The facts about student exchange and study abroad

The facts about student exchange and study abroad

Completing a student exchange or study abroad program provides a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and see the world while you are still a student. If you’re wondering what student exchange and study abroad are all about, here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between student exchange and study abroad?
Student exchange programs allow you to complete part of your studies at an overseas partner institution under a formal agreement. During this time, you remain enrolled at your Australian institution and continue to pay your regular fees. Although duration varies, you can typically study overseas for one or two semesters. To undertake student exchange, you must be approved by your home institution, and studies undertaken overseas generally count towards your course back home. Study abroad programs allow students to undertake study at an overseas institution, but usually without a formal agreement between institutions. This means that students are required to defer their place at their Australian institution and pay upfront fees to the overseas institution. It is important to check if you will receive credit for studies completed as part of study abroad program.

How do I apply for overseas study?
Applications for student exchange can be submitted directly to your institution. If you are applying to study abroad, applications will need to made to the relevant overseas institutions. Your home institution may hold an information session for students wishing to study overseas, which will generally cover everything you need to know before submitting your applications. This will include tips for choosing an institution and country, as well as information about accommodation and financial assistance. Your institution may also be able to put you in touch with a student from your course who has previously studied overseas.

What are the eligibility requirements?
Overseas opportunities are available to students at all levels — VET, undergraduate, postgraduate coursework and higher degrees by research. To be eligible for student exchange or study abroad, you will generally need to have completed a minimum of two semesters of full-time study at your Australian institution. You may also need to meet other requirements, such as subject prerequisites, minimum academic achievement and language proficiency. These requirements vary between courses and should always be checked with the relevant institution. There are also additional non-academic requirements, such as obtaining a visa and organising health insurance and vaccinations.

Where can I study?
If you are considering a student exchange program, you will be able to choose from a number of partner institutions linked to your Australian education provider. Most institutions, particularly large universities, have a wide range of exchange partners across all continents. Study abroad programs can be completed at any institution around the world, so long as you meet eligibility requirements. Picking a country and institution can take some research. Your decision may be influenced by your desire to study in a certain part of the world or attend an English-speaking institution, the cost of living or an institution’s connections to your field of study. Our advice is to speak to advisers at your institution and conduct research using resources such as the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website.

What are the advantages of studying overseas?
One of the greatest advantages of studying overseas is the opportunity to broaden your horizons and experience life in a new country. There are also various education benefits, such as learning about your field of study in a new context or picking up electives not available at your home institution. If you choose to study in a non-English-speaking country, you will also have the opportunity to pick up a new language or refine existing skills. In addition, you will make new friends and develop skills that will be very useful when you are competing against other graduates in the job market, including flexibility, resilience, independence and problem-solving.

How will I pay for my overseas studies?
Your first step should be to investigate scholarships and grants offered by your home institution. Your overseas institution may also be able to provide financial assistance, so we recommend checking with them too. In addition, higher education students can access the federal government’s OS-HELP loan scheme. OS-HELP assists undergraduate students holding a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) to undertake part of their studies overseas, covering costs such as airfares and accommodation. In 2014, students will be eligible to receive $6250 per six-month study period. Like the HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP loan schemes, funds borrowed through OS-HELP are repaid once your annual earnings reach the minimum repayment threshold ($51,309 in 2013–14). See the Study Assist website for more information about OS-HELP.

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