Hi. I’m Hardik Mehta and I’m spending a semester at NUS Singapore as an exchange student. I’ll be writing on InsIghT periodically about my experiences at NUS. The reason we decided to do this was because I felt that exchange programs weren’t popular enough in the institute, given the wonderful nature of the opportunities. This first post talks about everything from how I came to applying for the exchange program till the point of departure.
Exchange programs in IITB are not a popular concept yet, though most people might know that they exist. I first got to know about the NUS exchange program through a mail on student notices (every mail about student-exchange programs is on student notices, and also at http://www.iitb.ac.in/inter_relns.html). What attracted me right away was the scholarship (called the Temasek Foundation LEaRN Award). Spending 4 funded months in Singapore was obviously a great idea. Also, since I am a dual degree student, I can afford to be away for a semester. I spoke to seniors who had been on exchange previously and quickly understood what an exchange program is all about.
The application process involved a basic assessment of your profile – academic and non-academic, and a Statement of Purpose. Details of what was expected can be found at: http://www.nus.edu.sg/iro/intl/students/awards/LEaRN/index.html and at http://tinyurl.com/LearnAward. The Temasek Foundation (TF) was giving out 2 scholarships and NUS was accepting 3 exchange students from IIT Bombay. Admission to NUS is independent of your scholarship (TF award) outcome. 3 of us were shortlisted through IIT Bombay and accepted at NUS. TF came out with its results a few weeks later. The 2 other guys got the scholarship, I didn’t. My expectations were initially heavily based on the scholarship and I had not given a serious thought to funding my own trip. Rejection was, hence, quite a shock.
After lots of deliberation and discussion with previous exchange students, I considered the option of funding my own trip seriously. More importantly, a few key reasons why I gradually concluded that it wasn’t a bad idea after all are:
- The inherent idea behind exchange programs: new country, many different people, a better university (academically and otherwise), a lot of fun and value addition. It might make sense if you choose to compare it to foreign summer internships, on some parameters. I have known people who funded their own foreign internships. What I had on offer was a much better (for lack of another word) package. Being a part of an ‘in-semester university experience’ means a lot of things (as opposed to working there in summers, with a virtually empty campus).
- The general prospect of living outside the country – the way one can do it in college years (be it through an exchange or an internship), is not the same outside of college life.
- I was in a privileged position – being a dual degree student; and being in IITB, which has an MoU with NUS; and being one of the 3 people from the institute chosen by NUS.
- If you want to go on exchange, NUS is one of the best places to do so. They have one of the best exchange programs. They have hundreds of students on exchange every semester (This semester the figure is about 600 exchange students!).
- It is not very expensive. A budget estimate (my references were the 3 people who went to NUS last year) worked out to roughly Rs 2.3 lakhs, which includes tuition fees (you pay the same tuition fees at NUS as you would have at IITB), and everything in Singapore (flights, accommodation, food, comfortable touring and sight-seeing in Singapore and to neighbouring countries as well).
- I want to reiterate the fact that I don’t think of this as an extended holiday in Singapore, but an experience that will stay with me. If studying outside the country for 8 semesters makes something out of you, I was sure spending one whole semester outside will surely add something long-term and valuable to me as a person.
I had pretty much made up my mind by mid-June. Pre-departure preparations followed. NUS makes everything extremely easy, from Visa to accommodation to academic matters. It’s a hassle free process. As I said, they deal with hundreds of exchange students every year. Credits are transferred from NUS to IITB. So are the grades. You need to find matching courses for the ones in the relevant semester in IITB, to retain academic continuity. Of course, since perfect matches for all courses are difficult to find, there will be some change in your academic plan, overloading, etc. But it should be manageable. More posts to follow on what I experienced in Singapore!