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Life is damn tough, folks. We all know that it is not easy to wake up for a 9am lecture and listen to the lecturers talk about share buybacks, or caveats for that matter, however much you convince yourself that you are interested in a career in corporate law. If school is a torture, how does the prospect of going on a half-year long holiday sound? That’s right, I am talking about SEP (Student Exchange Program) or Exchange for short.

Exchange has always been described as the silver lining in law school – that half a year (or one year) holiday when you immerse yourself in the academic culture of a partner university overseas all things academic are put on hold, and travelling to a new place every other weekend. It is also last period of time that you can live your life with abandon before other worries such as applying for TCs set in. Party the day before a final exam? Skipping town on a weekend during term time? Not turning up for classes? Happens only on exchange!

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“When I think of leaving NUS and going on exchange next semester” (Hat Tip: WhatAsiaShouldCallYou Tumblr)

The writer vividly remembers the choices that he had to face a year ago, when going on exchange looked like such a distant dream. Drawing on what little he remembers, the exchange briefing is always one of the most-attended lectures in law school, attended by the most recalcitrant of ponners. He might even have spotted one or two new faces from his batch that he had never seen before (!). Seniors who spoke at the briefing gave such a tantalizing, mouth-watering glimpse of what life is like on exchange. After the talk had ended, the lecture theatre was filled with an excited buzz, and all that people were talking about for days afterwards was where they are going to apply to for Exchange. “Where are you planning to apply for exchange?” became a ubiquitous conversation starter.

One might soon find out that the only thing more difficult than containing your bubbling excitement is choosing where to apply to for exchange. We can be justifiable proud that NUS Law offers a dazzling array of exchange destinations to choose from. We might also find our legal training coming in handy, as there is a need to strike a balance and weigh, inter alia, a variety of factors:

  • Location – Fancy living the American Dream or the free, hedonistic abandon that is Amsterdam?
  • Culture – Closely linked to location
  • Workload – Heard that continental Europe offers the least workload in Europe. Go Figure.
  • Whether they university offers courses that you are interested in.
  • Cost: Exchange is expensive. But some places cost more than others!

Of course, the weight that each factor plays in your decision is entirely up to your own discretion!

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Some might want to go down the path less trodden and choose the more “exotic” destinations, such as Israel. If you do harbour such thoughts, do remember that it might not be easy, but with great challenge comes great reward! The writer himself will be heading to Israel for exchange. The biggest pull factor is the fact that Israel’s excellent location for travelling the Middle East and Israel’s rich heritage, not to mention its religious significance. It is also kind of inaccessible, a place few are likely to ever set foot in (The writer sincerely believe that Egypt and Jordan would not be Singaporeans’ top choices as destinations for a summer holiday) so it actual makes for the ideal Exchange destination.

Oh, and if you need that recommendation letter, get it done quickly. Professors’ schedules may vary. And although they are unlikely to turn a student down, you will be doing yourself and the professor a great favour by expressing your intentions early.

As the post-SEP briefing fervour dies down, life will gradually returns to a semblance of normality. As well-read and informed law students, most probably already know that year 2 semester 1 results are especially important for determining whether one gets an Exchange spot or not. According to the writer’s friends, enabling them to soldier on long after Coffee and Redbull have lost their effect. The writer is unable to personally confirm the veracity of the aforementioned statement, save to say that the desire to go on Exchange certainly motivated him to study a bit harder for exams.

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Come one fine December morning, when that dreaded SMS arrives, no matter what combination of alphabets appear, the question you will probably be asking yourself is: Am I going to qualify and get my choice of exchange destination? Its great if you did well and feel confident about your chances. However, for those who doubt their chances, the system works in mysterious ways, and there is always hope until the results are released in late January or early February. Whatever happens, just be at peace with the choices you have made. Remember, even if one door closes, ten others will open up.

Till then, all the best for exam preparations, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

Article by: Sheng Hongbin (Year 3)