the photography course at Akademin Valand after I had applied; this was a portfolio of images.  I quickly grabbed the best images I had taken during the first semester of my degree and printed them on beautiful paper, as well as on a CD to send along with my application again.  These were handed to my exchange coordinator as they were handling the major communication and documentation between the home and host universities.

By now, a few months had passed and I still hadn’t heard if I was accepted into my host university or not, so I began to worry.  I found the contact details of the exchange coordinator at Göteborgs Universitet to find out what was happening with my application.

I was mortified to hear that they did not receive my portfolio of images in print and on CD along with my application that was mailed to them.  I then contacted my home exchange coordinator and was so upset to hear that they did not send my portfolio because they did not think it was necessary to send.  As a result, my application was denied. I thought all hope was lost as it was at this point mid November, 2012 and Göteborgs Universitet was starting the Spring semester mid January, 2013, but I accepted this.  I took a massive risk picking the universities I did in the first place!

There was however a glimmer of hope left…

The exchange coordinator at Göteborgs Universitet offered me a place to study KVL182 Scandinavian Studies, Cultural and Social Perspectives at the university.  I was ecstatic to hear of such an opportunity, even though this had absolutely nothing to do with my Bachelor of Photography, it easily fit into the credits available for my electives.  I was also already interested in Sweden’s culture and history, so this was a perfect opportunity to further my knowledge!

My life was changed at the end of November, 2012, ten months after I first started researching.  I was accepted to study at Göteborgs Universitet for the Spring Semester of 2013.

While I was happy to (finally) get in to the university, I had to very quickly organise the first six months of my 2013 within the span of five weeks..

Tune in for my next post, which will detail the craziest month of my life, preparing to move to the other side of the planet to study in a country I adore!

Signing out for now,

The Woozy Traveller

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