THE BEST FOUR MONTHS OF MY LIFE ABROAD
Honestly, at first, I was having mixed emotions upon leaving my country to study abroad. I was scared and yet, I was excited. I was scared because that was my first time to travel alone and to be apart from my family. I was excited because I was about to gain more knowledge and meet new friends. My expectations were met and were even better because being in this exchange program is a once in a lifetime experience for me and I felt honored to represent my country and my home university.
Adjustment was quite a challenge for me. As I’ve said earlier, that was my first time to be away from my family. Brunei Darussalam is a Muslim country and there are certain rules of the land that are very different from the Philippines—from the dress that they wear, the culture and traditions that they follow, the laws that they abide, and the religion that they believe in. Academically, I found the grading system of University of Brunei Darussalam to be challenging as well, because they don’t follow the same grading system in De La Salle University, which is the 70% passing mark to obtain a 1.0 mark. In UBD, they follow a Bell-Curve system of grading. Here, there is no exact passing mark percentage because it all depends on the performance of the class. I learned that this kind of grading system aims to increase the competitiveness among students. But I guess, this has its own advantage and disadvantages on which I was able to handle as I got a decent grades in every subjects that I took in this university.
Moreover, I was able to be part of different celebrations held in the country such as the Hari Raya, the open house of Muslim families sharing different delicious Malay and Bruneian foods to the guests at the end the Ramadan. Meeting friends was the most fun part of this mobility program, because these people I met were also from different parts of the world and they study in Brunei as exchange students too (Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore) and some, like my housemates (apartmentmates), are international students (from Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia) but they study as full time students. I was the only Filipino exchange student during that time. On the other hand, Bruneians were very welcoming and friendly as well. The student ambassadors of UBD greatly helped me in adjusting in Brunei. The apartment where I stayed there was very nice. It was a five-room apartment with common areas like kitchen, toilet, and living room. Public transportations are not that readily available in the streets. However, the student ambassadors helped me all throughout my stay in Brunei. In just one message away, they are there to help me in my concerns most especially when I needed a ride to buy some supplies in the grocery.
Though this exchange program, I became more mature, responsible, and independent because I was on my own for four months. I learned how to live healthy by shopping and cooking my own food. I became independent by means of cleaning my apartment, washing the dishes and my clothes without the help of others. Also, I became responsible by studying everyday and answering my tutorial questions (assignments) so that I will be ready to participate in class and express my knowledge. Leaving Brunei Darussalam and UBD was very sad for me, because I made a lot of great friends there and even the professors became my friends as well because they did a great job in mentoring and teaching my classmates and I. Looking back, four months was like a blink of an eye, but this is the best four months of my life and I will treasure these memories forever. Thank you for trusting me De La Salle University, ERIO, and International Center!
When I first got to Catholic University of Lille (UCL) there were hundreds of other exchange students so it was a bit difficult to converse with them due to the language barrier. I was lucky enough though to have other La Sallians with me to make the adjustment process easier. Coming from the Philippines where many families have household help, it was a bit overwhelming to do chores that I don’t usually do like washing the dishes and doing the laundry. As a group of 6, we rented an apartment so we didn’t get homesick because of we had each other’s company. Given a budget, we had to allocate the money we had in order to not spend so much because it was very expensive in France. I enjoyed the independence and though nobody taught me what to do or clean up after me, I learned how to be responsible.
UCL was very helpful during our stay. Every time we emailed or asked a question, they replied immediately. Any concern we had, they helped us. One example was when we had a package to be delivered, the person on the other end of the phone didn’t speak English so the international office called that person and helped us get the package and even had it delivered to the university. When the classes got full, they helped us get a new class or when we certain question about the dates or deadlines, they knew what to do without hesitation.
For Lasallians going there, I suggest that you take French classes here, it’s not required but it should help you a lot. I really enjoyed my stay in UCL and I hope many students will have the opportunity to do an exchange program while in La Salle.
There were over 160 international students, consisting of over 50 nationalities, for the fall semester in ESSCA – Angers.
If I had to define my entire student exchange experience in one word, it would be LIFE-CHANGING. Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime, but I have came to realize that studying abroad is so much more than travelling and being tourists in another country. Rather, it is about learning new life lessons and gaining new experiences; “experience is the best teacher,” as they say. Learning in a totally different environment allowed me to gain a new world perspective, which would benefit me a great deal in the future.
ESSCA makes it very easy and simple for their exchange students to arrive and plan for the entire semester. Once you are accepted to the program, the international office contacts you to assist in planning your arrival – from getting a visa to getting a French mobile number. It was all so stress-free on the part of the students. Once you have arrived in Angers, a welcome team of ESSCA students will personally pick you up from the trains station to bring you to your residence or your apartment. It was very convenient since you do not have to look for your place on your home – plus with all the luggage with you, you would definitely need the help! It was also the welcome team who organized the orientation days. It is during the orientation days that we learn more about ESSCA and its services, as well as the courses and school policies. The welcome team also assisted international students in opening a French a bank account, which is crucial for your survival in Europe, and a French mobile number. Overall, the services provided by ESSCA’s international office and welcome team were top-notch.
Getting around Angers is very easy – you can choose to go by bus or tram, bike, or even by foot!
Studying at ESSCA was definitely the highlight of my entire semester. Although it is very different from the education at De La Salle University we were used to, it was definitely a good kind of change. The biggest difference is the fact that each class would last three hours, once a week as opposed to an hour and a half, twice a week. It was definitely an adjustment for us La Sallians, but we eventually got used to it. Also, there was never a fixed weekly schedule; it always varied per week because they tailor the schedules to the professors’ schedules. I recommend that students going to ESSCA take courses pertaining to European studies, since it gives you a better perspective on how Europe is while you are staying there. As for the students, we were mostly classmates with our fellow international students, and a handful of French students. The classes were always very active and participatory. Everyone always had their own opinions, which was sort of inevitable since we came from different countries. It is refreshing to see different perspectives from different cultures. There were also group activities that encouraged us to breakaway from our culture groups and learn more from other nationalities.
We bid goodbye to a wonderful semester in Angers and the amazing friends we’ve made!
To conclude, my student exchange program experience was PERFECT, from start to finish. All the stress, anxiety, and doubts were worth the experience I have gained through this program. Every time people ask me about how studying abroad was, my only response is “it was an amazing experience,” and it was, truly. I would not trade it for anything else in the world, and I regret nothing. If you have the chance and the means to study abroad, take it! Do not let your doubts and anxiety cloud your judgment. Are you scared of being delayed? You don’t want to be away from your family? Are you scared of being alone? All these questions I have thought of before deciding to study abroad, and the only thing you have to ask yourself is – when are you ever going to get this opportunity again? The answer is – NEVER. So my suggestion is, take a leap of faith and JUST DO IT.
When I heard that I got accepted, I was so happy and excited to leave and experience all the new things that I can learn from the exchange program. I was happy because I have a friend that I know of and that will definitely make things a lot easier than being there just by myself. One thing I can say about Canadians is that they are all very nice and honest. Everyone was just so kind and even though you walk by yourself at night, it’s totally safe! I learned so many things that made me more mature when I was there. I got to be independent and learned to make decisions on my own. I know that it was a good choice for me to join an exchange student program because there are a lot of things that a person can learn from an opportunity like that.
I gained confidence because in SFU (Simon Fraser University), students really recite in class and speak up their mind. So, it pushed me to talk more and give suggestions that can help our group whenever we have projects/ presentations. Another thing that made me realize is how fortunate we are here in the Philippines because here we get help from our parents/ household help doing the laundry, folding your clothes, and cleaning your room. In the Philippines, I would usually change a couple of times whenever I choose what to wear in the morning and just leave all the clothes I tried in my room, and when I get back, it will be gone. But when I was there, when I get back to my room, everything is still there! I also got to travel with my friends to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Quebec. We planned our trip by ourselves and booked everything together. We travelled a part of the world that was new to us. So, we just depended on each other and looked out for one another as we explore the city. These kinds of things that our parents would usually do for us, we were able to do it on our own there. Learning it to help us grow more and improve ourselves.
Adjusting was really not a problem for me while I was there. I did not even know when I was able to adjust or if I really got needed to coz everyone was just so nice that they make you feel at home. I thought that I would kind of have a hard time adapting the culture that they have there because Philippines and Canada are totally different. But, you just have to go with it and observe what they do and how they do things there and you would be fine. They would not laugh or judge you if you make a mistake or do something different from what they are used to. In fact, they would happily teach you and even guide you. Vancouver is not that difficult to learn. Transportation and direction is easy because they actually have an app that you can download to have the schedules of the buses. Google maps is also really helpful. It never fails you!
Coping with the challenges of being an exchange student
There are actually a lot of foreign students in Vancouver, lots of Asians I can say. You can easily blend in the crowd coz they won’t know that you are not from there, unless they ask you for directions and you can’t answer them. When we went to SFU, there were also a lot of exchange students that were there for Spring Term, as well, so we got to meet them and made new friends because of the activities that was arranged for us by the university. We also had a Facebook page for us exchange students that term and there we can ask other people things like where we can get supplies or just different events that we want to go to. A SFU International Center representative is also included in that group so that they can helps us there or we can just go to the office personally. We actually had a lot of friends there so usually we just ask each other things and together we figure out how to do the laundry or things like that.
SFU really did a good job helping foreign students learn and experience their culture first hand. They arranged events like attending a hockey game, skiing trip, city tour for us so that we can see how beautiful their place is. They also assigned a buddy for us, and these buddies were in contact with us even before we left the Philippines, so we can ask them suggestions and questions like how many subjects is advisable for us to take or what they weather is like in Vancouver and things like that so we can be prepared. Then we get to meet them in a gathering and there we can like set a day with them to see the city or eat somewhere else. The university really made sure that all the international students get to have a meaningful experience while they are there.
They were also very accommodating because we actually had a problem with enrolling the subjects that we want there because of some agreement between universities, but when we approached the assigned personnel in SFU, they were able to help us right away. We actually did not have a hard time setting appointments, they just accommodated us after we set a schedule.
Without a doubt, going on exchange was a life changing experience for me. A variety of factors come into play to make it memorable from the people you meet, the places you go to, the freedom that comes with being on your own for the first time and the things you can try because of said independence. Of course, there were many challenges also. Foremost was the lack of accommodations near the host university. Being located in the central business district of Singapore, it became a question of how much you could afford to pay and how far you wanted to be. There is no clear cut “best” choice as that largely depends on the personal preferences of a person. Being located near the school was sure to be a costly endeavor, with apartments in the 30-40k range monthly rent, while living a few train stops away would ensure you would have to pay but a fraction of that amount. Some student hostels offered relatively affordable prices, but at the expense of service and sanitation. Others chose to live in HDBs (government made flats), which, while the cheapest option, was also technically illegal for people not residing in Singapore for longer than half a year. Personally, I chose to stay in a student hostel on the outskirts of the central business district where most of the residents went to the same school as I did. It was ultimately better for me to stay there as I met many new friends at that hostel, some of them international students going to other schools. A great thing about exchange though is that you get to meet so many new people that come from different places. This does, however, introduce culture shock. One has to keep an open mind when interacting with others as their view on certain issues (sex, drugs, alcohol, religion, government etc. etc.) can vary immensely from one’s own. In general, most people are not too abrasive, nor do they push their beliefs on others which is essential for maintaining good relations. The exchange I went to being in Asia, the culture was not too different from what I expected. Singapore offers a unique twist with its predominantly Chinese-Indian population being highly westernized, yet still retaining a strong Asian influence. “What about academics?” To be perfectly honest, there is only so much you can learn inside a classroom. Most of the lessons I learned were outside of it. If you go in thinking exchange is about what you can learn inside a school rather than what you can learn outside of it, you’re missing the whole point. What schools teach – that’s the same no matter what university or teacher you go to in the world. But how many times can you say you’ve been to a casual dinner with friends which included: 1 Filipino, 2 Indonesians, 2 Dutch, 1 Belgian, 2 Mexicans, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Nigerian, 1 French, 1 Tahitian, 1 Indian, 1 German, and 1 Swiss? Or that you have met and made friends with people from every continent (barring Antartica)? Or that you can go to a dozen countries where you have people to show you around? I’d say that wins hands down. Ultimately, to enjoy an exchange program is not anything that your home or host university can help with too much. They can do their best to mitigate certain surprises by giving warnings. The deciding factor will always be the person in question, and their ability to thrive in the new conditions. “You can spend your whole life living without really living.”
Upon entering one of De La Salle University’s “quota courses”, all I aimed for is to learn everything I need to excel in the corporate world. As the tagline goes, “The future begins here”. With a strict goal in mind of finishing college, coupled with having grown from a traditional Chinese family, the odds are really low for me to be able to go for exchange. Before my exchange experience, there was one big group orientation for all the 21 exchange students to different countries. I liked this program because they also get to invite past exchange students in every country and share their stories and tips. The idea of inviting the parents along is also a great way for parents’ of these children to meet and contact each other.
From the enrollment process to leaving my host university, a lot of things happened that will forever remain in my memory. SMU arranged an orientation for exchange students for several things like getting to know your fellow exchange students, library manners and tips to search, rules of the school, regulations of Singapore, must-try foods in Singapore, must-go places in Singapore, and everything you need to know in just an e-mail away with a prompt (at most 2 days) reply. They have been very supportive and in every gathering they prepared buffet for us.
Back home, I never did household chores. Thanks to this exchange experience, now I can live independently. Adjusting was not that tough as everything is advanced and people there are nice. They will really teach you and not cheat you (for the people I met at least). I was also fortunate enough to be able to join one charity event of reconstructing an old house for the elderly. I was taught how to mix paint and to paint properly by the locals. Not that hard to learn and adjust as long as you have the will to blend in and also be open-minded enough to not judge others immediately and not react impulsively (like in the case of stereotyping your countrymen). Instead of acting violently, one can do a silent protest by acting against the stereotypes and saying to others proudly that he or she is a Filipino.
I could say, I am blessed to have the opportunity to study in ESSCA. ESSCA recently achieved AACSB (Association to Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business) international accreditation. The label is said to symbolize the quality of education in business schools worldwide. Only less than 5% of business schools worldwide have been granted this label.
There’s really a huge difference between studying in the Philippines and studying abroad. You get to see and experience the other way of teaching in another dimension. ESSCA encourages its local students to speak in English when they get to their third year. They use English as their language medium to further enhance their communication skills.
One of the great things about ESSCA Paris is having multiple modes of transportation nearby; Metro, bus, and even taxi. The campus has computer labs, printer, and canteen (but it only serves limited food).
All in all, I could say that being able to have the opportunity of being an exchange student has been one of the greatest things in life. “You learn best through experience”. Five months quickly passed by. But that five months meant the world to me. It took 5 months to find myself. It took 5 months to prove myself. It took 5 months to be myself. Therefore, whenever you are given that opportunity, I say, seize the opportunity. You only live once.
Going on exchange in probably one of the most amazing and unforgettable moment for a college student to cherish. My experience was really beyond what I have expected. I learned a lot, honestly. I learned everything from academics to appreciating life itself. It’s actually weird that I come to learned how to appreciate life when, in fact, I was supposed to experience how the academic system in Singapore works.
My experience in Singapore is amazing. I learned about the culture, food, and other stuffs. Since Singapore is very diverse, the culture is like all in one. I met a lot of exchange students from all over the world. I am the type of person who does not approach strangers. In Singapore, I learned to be the one to approach and start the conversation. If you want to meet them, just go and introduce yourself and start a conversation. No more shyness! Be spontaneous! I learned this from the European friends of mine. They are all so kind. I learned to be very extrovert.
Often I wonder how come almost all students in Singapore and Western countries go on exchange at least once during their academic years and students in Philippines rarely goes. It is just sad, because going on exchange is probably one of the best and most memorable experiences I would ever have in my entire life. Being young at the age of eighteen and experiencing all of this, it’s just truly mind-blowing. I am just truly blessed to be given the opportunity. I have learned so much, so much more that what I can imagine. The lessons and experiences I have gained and learned would hopefully remain as a I grow, and hopefully, after all of this, I would become a wiser person.
“Here’s to hoping that someday, somehow, somewhere in this world, I will bump again into the wonderful people I met on this exchange. And it will be as if it was just yesterday. Thank you for the wonderful experience, SMU/Singapore/everyone! It was an amazing four months,” I said in one of my Instagram posts. Indeed, four months in a foreign country to study is one of the best experiences one can ever have. It may not be the easiest and most convenient way to have a different kind of learning experience, but the program provides you with academic and personal growth. Here’s my story.
Finding a new home. Probably the biggest and toughest hurdle, finding a new home was stressful. It did not only mean having to find yourself a hostel or a condo, but it also means having to look for people to live with. Personally, I am not the type who could live in a hostel, so I went to search for housemates to share a flat with. The Facebook group provided by SMU helped me in doing this; I was able to find a couple of guys to share a flat with. It wasn’t entirely the best decision to group with people you don’t know at all, but it was the easiest way to find your way around the country. I spearheaded finding a home for eight guys. I thought completing a group of guys to live with was the hardest until we went to search for apartments. Agents were available as required by law, but some agents just seem to rip you off with horrible apartments and condos. Aside from that, everyone in the group was indecisive; some were more inclined to staying at this property, some at that property. It was hard to handle and make a conclusion for eight different minds. After a few days of searching, we met a very nice housing agent, who, luckily enough, provided us with a flat along Orchard Road at a very decent price. Hooray for finally finding a home!
Adjusting. Adjusting is another hurdle I personally had to overcome. There were two adjustments I had to deal with; being away from home, and changes in lifestyle. Being away from home wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it would be, but it was a challenge for me. I’m a home buddy; I choose to stay home and bond with my parents on weekends and free days. Because of this nature, I struggled adjusting to life being alone, especially the first few days when I was still homeless. It took me a few weeks to eventually establish a new family and a new home in Singapore. Aside from that, I also had to adjust with the difference in the lifestyle of Singapore and the Philippines. Currency was different, day to day life was different. Adjusting was tough, but I figured; if I don’t keep up with the pace and if I don’t stop converting, I will not be able to adapt well. Basically, much like any sudden change in lifestyle, I had a hard time adjusting, but I was able to blend in and fit well in no time. Success!
Daily Life. In no time, I felt at home. Through the help of my housemates and the other exchange students, I was able to feel a sense of family. Quite a huge help, as well, was the Filipino community in SMU. The SMU Barkada reached out to us, the new set of Filipino exchange students. With them, I felt what most people abroad say; that if you miss home, go with Filipinos. Indeed, they were home. What’s funny was, prior to exchange, I told myself I won’t actually hang out with Filipinos that much so I can feel what it’s like to actually be on an international exchange program; having to discover other people’s culture and having to share yours, stuff like that. It was fun to be hanging out with totally foreign students. It really was. But the sense of home that the Filipino community was able to provide was much, much better. The SMU Barkada, along with my flatmates and other exchanger friends, helped in making every single day in Singapore worthwhile. And as I am typing this arrival essay, it makes me realize how important these people have become, and how much I’d love to come back and meet with them again. Iba talaga kapag Pinoy!
Academic Life. I was speaking with a former professor before leaving for exchange. It was a normal catch up session with her until I mentioned that I was leaving for Singapore to go on exchange. She only told me one thing, “Alam mo, Mykee, maha-humble ka diyan.” At first I didn’t really acknowledge what she said. Deep inside, I told myself, “Whatever, I’m sure I’ll be at par with everyone,” but I replied to her and said, “Yeah, sabi nga nila, e!” As soon as university started, I realized how right my former professor was. I was humbled. To be honest, I see myself as an above-average student in DLSU. Surely, I’m not the best student there is, but I admit I am an achiever and I like to keep my academics at its best. Singaporeans in SMU are just different. They seem to know a lot of things. A LOT. I felt insecure, to be honest. I felt inferior. I felt as if I knew nothing compared to the locals. For the first time, I felt really stupid. However, I took it as a challenge. I realized that this is the reason why I went on exchange; to expose myself to a different learning environment that will allow me to make myself grow. True enough, it did help me as a person; it didn’t only allow me to gain academic knowledge, it also humbled me as a person. The academic life is an experience in itself. SMU got me SMUgging! (Mug is Singlish for study.)
SMU Life. SMU felt home to me. To be honest, it wasn’t exactly too far out from the DLSU life I am used to. They have organizations that suit every possible talent and/or interest you have. Of all things I experienced in SMU, if there’s one thing I really learned to adapt, it would be spending time in the library. At first, me and the other exchangers from DLSU were just staying at one of the tables in the library. We did all sorts of things; study, get assignments done, share stories, laugh, and what not. Sometimes, we even get called out by the local students trying to study intensively. It was fun. Later on, we discovered we can actually book Group Study Rooms in the library so we have a private space of our own where we can laugh, talk, and study freely, anytime we want. Guess it was our cheeky way of combining the typical Filipino student life of having fun while studying and the typical Singaporean student life of staying in the library. Really, SMU got us SMUgging! Or at least we pretend to be. LOL
On Exchange Programs. If Lasallians ask me if they should go on an exchange program, without battling eyelashes, I’d definitely encourage them to go on one. At the end of the day, it’s not only a different kind of learning experience, academically speaking. It is a learning experience in itself. Literally. You get to experience a different kind of education, in a different place, alone. Combining all of that, it sounds like a disaster. But combining those with proper and appropriate maturity and independence, it’s perfection. DLSU, go for an exchange. Trust me, it’s beyond amazing.
Suggestions. To be honest, I don’t know what to suggest about the programs offered because really, when you’re there, things just happen. And it’s best to just go with it and charge it to experience. If there’s one thing, however, that I wish we had or was provided for us, it’s accommodation options. This is probably the hardest task I had to do as an exchange student; to look for my own new home for a few months. It was hard having to start from scratch; with no clue as to how things are done in Singapore. We even had no clue how to actually start looking for legitimate and affordable apartments. Of course, future exchange students may choose to stay elsewhere, probably with a relative, but options for housing provided by DLSU would definitely help a lot. Perhaps another suggestion I can give is to have an option to apply for a scholarship provided by the university. Surely, a lot of students want and deserve to go on a semester abroad, but not everyone has the means to do so. It would be nice if the university, through its generous donors, could provide options to apply for a scholarship/financial aid for students who want to go on exchange but do not really have the means to go on one.
Thank you. During and after the exchange, I have only been uttering five words; thank you for this opportunity. I am thankful I was given the privilege to go on an exchange program, representing De La Salle University overseas. It was, indeed, a humbling learning experience. If I were to be offered to go on another exchange program or to represent DLSU overseas, I’d definitely accept the offer. I’ve always been open to opportunities, and I honestly feel blessed to be given such an amazing one. Till then, Lion City! Xie xie.
(Lorraine Nicole Sabariaga/AE-MG/T1, 2013-14)
The exchange student program I had in ESSCA Paris was fun and full of eye-opening experiences. I think the first adjustment I had to make was dressing up for the cold weather. By the time we arrived in France, winter was already coming to an end but it was still really cold but fortunately, there was no snow. We even experienced -1 and 0 degree Celsius weather. Then, there was also the fact that I had to adjust living with someone I just met. We were both DLSU students but of course, we have different interests and living together proved to be one of the most challenging tasks of the program because we had to compromise, get to know each other and maintain a harmonious relationship although sometimes, we couldn’t really avoid having misunderstandings. It was actually a very new experience for me to live in an apartment with someone I barely knew in a foreign country but it gives me such relief that after the 5 months we have spent together, we were able to become friends. Then there was also the language barrier because I don’t speak French at all. The ESSCA in Paris also does not have French lessons so it was really hard for us. So we did a lot of research and we would even download apps or guides that would help us in speaking basic French. We got to learn the basics after 5 months. It was a relief that all the lessons were taught in English but of course sometimes, professors and our classmates are still hard to understand because of their heavy French accent.
The way of teaching in ESSCA was very different from how they do it in DLSU. Of course, I expected that already but I guess it still surprised me how they were totally unique from each other. In ESSCA, they don’t really have quizzes or seatworks, most of the requirements we have are final papers, presentations and final exams. So the workload is definitely lighter. Then we only have classes three to four times per week but every class has 3 hours per session which is really long compared to what we have in DLSU. We would stay in school for 6 hours, sometimes even 9! The class hours make the students lazier and burned out that all of us can no longer focus at the current topic. Also, French students are very passive and majority of them rarely participate in discussions, which kind of disappointed me a little since it shows how different the way education works in different countries. Considering that the Paris campus was not the main one ESSCA has, I think they lacked a little in giving support and advice to the exchange students. They were not focused enough those who go on exchange and I think they should have an organization or specific people who can guide the exchange students not just in school but in everyday living and other basic concerns. Aside from the whole purpose of studying in a foreign school, I was also able to travel a lot because of the not so busy schedule in ESSCA. Also, they have a lot of breaks in Europe/France so we were able to enjoy them by travelling. I think it was the most enjoyable part of the trip aside from making new friends and studying abroad.
It would be best to do a basic research of France, the school and the culture first before leaving. Also, take French lessons before leaving if possible. Then, ESSCA Paris does not provide housing accommodation for students so it would be best to check out websites such as: airbnb.com, homeaway.co.uk or parisattitude.com for apartments. Then, bring proper clothing for the type of weather they will encounter in France. Make new friends in school so they could ask them for advice but it would be better if they make Filipino friends as well because they could help tremendously when they have to ask for directions, favors, etc. They could do this by visiting Filipino communities in La Muette and Victor Hugo. Invest in maps of the metro, the city, the bus and others. Research about the basic transportation and way of living in Paris.
Check up on the exchange students regularly about problems they might have in the country they’re staying in. Provide detailed orientation pre-departure.
(Patricia Jessica M. Verona, BS-MGT)
Spring Semester 2014
In a span of four months, I had experienced such an amazing time in Singapore Management University and having the company of the different people I met during my stay. Coping up with the Singapore culture was never an issue for me since I have been to the country several times before and I am aware of how the locals behave, street norms, and the like. Considering my familiarity with the country, the challenges of being a foreign student are quite tranquil and manageable. Although there are times when I feel different among the others, as the amount of workload is lesser as compared to DLSU since I am taking fewer modules, which entitles me to a bunch of free time. Overall, I was able to successfully overcome the challenges that there was on being a foreign exchange student.
SMU possesses people who are accommodating, helpful and supportive who assisted us all throughout the semester. From the Office of Global Learning team who aided us in getting our student visa to the group of my fellow Filipinos who had established their own organization inside the campus called “SMU Barkada”. The Barkada was indeed a big help for us exchangers as they were the ones who guided us on how to cope up with the SMU culture. As an exchange student, I felt very welcomed in the university as they organized different activities that would break the ice among all the exchange students from across the world. More so, they even offered us a city tour to introduce to us foreigners, their tourist spots and cultural heritage that are usually visited by tourists. Nonetheless, the memories I had were one for the books and will be treasured all my life.
Having been told of my experiences in my 4 months stay in SMU, my message for the future La Salle students who are to go for a student exchange program in SMU is that they should prepare all the things needed first before they fly to Singapore such as accommodation and the people that they will live with, documents needed for admission and student visa, communication plan with your family, and other things needed to be accomplished. This would prepare you in the challenges to come once you step in the country. Furthermore, should you have more questions, you should feel free to ask inquiries from the previous exchange students who had already experienced the program as they know the things better than anybody else.
I personally suggest to the ERIO that they should organize a more detailed and experience-centered orientation to the outbound exchange students to inform them well on what to expect in their stay to the host university. My experience during the orientation was I was not fully informed and educated about the things that we should expect in the host university. The advice that was given to us was a little bit generic and can be easily searched. It would have been better if the past exchange students were more out-spoken and open about their experiences. Given a chance, I would be more than willing to speak for the outbound exchange students as I am aware how important the orientation is to them.