I’ve been to 6 countries in the last 55 days and have struggled to find the time to sit down and write. Mostly because I’ve been in or on planes/trains/cars/beaches/mountains/pubs rather than in cafes, but also because it is difficult to reckon with the fact that my six months are rapidly coming to an end and I’ll be home in ten days. There is more to come, though I suspect it will be written from memory in my Vancouver apartment. In the meantime, here is a link to my Instagram account, which I have been much better at keeping up to date with my adventures.
(…please excuse any mild cursing or impolite content…)
After waking up to an email with this heart stopping first line on Monday:
I was finally given the go-ahead that I am, actually, for real (except maybe still conditionally, transcript depending? I’ll believe it once I’m on the plane) going to Amsterdam in January. It turns out the college I applied to within the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam University College, has very small class sizes and they can’t fit me into any upper level courses. Instead, I’ve been offered a spot in the College of Social Science, which is designed more for exchange students and from the looks of things has an impressive course catalogue. Way to bury the lead UvA!! Just kidding, I love you, thank you for taking me in, I love you, stop toying with me.
I’m starting this blog as a way to keep track of my thoughts, keep my friends and family in the loop, and as a resource for anyone who is curious about applying for an exchange in the future. Hello, future exchange students, I am happy to answer your questions.
A little about how I got to this point. I transferred to SFU from Langara College in September 2013 and was thrilled to be at a real university. It crossed my mind early on to look into going on exchange, but it seemed out of reach. It’s a lot of money. It will most likely extend the time it takes to finish my undergrad, and I’d really like to be out of here before I hit 30. But then I thought about other opportunities I have let slip by, like the chance to pursue an internship fresh out of publishing school in 2010, or going to university earlier in my 20s like many of my friends. When else am I going to have this kind of opportunity? Hell, I’m already in debt, why not dig in deeper? And with any luck, I’m going to continue aging, so I may as well have adventures to look back on. After much hemming and hawing, I went for it.
This whole process has been a series of frantic bursts of paperwork followed by long bouts of waiting to get to the next level. The application deadline for the Spring 2015 exchange was June 15, 2014, but the process began months before that. I started researching schools in February and sent out my requests for academic references in early March.
*Hot tip: talk to your professors so they can put a face to your name. Some schools require you to have a reference from your declared faculty, so pipe up and be known, especially in the classes related to your end goal. Being a keener pays off. Also, you’re more likely to get extensions on papers, but that is neither here nor there…
Where was I? Oh yes, the application takes forever and requires a lot of brain space. Or at least it did for me, a known stress case. In addition to getting glowing references, there is a fair amount of homework and prep to be done: budget, study plan, statement of interest, top 3 school choices, awkward ID photos to be taken (see below), etc.
By June 15, everything was compiled and submitted online. Then I waited.
By July 3rd, I got an email saying I’d been nominated for exchange, but wouldn’t find out where I was going until a meeting on July 17th. The suspense!! Why?? I managed to survive and lo and behold, was nominated for my first choice, Amsterdam. Since then there have been two more bouts of paperwork, the first being legal docs for SFU and the second the official exchange application from UvA. I was working full time during this process and was an hour and a half bus ride away from campus, so getting hardcopy documents to the International Services office was a headache. So was Canada Post. So was getting my official transcripts from Langara, which I completely forgot about and left to the last minute. Don’t leave that until the last minute! I ended up spending more than I care to think about on couriers and express mail, but I got it all in by the August 18th deadline. And then I waited again.
Five days ago, on Halloween, I finally received a conditional acceptance letter from UvA. This was a relief, but the word “conditional” has come to fill me with anxiety. Then I get the dreaded How many of you are familiar with a scream being the first sound out of your mouth in the morning? Unpleasant. Thankfully, this was quickly followed by a slew of information I’ve been champing at the bit to get my hands on: housing application, visa applications, start dates, all the stuff that makes it real. And that’s where I’m at now! There is still a lot to figure out, but I feel like everything is coming into focus and I’m beyond excited for what is to come.