When things don’t go to plan

or: Everything that’ll go wrong on your year abroad (and how to cope when they do)

1) You miss your flight/bus/whatever

Missing an important flight can be devastating with travel plans, especially if you need to make transfers with different airlines. This can happen any number of ways, and since airlines aren’t always the most reliable, flight cancellations and delays are definitely a possibility while you’re exploring Asia and beyond.

How to cope: Have emergency funds to book alternative travel if necessary. Be sure to check your insurance to see what it covers, as well as check what kind of compensation the airline can offer you if the fault lies with them.

2) You lose something important

This happened to me when I lost my wallet (including debit cards, student cards, my visa and plenty of cash!) on a night out. Good news: Singapore is amazing with returning lost items. My wallet was returned to me (albeit, without any money) less than a week later, as someone had found it in the trash and handed it in to a police station. I also have a friend who lost their phone on New Years eve, only to have it back the very next day by a guy who’d found it lying about. So basically: if you’re going to lose something, lose it in Singapore!

How to cope: If it’s something like your wallet, the first thing you need to do is cancel your debit cards so no one can take out any money by using them. Losing your hall keys, student card, or visa are all relatively easy to replace, but this comes at a price, so keep them close!

3) You injure yourself

Accidents happen all the time, and while injuring yourself anywhere is bad enough, on exchange it can feel particularly devastating, mostly because it can limit so much of what you want to do.

How to cope: You’ll be given guidance at the start of your exchange about the hospitals you can visit that will be covered by your NTU insurance, so be sure to note these down, and hope you’ll have a speedy recovery.

4) You fail a class

Keeping up with school work while trying to explore your new country can be stressful. My last month in Singapore essentially consisted of spending entire days in the library to try and catch up on everything I had fallen back on. Having said this, failing a class is unlikely, as long as you put some time aside to do work when you can.

How to cope: Talk to the person grading your work, they might be able to help you. Find out what you’ll have to do to make up the credits if not.

5) You just don’t like it that much

While this problem seems to be relatively rare, people who really enjoy exchange can sometimes drown out the fact that some people don’t like it quite so much. Whether you don’t make the right kind of friends, you’re overwhelmed by culture shock, or you just generally preferred life at home, exchange years aren’t for everyone and sometimes it can be a huge disappointment to discover this once you move away.

How to cope: NTU encourage students to approach them with any concerns or mental health problems they experience in the transition to moving there, so be sure to use whatever resources are available to you. UofG also have resources for this kind of thing, so be sure to get in touch if you’re having doubts. Going home isn’t impossible, and if you’ve arranged to be away for the year, this can be shortened to just one semester. Similarly, as long as your semester at home hasn’t started yet, you still have plenty of time to get back. Having said this, it’s worth sticking it out if you’re unsure. I know some people who shortened their years and came to regret it by the time they had to go home. Moving abroad, like most things, needs an adjustment period.


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