Term Time Exchange
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 institution’s course information at the OAL i-Centre or on your host institution’s website and prepare a list of courses you want to take. You should consult with your academic advisor about your choices. Some of your preferred courses might not be available, so have some alternatives ready.
Some institutions offer on-campus housing. But if that’s not available, you 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. Be prepared to spend plenty of time looking for suitable accommodation and people you’re going to be happily living with. Read all rental contracts 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.
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.
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 advisors at your host institution; you can also consult your host institution’s website and information booklets. When calculating your 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 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 with you.
- Bank accounts
Students often open a bank account in their host country so money can be transferred 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. Check with your bank to see if you ATM card can be used in your host country 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 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. Students can also consider an internship during their exchange. There are even some paid internship programmes. Consult the international office of your host institution for more information.
You should consider health and safety as a top priority while travelling. Please read and try to remember the handy tips as they can be useful in the event of an emergency situation. Travel Alerts issued by the Hong Kong SAR Government are a good indication of likely trouble spots.
Some host institutions 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 institution 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; 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 pay them a visit before your coverage is suspended.
Confidential Health History Form
To facilitate your exchange experience, you should complete the online Confidential Health History Form before your departure. Releasing medical and mental health information/records will enable relevant parties to communicate and work with you to anticipate potential complications, if any. You are strongly encouraged to provide genuine information, even if you think your condition is being treated and under control.
If you have a chronic medical or mental health condition, you are advised to check with your host institution of the available service and suitable support. You should prepare sufficient supply of prescribed medications for your exchange period. Please check if the medications are legal in the country/city of your exchange programme. The change of a new environment and the stresses developed upon arrival in your exchange destination may intensify your preexisting condition.
Most host universities require you to have medical insurance. Check with your host institution 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 your host institution. Familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of the claim procedures before you depart. If you purchase health insurance from your host institution, check if it covers vacations and travel outside the host country.
CUHK Group Travel Insurance
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 365 days are covered, including all personal deviations/trips before or after. CUHK students are automatically enrolled in the scheme. 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:
For the start date of the exchange programme between:
- 1 September 2020 and 31 August 2021, please refer to the Group Travel (Student) Policy 2020/21 [Policy Number: 10-20-GT001192(0007)].
Worldwide 24-hour SOS Hotline: (852) 3187 6888
Make sure you know the location of the nearest embassy or consulate of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or your home country in your host country. You can find a list of PRC embassies and consulates here. 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 institution. Make copies of important travel documents such as your passport, visa, flight tickets and credit cards; 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 institution and in your host country.
You can buy most items in your host country, so there’s no need to bring everything. 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.
OAL arranges pre-departure briefing sessions twice a year. One for Term 1/Year exchange students and one for Term 2 exchange students. In the sessions, students can learn practical information and important notes before/during and after exchange. The information for Term 1/Year exchange is available here.
All students (except MBA students) are issued a set of electronic copy of pre-departure documents (eg. Letter of Undertaking). You are required to complete the Undertaking document and submit the original copy of the printout to OAL before departing for the exchange journey. The document consists of the following:
- Letter of Undertaking (to be printed out for completion and submission)
- 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 presentation below for a 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 regional 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.