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Top 5 Exchange Myths Debunked!

Thinking about going on exchange but too bogged down with "what ifs"? Let us (former Waterloo exchange students) debunk some of them, so there is nothing stopping you from going on your international experience.

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Myth #1: Hostels aren't safe. / Via

Debunked: Hostels are the greatest places to meet people when traveling solo. People from around the world visit hostels and many of these people will want to share their travel stories and experiences while also hearing from you! I travelled to 11 countries while on exchange and I stayed at hostels for most of the time. You will want to stay in hostels in neighborhoods you know are safe, so you should always research each hostel: is there free Wi-Fi available, lockers etc. The most important thing is to asses each situation critically before booking and things will go smoothly.

Lily Hwang
Program: Arts and Business - French
Host Institution: Ontario/Rhône-Alpes Exchange - École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

Myth #2: New countries mean new dangers. / Via

Debunked: Before I left for my exchange term in Singapore, all I could remember were all the horrible things my parents said to me about travelling: "Don't trust anyone that’s too nice," "Keep your money in your front pocket," "Don't walk by yourself”. What I learned as I travelled to five different countries is that being cautious is good, but it shouldn’t stop you from accepting kindness from strangers. As it turns out, I encountered unexpected kindness from strangers many times. During one of my visits in a village near Mae Sariang, Thailand, we were offered a new place to stay every night and welcomed to so many celebrations! The hospitality I experienced while travelling abroad is incomparable to anything I've ever seen before.

Charlotte Chan
Program: Systems Design Engineering
Host Institution: National University of Singapore

Myth #3: Living abroad will break your bank. / Via

Debunked: I was worried about the UK's living expenses because when I told my friends and family that I was going to be living in the UK for 6 months, they told me that it would be very costly compared to Canada. I found this to be a superficial myth, because there were tons of ways to be economical. For example, there were many pound stores, similar to dollar stores in Canada, where they sell everything. I went there every day to buy Haribou jellies for a pound. Also, most places offer student discounts, which is not limited to just buying food, but also to clothes, bus fares and more!

Taeyeoun Emily Kim
Program: Legal Studies and Sociology with Criminology Specialization
Host Institution: University of Exeter

Myth #4: It’s probably too late to complete the Global Experience Certificate, along with my exchange experience. / Via

Debunked: If you are considering an exchange, the Global Experience Certificate (GEC) is an amazing opportunity that allows you to translate your international experiences into a certificate you’ll get when you graduate. Students can register at any time in their undergraduate career, as long as they can ensure they meet the requirements. To get a GEC, you must complete two consecutive language courses, one Global Studies course, a 20 hour cross-cultural volunteer experience, and an international experience of at least six consecutive weeks. The language and global studies courses are retroactive, however the international experience and cross-cultural volunteer experience cannot have been completed prior to the submission of the GEC application. If you are thinking about going on exchange, it’s not too late to complete a GEC! Apply Now!

Kristina Overbeek
Program: Rhetoric and Professional Writing
Host Institution: Tilburg University

Myth #5: I only speak English, so I can only go to an English speaking country. / Via

Debunked: Sure, knowing another language will make living in a non-English host country easier, but there are lots of international schools that offer many, if not all, courses in English. For example, I went to Spain and I knew only basic greetings. I was able to function fine in Spain, and was able to take Spanish lessons while there. ¡Ahora, hablo un poco de español!

Also check out Renison’s CAPE (Community and Professional Education) language classes in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Korean, and Turkish to learn a language without affecting your GPA.

Jessica Needham
Program: Arts and Business - Rhetoric and Professional Writing
Host Institution: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

If you are considering going abroad, but have other concerns be sure to contact one of the Global Learning Coordinators by emailing

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