Kessia Virah-Sawmy: Application process to go on an exchange program

A neon sign that we decided to decorate to remind us of our exchange semester

A neon sign that we decided to decorate to remind us of our exchange semester

I never thought that I would be going to the US while doing my Bachelor’s in Australia. It did not even cross my mind that I would leave Australia during my studies except to visit home. But I got the incredible chance of going on exchange to the University of Miami in the United States of America.

JCU gives the opportunity to both Australian and International students to do a semester/year abroad. Applying for an exchange semester was rather simple even though the paperwork did take a while. Some people thought it was weird for me to go abroad since I am already an international student in Australia. But I think that you should make the most of all the opportunities university offers.


Me standing on the “U” sign which is very famous on the campus

For quite a while, I had been checking the study abroad page on the JCU website and once I learned that international students could also participate, I went to the Global Mobility office and got some more information. The JCU website provides a fair bit of information on the different exchange partners and which university offers the subjects for your course. For my degree, which is Marine Biology, there was a wide range of universities to choose from including the US, Canada, the UK or Norway amongst others. But from the start, I knew that I wanted to do my study abroad in the US. So this made my university choice a lot easier. After debating between Miami or Hawaii, I opted for Miami instead.

The beach that was right next to the Marine Campus in Miami

The beach that was right next to the Marine Campus in Miami

The application process included writing a short essay on the reasons for wanting to go on exchange, having a tutor or lecturer write a recommendation letter for me and choose 6-8 subjects that I wanted to do at my host university and get it approved by my College. After the Global mobility looked through my application, they told me that I had been a successful applicant and that I needed to apply to my host university online. This included writing another essay, sending my transcripts and filling an application form.

The main campus building lighted up at night and overlooking the lake

The main campus building lighted up at night and overlooking the lake

The waiting time after the application was the hardest part. Thanks to some awesome friends, I learnt to be patient and stay positive through it all. I was scared of not being accepted but while taking my final exams, I received an email from Miami saying that I was accepted for the exchange semester. It was already incredible at this point since I knew that I would be going to the US next semester.  The next step was applying for my student VISA and even though I am an international student, I was able to apply for my VISA in Australia itself. If you provide all the right documents, this process goes very easily.


Everything was all sorted out, I had all the paperwork, my VISA, my acceptance letter and two suitcases full to the max … So here you go, that’s how I came about going on exchange. If you want to know more about the application process and the fees associated with an exchange go on the Global Mobility website and you’ll get all the information you need. While on exchange, you pay your normal tuition fees to JCU and in your host country you pay for your travels and living expenses. If the exchange program interests you, I would recommend looking into it early on in your degree since you need to apply a year before your exchange semester/year.


So I’ll leave it here for this week. Hope this helped for those of you who might want to do a semester abroad. But stay tuned cause in my next blog you guys will get to know all about my crazy adventures in MIAMI!!!

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