Study Abroad Guide
There are numerous reasons to go on an exchange, but the most important one is: it will broaden your horizons. Immersion in a foreign culture, plus a new educational culture at a different university, will help to equip a whole range of skills, both academic and interpersonal, that will stand you in good stead in your future career – and life. You will meet new people from different backgrounds, learn how to be more independent, and might also be able to take courses that are not available at CUHK-Shenzhen. For any CUHK-Shenzhen student, we heartily recommend going on an exchange as one of the most productive, career-enhancing, and personally enriching uses of your period in full-time education.
Start to plan your exchange during your first year at CUHK-Shenzhen. That might sound early, but the process takes longer than you think: about nine months from the time OAL starts announcing the programs to the time you leave China for your exchange. Bear in mind that a lot of exchange programs require you to achieve certain academic standards; some also require English proficiency test results (normally IELTS or TOEFL).
Ideally you should go during your third year at CUHK-Shenzhen (or the first semester of your fourth year if applicable). Exchange programmes normally last a term, or in particular cases, an academic year. CUHK-Shenzhen full-time students can participate in international programs including exchange program for a cumulative maximum of one academic year (Term 1, Term 2 and summer).
CUHK-Shenzhen currently offers more than 12 student exchange programmes; they include university-wide and school options. University-wide programmes are administered by OAL and available to all CUHK-Shenzhen students.
Full-time registered undergraduate and postgraduate students can apply, but must meet certain requirements. These vary from program to program, but typical ones include:
- A valid TOEFL or IELTS score report with a particular minimum score, depending on the program;
- A good academic record at CUHK-Shenzhen – typically a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, although some exchange programs set the bar higher;
- A good disciplinary record and standing at CUHK-Shenzhen;
- Basic knowledge of the place where you intend to study;
- Maturity and responsibility in social conduct, along with physical and emotional health;
- Readiness to represent CUHK-Shenzhen.
Remember to check if the exchange programme you're interested in has English language requirements. We strongly advise you to take a TOEFL or IELTS test as early as possible. Once you are selected to go on exchange, you will be asked for proof of English proficiency along with your application. The earlier you take the test, the better chance you have of being accepted.
Some of our partner universities provide on-campus or off-campus accommodation to exchange students, but bear in mind that this is not guaranteed. Your host university will usually help you find accommodation. Normally you will need to pay the host university for the accommodation, and your accommodation fee at CUHK-Shenzhen will not be charged when you are going on an exchange.
Normally, you are not limited during your exchange to courses from your major subject, but you will have to meet the course requirements in order to get onto a course in the first place. You are encouraged to enrich your knowledge of varied subjects during the exchange, but make sure you consult the relevant academic departments before taking a course to make sure you can transfer the credits back to CUHK-Shenzhen.
You should contact your school and Registration Office at CUHK-Shenzhen for instructions on transferring credits. Before you come back to China from your exchange, you should ask the host university for an official transcript to be sent directly to OAL in a sealed envelope.
Course Load Requirements
For undergraduate students, the minimum requirement is 9 units for one semester. Failing to do so could make it hard for you to graduate. If you are a postgraduate student, you should enrol in enough courses to meet the minimum course load requirement of your full-time postgraduate programme at CUHK-Shenzhen.
For enquiries about whether you need to defer your graduation date if you go on exchange, or whether you can graduate right after the exchange, please contact Registration Office at CUHK-Shenzhen.
The fees for a typical exchange program include the following:
- CUHK-Shenzhen tuition
- Accommodation (host university or private rental)
- Health and travel insurance
- Meal plan
- Student visa
- Books and stationery
- Personal expenses
- Cultural activities
- AirfareFor some destinations, warm clothing
For regular term-time exchanges, you will need to pay the CUHK-Shenzhen tuition fee before you leave for your exchange and do not need to pay tuition fee to the host institution.
Follow these steps to apply for the Student Exchange Programmes through OAL:
1. OAL announces the open of application for exchange programmes.
2. Students read the Information Sheet carefully, complete and submit the online application form at CUHK-Shenzhen's online exchange program application page.
3. OAL announces the nomination results, student check the offer announcement and accpet offer online.
4. Online application on each university's official website opens for nominated students. Nominated students complete the application online.
5. Nominated students apply for visa.
Application and Selection Schedule
Through the OAL selection exercise, a student can apply for a maximum of one Exchange Programme and one Study Abroad Programme. However, students can only choose one programme to join in.
Before and During Your Exchange
Get to Know Your Exchange Programme
Find out as much as possible about your host institution and the educational system and culture of your host country before you depart. The international offices of host institutions are a good place to start.
Before leaving for your exchange, study your host university's course information and prepare a list of courses you want to take. You can find course information on your host institution's website. You should consult with your academic advisor of your school about the courses you plan to take. Bear in mind that some of your preferred courses might not be available, so choose some alternatives.
Some universities offer on-campus housing where local and international students live together, allowing you to get a better understanding of the local culture. Not all universities offer on-campus accommodation for incoming exchange students, so you might have to look for your own housing before you go on your exchange. Many students share off-campus housing with other international students during their exchange. Renting an apartment abroad can be a real challenge. However, be prepared to spend plenty of time looking for suitable accommodation and people you're going to be happy living with. Read any rental contract carefully before you sign it or pay a deposit. Some landlords will require references and proof of funds. Check whether utilities such as gas, electricity, water and waste disposal are included in the monthly rent, and make sure everything is working properly before you move in. Make sure your accommodation is confirmed before you leave.
To enter any foreign country, you must have a valid passport and a proper visa. Most countries require your passport to be valid for at least another six months from the date you leave your home country. Renewing one usually takes about four to six weeks.
Expect to face some sort of daily commute from the place where you live to the place where you study. You'll need to acquaint yourself with the local bus, train or metro systems, and in particular their schedules. Remember that a lot of places do not have transportation systems as efficient as China's.
Travel is one of the great experiences of studying abroad, and you should take advantage of the chance to get to know your host country. Remember, though, that you are first and foremost on an academic exchange, so make sure that your social life does not get in the way of your studies. Always keep your family and friends well informed before you travel anywhere.
Every student wants to know how much their exchange programme is likely to cost. The best source of information is likely to be students who have been on exchanges to your host country and the Region Advisors at your host university; you can also consult your host university's website and information booklets. When calculating your likely living expenses, you should include accommodation costs, food, transportation, books and other academic supplies, plus all other personal expenses. Remember to include extra money in case of emergencies.
Make sure you have enough local currency to cover your immediate expenses when you first arrive, such as the cost of transportation from the airport to your accommodation and possibly registration for services and facilities. Most of the time, though, it's not a good idea to carry a large amount of cash on your person.
Many students plan to work while they're on exchange to help support themselves financially. Holders of student visas are not eligible to work off-campus in almost every host country, but part-time jobs are often available on campus, usually in cafeterias, libraries and bookshops. Students can also consider an internship during their exchange, giving them chance to sample the working culture of their host country. There are even some paid internship programmes. Consult the international office of your host institution for more information.
Safety and Emergencies
As part of your preparation, you should also take health and safety as a top priority while travelling. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the crime and security situation in your host country and take appropriate precautions. Remember that you must obey the laws of the host country, as well as following any additional guidelines from your host university. For emergencies, make sure you know the whereabouts of the nearest embassy or consulate of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in your host country. If you hold a non-Chinese passport, make sure you know the location and details of your country's consular services in your host country.
Medical and Health
Most host universities require you to have medical insurance. Check with the host university or the regional visa office for specific requirements. If you already have health insurance with coverage overseas, you might be able to apply for a waiver, as long as the insurance is recognised by the host university. Familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of the claim procedures before you depart. If you purchase health insurance from your host university, check if it covers vacations and travel outside the host country.
Learn to travel light: don't bring more than you can carry. Remember that you can buy most items in your host country. Check your luggage allowance with your airline. Pack your most valuable and personal items in your carry-on luggage. Never carry items for strangers, and make sure you pack your suitcases yourself and know what they contain. Consider the climate of your host country and pack accordingly. Some destinations are extremely cold in winter, so bring a heavyweight coat and a waterproof jacket, or buy them on arrival.
An unfamiliar environment far from home, new friendships and the pressures of study can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed while on your exchange, especially at the beginning. Most universities offer counselling services, student societies and supporting networks to assist international students; your host institution's Study Abroad Office should be able to point you in the right direction. But you can also take measures to cope with culture shock yourself. Be curious about your new surroundings; embracing different people, places and ideas will make it easier to adapt. Don't take any sudden changes too personally. Try to join in with any orientation activities organised by your host university.
Before Leaving the Host University
Before bidding farewell to your host country, remember to complete your host university’s clearance procedures. Return everything you’ve borrowed from libraries and elsewhere. Settle all outstanding bills. Check how to get hold of your transcripts; most universities send them to OAL and Registry Office automatically, but some require students to order copies or collect them before you leave. Check out of your room, following any check-out procedures.
Extending Your Exchange Experience
The best way to continue to derive value from your exchange is to join the voluntary activities organised by OAL. You will get to share your experiences with prospective students who are going to study abroad, and also have the chance to welcome exchange students from all over the world.