Before 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 at the OAL i-Centre or on your host institution's website. You should consult with your academic advisor 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. 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. A bicycle is a reliable, healthy, low-cost, environmentally friendly option for many; otherwise, 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 don't have transportation systems as efficient as Hong Kong'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 doesn't get in the way of your studies. Always inform family and friends 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've 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.
Money and Banking
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.
- Bank accounts
Students often open a bank account in their host country so money can be transfered easily. Check with former exchange students or people in your host country for their advice on bank services. If a bank has an office in Hong Kong, you might be able to open an account before you leave. Before you open a bank account, be sure to check the handling fees for transferring money between countries and other transactions.
- ATM cards
The easiest way to get foreign currency abroad is using your ATM card. ATM cards with the Cirrus or Plus symbols are widely accepted but surcharges will apply. Sometimes, however, ATM cards do not work overseas, and they can occasionally get confiscated by a local ATM. Check with your bank before you leave, and make sure you have alternative ways of getting money.
- Credit cards
Credit cards make foreign currency transactions easy but usually come with currency conversion charges, plus very high interest rates if you do not pay off your balance by the due date. Cash-advance charges are usually even higher; in general, they're not a good idea.
Government Grants and Loans
You can apply for government grants and loans to support your exchange financially. If your application for a grant is successful, the Hong Kong SAR Government will automatically deposit the money directly into your bank account. Please visit the Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency website for more information.
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.
As part of your preparation, you should also take into consideration health and safety as a top priority while travelling. Hong Kong is considered a very safe city and we often forget it may be different in other places, especially in light of recent events around the world. Please read and try to remember the handy tips as they can be useful in the event of an emergency situation. Travel Advice notices issued by the Hong Kong SAR Government are a good indication of likely trouble spots.
Some host universities require you to provide proof that you're in good health; this could include your medical examination and immunisation record. You might also need vaccinations to protect yourself from any infectious diseases that are endemic to the countries you visit. If you need a health certificate or any vaccinations, please contact the Health Education Unit of the University Health Service (UHS) to book an appointment at least one month before you're due to leave. Make sure you bring along your previous vaccination record, and let the doctor know about any allergies before receiving vaccinations. A health certificate costs HK$250; any additional blood tests or vaccinations will be charged at cost price. Please refer to the UHS website for details.
Check the type of medical care available in your host country. If you have any special medical needs, let both the OAL and the host university know. If you are taking any medication long-term, make sure you can get it in the host country. During your exchange, your medical coverage at UHS will be suspended. If you are going away for one academic year, for example, it will be suspended from 1 August to 31 July the next year; while if you are going away for one term, it will be suspended from 1 August to 31 December or from 1 January to 31 July the next year. If you need any medical or dental attention at UHS, please visit before your coverage is suspended.
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 from a provider in Hong Kong, 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.
CUHK Group Travel Insurance
To ensure students are properly protected while on exchange, CUHK has its own Group Travel Insurance Scheme for all students who take part in approved exchange programmes outside Hong Kong. The scheme offers worldwide coverage for Accidental Death and Permanent Disablement, Medical Expenses for accidents and sickness, Emergency Medical Evacuation, Repatriation of Remains, and Burns. Trips of up to 270 days are covered, plus three days before and three days after the trip for personal deviations/trips. The scheme is based on an open policy, and works on an unnamed basis, so no prior registration with the Business Office before departure is required. Click here to view details of the scheme. Check that it covers all of your planned activities and the planned duration of your exchange; if not, we very strongly recommend that you take out your own insurance to cover them. Bring along a copy of the scheme with you and remember the following:
Policy Number: 10-16-GT001192(0003)
Worldwide 24-hour SOS Hotline: (852) 3122 2521
Make sure you know the whereabouts of the nearest embassy or consulate of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in your host country. They are responsible for protecting the legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens outside Chinese territory in emergencies. You can find a list of them at www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/embassy.htm. 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. In case of emergency, also make sure you know the contact numbers of the local police, ambulance service and fire service, as well as the international office and security office of your host university. Make copies of important travel documents such as your passport, visa, flight tickets, credit cards and traveller's cheques; give one set to your family and keep one yourself. Create your own emergency contact list, include the contact details of key personnel at your host university and in your 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.
To prepare outgoing students for their exchanges, OAL arranges pre-departure briefing sessions and consulate visits between April and July, and again in November for students going on exchange during the second term. As well as learning practical information about their exchanges, students also have the chance to meet former exchange students. The Pre-departure Briefing Sessions for Outgoing Exchange Students will be held in April for Term 1/year exchange and in November for Term 2. The information presented at the sessions which were held in November 2016 is available here.
Letter of Undertaking
All students (except MBA students) are given 2 sets of Letter of Undertaking and other important forms at the briefing sessions. You are required to complete the Undertaking document before departing for the exchange journey. The document consists of the following:
- 2 sets of Letter of Undertaking (1 original copy and 1 student copy)
- Information on payment of tuition/programme fee (not applicable to summer exchange students)
- Certifying Letter
- Student Declaration Form (for admission scholarship students going for one or two semesters only)
- E-Departure Form
- Verification of Full-Time Enrollment Form
- E-Contact Information During Exchange Form (Please login to "MyCUHK" → "CUSIS and MyStudy" → "CUSIS Services" → "Contact during Exchange")
Please view the powerpoint file below for the guideline on handling the Undertaking document.
Consulate visits offer students a chance to meet consular representatives and find out more about visa applications and their host countries. Visits take place from May to July; your Region Advisor will give you more details.
Students can also contact educational organisations such as Germany's Goethe-Institut, the UK's British Council and France's Campus France for more information about studying in those countries.