Review: Exchange Fair 2012
On 7th March, the Office of International Affairs (responsible for foreign and exchange students) held an exchange fair in the Student Lounge at Yusof Ishak Hall. There, both current and former exchange students sought to recruit NUS students into going on overseas exchange programs. Automatically, exchange students like myself became de-facto advisers and ambassadors for our home universities or regions. NUS students who had returned from overseas exchanges also participated. Frankly, the fair was a good test of our communication and marketing skills, bringing out the businessman hidden in all of us.
For the program, we had several tables organized by geographical regions and there were ongoing presentations showcasing selected exchange partners from across the world. The universities and countries showcased at the fair were wide and varied. Popular destinations included the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. As payment for our services, all of us exchange advisers were given black sports tee-shirts. While the atmosphere at the exchange fair was warm and informal, it was offset by the cavernous nature of the Student Room. The smooth, solid floor also caused noise to bounce throughout the room, contributing to the poor acoustics.
I manned the Oceania table which covered both Australia and New Zealand, working with a few other Australians and Kiwis who turned up at different periods. While other tables had course books with information on their universities, it was unfortunate that our table had none at all. Luckily, I had brought my laptop with me which allowed me to answer enquiries about exchange partners and visa-entry requirements. As back-up, I also brought some books from New Zealand. Besides enquires about exchange partners, we were also asked about general life and culture in our home countries.
I must commend all those presenters who gave their time to deliver Powerpoint presentations of their universities and countries. Besides providing information on the programs and requirements of different universities, they also gave a glimpse of life in abroad through photographs. The best presentation I must say was a team from Auckland University in New Zealand who also incorporated pictures and videos into their presentation, highlighting both student life and NZ’s “clean, green image” of natural landscapes and tourist hotspots. Another interesting one was the presenter from Tecnologico de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education) in Mexico who highlighted his country’s heritage buildings, cultural festivals, and colorful costumes.
Alas, the billion-dollar question: why go on exchange? There is a long list of reasons, of which includes broadening one’s horizons by immersing yourself in a new culture and learning a new language. Others will want to experience a different climate and different university culture, thus taking a break from their usual daily life and norms. For many, going on exchange at a different university allows you to sit for modules or courses that are not offered at their home universities. While good academic grades are a prerequisite for going on exchange,
don’t allow coursework to completely dominate your exchange. Remember that you are also on exchange to experience a different culture and way of life. So, try to experience life as the locals do, like participating in cultural events, sports or visiting important local attractions. Also, it’s handy to have a camera with you in case you visit an iconic site or see something fascinating.