Exchange 101: can I, should I, will I?

 Firenze’s Ponte Vecchio. All images in the article are provided by Briannah Devlin.

Firenze’s Ponte Vecchio. All images in the article are provided by Briannah Devlin.

Briannah Devlin has all the need-to-know information for those who are thinking of doing an exchange while studying.

An exchange is a flexible endeavour that can easily fit into your study schedule while letting you discover a niche within your degree. As a student you want to save, yet it’s hard to do that when you also want to dabble in the unique pleasures of the world – but it’s possible.

I know, from experience, that planning an exchange can be daunting; there are so many factors to consider and decide on— when to travel, where, how long for – all of which are heavily influenced by your ability to afford them. Yet, as much as I love my degree and the opportunities it has given me, some aspects felt out of reach; until I went on exchange.

It was with a plethora of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that I started to consider participating in the ‘Media and Communications for the Fashion Industry’ program. I saw this as an opportunity to discover the different aspects of the cross-section between fashion and journalism. If you’re like me, and the thought of being enrolled in the European Institute of Design has a nice ring to it, here is how you can turn it into a reality.

Cover all the (financial) bases

It is hard to monitor, but if exchange is on your radar, subscribe to as many program providers as possible for regular updates. This can give you an indication of when they begin, and gives you a chance to figure out financial plans. Organisations such as AIM Overseas do summer and winter break intensives, therefore these are the priciest times of the year. Depending on if you study through your university, or like me, go through an external institution, what you will need to cover will vary.

If you go through UTS Exchange, they’ll pay for your insurance, however everything else is at your own expense. You can get your tuition fees reimbursed by getting an OS-Help Loan, which is worth up to $6,000 per semester. You are also eligible to get further funding through UTS’ BUiLD Program; depending on the duration of your stay, you can be granted up to $1,000.

ISEP is an organisation that partners with different universities, giving you a choice of programs and internships from over 50 countries. There is a lot of choice no doubt, but don’t let all the options overwhelm you — you can filter your choices financially by adding in the maximum you want to spend, and also use their Budget Calculator to help you figure out expenses. The inclusion of meals and accommodation is a bonus.

Location, location, location

Location is essential— as it puts your studies into perspective, where you can apply your knowledge to where you go, and what you see.

Firenze is a fashion capital of the world, standing alongside New York, Paris, London and Milan in prestige, hence what attracted me to the program. For me, I was able to see the Italy’s fashion industry through visits to the Gucci and Ferragamo museums, and also the Palazzo Pitti, where the first Italian fashion show was held. All of this gave me insight into the Italian culture and lifestyle beyond fashion.

It’s an amazing honour to say that you studied fashion and communications in Firenze, or even literature in Manchester for example. Make sure you ask yourself ‘What can I learn from being here?’ Yes, you are privileged to learn about something in a specialising country, but what can this tell you about the nation itself? Can you see knowledge reflected in your surroundings?

Do your research

This sounds obvious, but get familiar with what is on offer — research and compare. Always ask ‘What do I want to walk away with?’ I did not search for any alternatives, I will be truthful; I just saw AIM’s program and crossed my fingers and toes for acceptance.

For me, I wanted to finish my exchange with experience that would help me get internships with fashion publications. The fact that I got the opportunity to attend Pitti Uomo, the showcase for menswear, was something I knew would be a priceless experience.

ISEP offers internships, volunteering and excursion opportunities, from students who are undergraduates to PhD candidates. You can not only filter finances, but specialty areas. That might be a bit blasé, but you can really hone in on the specifics of your degree; journalism students can distinguish between photojournalism and copywriting.

And it must be said – always check your student emails. No matter your faculty, opportunities will be sent your way, and you do not want to miss out. If you are inundated, holding out for something extra special, or just unsure of where to look, always connect with faculty coordinators – it’s a good start.  

No matter your passions, studying overseas allows you to be curious, and answers many questions about your future career.

Briannah Devlin a third-year Journalism/International Studies (France) at UTS. She is passionate about food, fashion, all-things Disney, and spends her spare time walking her beagle Cleo, and filling her Instagram with food.