A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As much as I have fallen for Leiden and its people, I – Anna, third year Psychology student – am spending this semester away from my new home. A couple of weeks ago, I finally begun my journey to the University of Sydney. It is an official exchange partner of Leiden University, which allows me to take electives within and outside the field of Psychology – all fully counting towards my degree!
You have also caught the travel fever, thinking about studying abroad or curious about student life in Australia? Stay posted about my experience, tips and tricks here on The Leidener!
Let’s be real: making an exchange semester happen requires healthy bits of motivation, organisational skills and patience. But, don’t worry: To make your life a little easier, I will give an overview of the most important steps to take.
1. Orient yourself and make a choice
Within one of Leiden University’s various partnerships, there are – broadly speaking – two options: (a) staying in Europe as part of the Erasmus program (Faculty wide partnerships)/ as a free mover or (b) going to another continent. For the latter, see the University wide agreements.
If your dream destination is not on the list or you decide last minute, there are opportunities of organising your study abroad independently. Keep in mind that you might have less support and more work with regard to approval of the courses.
2. Apply (1): LU Exchange Office
I have always wanted to travel to Australia, but the University of Stellenbosch and McGill in Montréal also had very promising course offers. After comparing course offer, student life and travel possibilities, I ranked my ten favourite destinations in the online application system. I also attached a grade transcript and motivation letter and submitted before December, 1st.
3. Accept your offer
Just before Christmas, we heard back from the Exchange Coordinators. I was nominated for my first choice: The University of Sydney! We were given two weeks to accept or decline the offers. When declining, one is has the possibility to participate in the second round or to apply for European exchange programs (Erasmus, deadline: mid February).
4. Apply (2): University abroad
Once I accepted my offer, I was allowed to apply for as an exchange student at the University of Sydney. This is an administrative step requiring official documents (copy of passport, grade transcripts). It might vary depending but in any case you be supported by exchange coordinators of your faculty or study program both in Leiden and abroad.
5. Course Selection and Approval
The Australian academic year is composed of two semesters (in contrast to four blocks in IBP), which allows me to take four courses worth 30 ECTS in total. For psychology students, these have to include one Level 3 course but can be from different faculties. When selecting classes, it is important that they don’t overlap with courses of Leiden’s curriculum. To make sure that the course fully counts towards my degree, I sought approval by both Leiden’s and Sydney’s exchange coordinators.
Going overseas, I am not eligible for Erasmus funding. However, Leiden University provides options to partly cover living expenses or flights such as LUSTRA+, the Holland Scholarship or the LISF Scholarship of Leiden’s University Fund (LUF).
7. Arrange Visa
Most countries outside Europe require student visa for incoming exchange students. For Australia, it is the Subclass 500 which also allows me to work up to 20 hours a week. They estimate four weeks until it is granted, so don’t apply last minute!
7. Book a flight
Especially when travelling far, it is recommendable to book a flight well in advance to save costs. However, I waited until I was officially accepted by the University of Sydney (mid April). I arrived ten days before the semester officially begins to orient myself and take part in introductory activities.
8. Find housing
Personally, I have arranged housing through the University of Sydney itself. Like most Leideners, I chose the Queen Mary Building which hosts up to 1000 locals and internationals. There are single rooms, while we share bathrooms and one massive common kitchen. They also have other facilities such as a gym and a rooftop terrace. If you are looking for a more inexpensive option, check out Facebook groups where students (often last minute) put up a free room of their shared flat. Don’t hesitate to also check Airbnb!